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Jello the Lonely Hippo
Once in an unknown land in an unknown time, there was a lady hippo. Our story begins when this hippo produced an infant. The mother hippo looked at her child and honked a great hippo honk, and so the baby hippo was named Honk. As she looked at her young, it looked back at her with a look in its eye that cannot be described in any way with any word other than love. In that moment, Honk and the Mother Hippo bonded so strongly that it seemed nothing would ever separate them.
In the time of our story, hunters would hunt hippos for their hides. One day while walking on the Savannah, the Mother Hippo and Honk came across one of these hunters. Honk beeped a young hippo “beep” and watched the hunter turn towards him and his mother. He realized what he had done and a look of pure panic crossed his face as he beeped many warning beeps to his mother; however, it was too late. She couldn’t do anything at this point. She looked at him with her look of love and cried out one loud honk as the hunter closed in on her. She pushed him back behind a rock and faced the hunter. With a “ptt” sound, he stuck her with a dart coated in a terrible poison. The Mother Hippo groaned as she fell.
“You’ll catch a fat price on the market, Lady,” the hunter said with an evil grin. Honk beeped sadly, and beeped again: a long and drawn out beep which turned into a honk. The young hippo never beeped again.
Honk explored the Savannah in search of a family to raise him. He came across a family of elephants. He couldn’t hide any of the pain in his eyes or the hunger or the need, and so he let out a young hippo honk. The youngest elephant saw Honk, and with a flick of her trunk she summoned her elephant mother. She let out an elephant snort and Honk knew he had found his new family.
Mother Elephant washed Honk and taught him strength. When hunters of ivory showed their arrows near him, he honked and charged and they all ran away. For many years, the mother hippo cared for and loved Honk. As he got older, so did his elephant siblings and his elephant mother. Honk loved his family with all of his heart, and was glad to have them. He was sure nothing could ever happen to them. However, eventually his mother died of old age.
One day several years after his mother died, an ivory hunter came and tried to attack his sister. Honk chased him away, honking loudly and acting insane. Snorting thankfully, his elephant sister used her long trunk to reach for a great delicacy. She gave Honk a very green leaf and in less than an instant he ate the leaf. He wandered to a bush, having developed quite an appetite, and ate many more leaves. As honk ate the leaves, an unknown peril snuck, out of his sight.
Hearing an elephant snort, he turned to see that hunters had taken down his sister. His younger brothers were still nearby. Honking continually, he made an attempt to frighten them. His elephant siblings heard him and at this point they realized that they were in great danger. Feeling successful as they ran away, he honked one more time to send them faster. It was at this point that he felt a warm sensation on his backside. Turning back, the lonely young hippo spotted a dart. Starting to drift off for what he believed to be the last time, he saw a large truck pull up and uniformed hunters come out. As his eyes closed, he heard a great commotion and yelling between the hunters. He felt a tugging sensation followed by a single loud thump and a hum.
When Honk woke up, he felt very cold. He opened his eyes but immediately closed them because of the bright light. He felt that he must be dead, as he heard many hippo honks and felt the cool water splashing up around him. However, the longer he stayed there the more he realized that he could not be dead. His body was in severe pain, to start. His voice was scratched and he heard many hunters. Some were very young and laughed joyously while others were older and spoke of simple things, such as the weather. Honk heard one older hunter yell angrily, and almost immediately heard another yell back, equally angry. Honk opened his eyes and saw around him a multitude of hunters, staring eagerly at him. As he looked around, he noticed a glossy shine between him and the hunters. It was as if there was a wall made of solid water keeping him in. He saw a few other hippos around him. Beyond the wall of water, there were more of them, with an assortment of other animals.
A section of the wall opened and a hunter dressed in black carrying a bucket of grass stepped into the area. He walked directly to honk with it.
“How are you doing today, boy?” the hunter said, “It was a close call, but they seemed to have gotten all the poison cleaned out. Here, boy. Here’s a nice meal for you.” The hunter walked away leaving Honk alone. A bit off in the distance, Honk saw an archway with a sign on it. He couldn’t read the words but he knew he was in some kind of hunter exhibit. He swam under water, attempting to avoid the eyes of the many hunters. He was startled to see a young hunter watching him from behind the solid water. Having never seen a young hunter up close, he swam close to the wall. To his surprise, the young hunter began to speak to him.
“You must be the new hippo everyone is talking about,” he said, “I come here every day, but I’ve never seen you before. My name is Billy. Do you have a name, hippo?” The boy seemed to expect an answer here. The young hippo went above the water and let out a resounding honk. He dove back down by the boy.
“Is that it?” the boy asked, “Is your name Honk? Hello, Honk. The zoo is holding a competition to name you. Right now, the winning name is Jello. They say you look jiggly.” At this, Honk slumped sadly. “Don’t worry, Honk. I’ll never call you Jello. Go up for air, now. I will see you again tomorrow. Goodbye, Honk.” Billy walked away from the wall of water. Honk went back to the surface and took a deep breath. They wanted to name him Jello, and he didn’t think that could possibly be right. But Honk now had a friend, a young hunter boy named Billy. Honked settled himself on a grassy bit of rock and let himself drift to sleep.
When Honk woke up he heard great rude laughs of hostile hunter children.
“What a lazy, fat, ugly hippo! I’ll bet if it started walking, the glass would shatter,” one said.
“Yeah! And I bet when it stands up, its belly hangs down and touches the floor,” said another, “They should name it Jello, for sure.”
Another boy said “The animal smells bad,” pointing at Honk and plugging his nose. The other boys agreed. By this time, many hunters joined in.
“Jello smells bad! Jello is ugly! Jello is a fatty!” the hunters chanted. Honk looked in the crowd and saw Billy. They made eye contact and Honk dove down to the wall. Glass, the rude hunters had called it. Billy came running up to the glass where Honk was waiting. The boy had a look of sympathy in his eyes.
“You’re not fat, ugly, smelly, or lazy, Honk. You’re a majestic hippo, and were made exactly the way God wanted you to be. Don’t listen to them. I know in the past you must have faced many things, many terrible things.
“Animal rescue said they saved you from some poachers who were looking for ivory. You had been living with elephants. They said you almost died saving the herd. You did amazing. I don’t know what happened to your family, Honk, but you are very brave. Don’t be bothered by the cruel words of a few humans.”
Honk nuzzled up to the glass and then swam up to the surface for air. He ate some grass before diving down and seeing Billy again.
Something wasn’t right, though. They boy was coughing, very, very hard, and Honk worried. Billy looked at the look of alarm in Honk’s eyes and tried to reassure him.
“Oh, Honk, don’t be concerned over me,” he said, “I’m slightly ill in the lungs. The doctor calls it cancer. I won’t be around much longer, but I’m ok with that.”
For many more months, Billy came to visit. He told stories to Honk. Stories of brave explorers and the mighty obstacles they faced. He always added, however, that none of these explorers were nearly as brave as Honk and none of the obstacles as mighty. He would tell stories of knights who had to go on difficult and painful quests to win the heart of the princess. He always added, however, that none of these quests were nearly as difficult and painful as that of the great Sir Honk the Hippo. He told stories of brave people who fought evil aliens to save the world without anyone ever knowing. He always added that none of the aliens were nearly as evil as the poachers who had attacked Honk and his family.
Often times, Honk just sat and listened as Billy illustrated beautiful and frightening worlds to him with excellent mastery. But one day, Billy didn’t show up. Honk waited all night for Billy to come and tell him a story, but he did not. He waited again every day for three weeks, but he did not come.
Then one day, a tired lady hunter pushed a chair with wheels up to the glass where honk was watching. Honk looked into the chair and saw Billy. He looked very pale and weak, and he wasn’t moving much.
“Honk, oh, Honk,” Billy said, barely whispering, “my time seems to be coming quickly. Oh, Honk. You look tired, you great old hippo. I fear that your time is coming, too. One last story for the both of us, alright?” Billy told the story of a great and brave hippo named Honk. He was raised by elephants and then moved to a zoo where he met an ill little boy named Billy. They became dearest friends and the Hippo was sad when the boy left, but he was going soon, too.
“They were the bravest creatures made by God,” the woman said, tears in her eyes. It was then that Honk learned that not all humans were hunters, and not all hunters were really human.
Billy and Honk sat there with each other for hours as the hippo slowly got more and more tired. He went up for air periodically while he watched the boy cry. He didn’t like that Billy was crying, but he understood why. He knew that he wasn’t sad that he was dying or that he wasn’t going to see Honk again. He cried because he was happy. Eventually Billy and his mother left Honk and returned to the hospital.
It is said that when Billy died, Honk’s heart stopped, and they died at the same time. Though nobody knows if that truly happened, Honk did not live a day after Billy died. Honk the Hippo had learned many great lessons from Billy during his year in the glass, but mostly he learned the true value of friendship. When Honk died, he was at peace knowing that his only friend would not have to brave the unknown alone, and together they ventured into a great and beautiful afterlife.