By Chad Redden
Once in a lifetime, a miniature aerialist will fall from her trapeze the wrong way. The aerialist will fall, not onto the safety net, but into the mouth of a miniature hippo yawning at that exact moment as it stands next to the safety net. The hippo, with his yawning mouth span of four inches will swallow the aerialist whole. As a member of the audience, you'll think this is part of the act.
All of it. The tiny cry of the aerialist. The yawn of the hippo. The other members of the aerialist’s troupe above crying. The miniature circus workers with miniature cigarettes hanging from their mouths while they rushed the hippo. The soft dirt thuds the miniature crowbars made when the miniature circus workers failed to free the aerialist from the hippo’s mouth. The miniature clowns huddled together in prayer. The miniature ringleader’s signal to the spotlight to shines on him as he bowed for applause.
Such a moment is never forgotten, even if you can’t remember exactly where you saw such a moment.
You’ll remember the miniature aerialist falling into the miniature hippo’s mouth and clapping and the blue cotton candy your father bought you afterward. Some days throughout your life, you’ll remember the miniature circus and you’ll wonder if that was the only job the hippo had at the circus. Swallowing the aerialist day after day. You’ll also wonder if the aerialist ever tried to pass off the hippo act to another aerialist or if she ever called in sick if she couldn’t. You’ll also wonder how dark it is inside of a hippo’s mouth.
One day, you will go on a date and your date will be awkward because neither of you speak. Then your date will try to break the ice by asking, what is the most interesting thing you’ve ever seen? You will tell her about the miniature aerialist and the hippo and she will ask how miniature the aerialist was. You will hold out your index finger and thumb with a space approximate to how tall the aerialist was and your date will say, how adorable.
Then one day you will marry your date and have children. Your children will love the story about the blue hippo and miniature aerialist. The hippo will be blue in your story by this point, not because the hippo was blue, but because you couldn’t remember the color of the hippo and a blue hippo in any story makes it much more interesting than a hippocolored hippo. Plus, children love the idea of blue hippos in the world. Your children will ask you to tell them the story of the blue hippo and the aerialist so many times that when you eventually take them to a regular-sized circus they are disappointed that the circus lacked even hippocolored hippos and that the aerialist didn’t fall into the mouth of any of the animals below her trapeze act. You will buy them blue cotton candy afterward and tell them the blue hippo story when they ask for it on the drive home.
Then one day you will die and at your wake your children will tell their children your story about the blue hippo and the aerialist; that once there was a place in the world where blue hippos lived, mouths always open and ready to catch falling aerialists.