Saturday, April 20, 2013

Watching the hippo die

We approached the lake slowly,
easing our vehicle over the ruts.
Spotting something at the water’s edge,
we wondered if it were a giant hippo
or merely a large grey rock.
We were not the first to stop
or the first to see whatever
it was there in the water. Some distance
away, closer to it then we were, a van
loaded with tourists had parked.
The man standing outside was obviously
a guide. He pointed to the object, shouted
something, then bent down to gather stones.
We watched him throw them, mostly missing
at first. But when one hit the mark,
what was unmistakably a huge hippo
slowly raised his head, then just as slowly
lowered it back into the water.
The guide continued pelting,
getting more accurate with practice.
As one particular stone hit hard,
the animal raised its head higher,
and we saw what appeared to be a large yellow tusk.
Obviously an old beast, it became clear
to us that he was dying. No longer able
to move quickly or to submerge his bulk,
he just lay there in the shallows, finally
refusing to even raise his head. We had to leave,
and when we passed the place again
several hours later, he was still there,
motionless. The only evidence
of the guide and the tourists
were the scattered stones along the shoreline
and the tracks of their van, long gone.
We drove by in silence.

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