tagNon-EroticAt The Zoo: Nonfiction

At The Zoo: Nonfiction


A couple of weeks ago I went to the zoo in Golden Gate Park. I was in the Pachyderm House, which is a very large building which houses very large animals having lots of skin; mostly gray and all huge. In the middle is a large floor area for visitors, and the animals are arranged around the edges. No bars, just sort of a ditch and railing to separate critters from spectators, and the ceiling is about forty feet high.

The hippopotami were hanging out like they usually do; mostly sub aqua, with their mouths open and huge in case some kid wanted to toss something edible in there.

Finally, this critter heaved itself slowly out of the water onto dry land. It was about the size of a delivery van with four flat tires and rounded at the edges. Its color was an unrelieved gray, and it was extremely PACHY. Boy, was that thing ever pachy! It was so pachy that I'm sure it weighed a lot more more than the aforementioned delivery van. After all, delivery vans have lots of empty space in there which weighs hardly anything. Hippeaux, on the other hand, are not known for having cargo holds or other varieties of void.

The only noticeable topographic features consisted of two tiny ears, dorsal and towards the anterior extremity. Those ears looked incongrous on that monster. It's like the Creator finished the hippo and thought, "Damn, forgot the ears. Well, I have these ears left over from that Lesser Horned Dingbat project that never worked out. They'll have to do."

The hippo grunted mightily a few times then turned its back to myself and the few other spectators on hand. I was presented a view of what must be one of the larger asses in the animal kingdom. It must have been six feet wide, wet from the recent immersion in water, and extremely ...... well, assy. Atop this monumental derriere was a little tail with a silly looking tuft of hair on the end. The tail looked small, but that's only because it was attached so something as brobdingnagian as that hippo. It was probably more than a foot long and as big around as my arm, but it looked small and silly adorning the dorsoposterior aspect of that leviathan Well, there I was, staring at the mountainous backside of that hippopotamus. I was beginning to think that the act of arising from the water and standing on dry ground was all the creature did for the afternoon show. I was thinking of wandering over to the other side of the Pachyderm House to check out the elephants. It's a good thing I hung around for a while, though, because what happened next was worth the price of admission.

Remember that little tail with the tuft of hair that I mentioned? Well, I didn't put that in there just for general interest. In fact, that tail became a major player in the drama that was about to unfold.

First, the tail stiffened and stuck straight out from the butt of that hippo. Then it started to slowly rotate. The spin was about a horizontal axis, meaning that it looked sort of like a slow moving propeller attached to the backside of the animal.

As the tail kept rotating faster and faster, I couldn't see any reason for it to be doing so. The only thing that came to mind was that it might be using it to fan up some breeze for cooling the rather large, gray anus which was mounted immediately below. The rotational period of that whirling appendage finally leveled off at approximately 100 rpm, a gray blur. This is only a guess, of course, but I considered it quite a feat for an animal so large to get any portion of its anatomy up to a speed like that.

As I moved closer for a better look, that huge anus unpuckered, opened, and there was a low whooshing noise as gas was expelled.

At this point, it may be wise to point out that hippos are herbivores. As such, they have a very large percentage of bulk in their diet. This bulk consists of undigestible portions of plants such as stems, branches, and leaves. In the zoo environment, this is supplemented by peanuts, ice cream, paper cups, etc. which are thrown into their open mouths by small boys. Suffice it to say that your basic hippo seldom needs fiber supplements, and the amount of bulk in its diet provides for fecal matter on a heroic scale.

As I watched in fascination, a turd of approximately five pounds was forcibly expelled from that big gray anus, directly into the path of that whirling tail. With a 'ffrrruuuttttterrrrmmmmppppp' sound, the spinning tail finely divided that wad of dung and hurled it in all directions. Since the tail was spinning in a vertical plane, the dung was flung in a correspondingly vertical spray pattern. E.g. in all directions except towards the main bulk of the hippo or backwards to where I was standing. I thought this to be fortunate.

This process continued, in units of five to ten pounds, until something on the order of 100 pounds of hippo dung had been slung over an area about eighty feet across. The effluent never reached that 40 foot ceiling, but it didn't miss by much.

The much relieved pachyderm turned, gave a mighty yawn, returned to the water, and sank out of sight. It occured to me that the entire performance was a statement by the hippo of what he thought of the spectators in particular and humankind in general.

The only spectators remaining nearby were myself and a group of 7-12 year old boys. The girls and more fastidious adults had retreated to the other end of the building. During the performance, the boys cheered the animal on with, "Whoa, cool." "Wow." "Go for it, hippo."

When it was over, and boys and I knew we had witnessed something unusual and wonderful. We were so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time for a once in a lifetime event. I wished I could have seen it when I was in junior high so I could have written an essay about it for Sister Roberta.

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