“Aww…this is cute. How much do you want for this?” Maria held out the little lederhosen-wearing stuffed hippo to the man on the other side of the table. She assumed it was his yard sale; she had seen him collecting money from some other people.
Bryce felt nauseated hearing this woman refer to that…thing as cute, and he immediately snatched the hippo away from her with a tense “That’s not for sale.”
He regained his composure, realizing he probably looked and sounded insane. He forced a smile and said to Maria, “No, no–don’t be sorry. I-I didn’t mean to yank that away from you. It’s just…it’s not supposed to be out here. It’s my daughter’s, and it’s her favorite thing. She’d never forgive me if I sold it.”
“Oh, I understand. I have kids, too. They’re grown now, but I remember those days of them being attached to their stuffed animals.”
“Attached”–that’s rich, Bryce thought to himself. This is way beyond “attached”.
And then he made the rash decision to tell Maria the truth. He didn’t know why–she just seemed kind. And he was tired of keeping it to himself.
“Actually, ma’am, the truth is…this hippo is…possessed.”
“I know, it sounds crazy, but…well, it’s a long story, but shortly after we gave Miranda–that’s my daughter–shortly after we gave her this hippo for her birthday a few months back, she became, just…unnaturally obsessed with it. Like, even by little kid standards. So my wife and I decided to take it away from her, you know, just hide it away somewhere while she was sleeping, hoping she’d just forget about it, because, you know, she was just being weird with it. Well, she had a fit, so we figured it wasn’t worth the trouble and it was probably just a phase that she’d grow out of, so we relented and gave it back to her. And then…BAD things started happening. For example, my son Josh took the hippo and threw it down the stairs one day. You know, just to tease his sister…and now look at him!”
Bryce motioned to the side yard where Josh was standing. He snorted at them, took a dump, then started chewing on a patch of clover.
Maria looked back at Bryce. Wild-eyed, he whispered to her, “That’s right. This hippo TURNED. MY. SON. INTO. A. DONKEY.”
“Daddy, why is Mr. Hippopants out here?”
Bryce turned ashen. Without turning around towards his daughter, he mouthed to Maria, “GO. SAVE YOURSELF.”
Maria turned and walked straight back to her car, not looking back, as Bryce turned to face Miranda and put the best spin he could on the fact that her mom had tried to free them from the tyranny of Mr. Hippopants by selling him off at the yard sale, even though they’d tried secretly ditching him before and were cursed with a month’s worth of boils as punishment.
Bryce had learned his lesson from that–you don’t try to ditch Mr. Hippopants.
So this time, not only did he not try to ditch Mr. Hippopants, he’d saved him from being sold to some stranger. Surely that counted for something and exempted him from punishment.