Once, in the plains of Africa, there lived a zebra calf whose best friend was a hippo who was much older than her. The hippo’s corporal (corporal as in “large in size”, that other word you’re probably thinking of is “corporate” and this hippo and zebra lived before industry existed) size and adolescent age made him both a role model and a target of ridicule for our zebra protagonist. So it wasn’t a very practical friendship.Even if their friendship was seen as “progressive” since both were of different species, the zebra still held some dated c u l t u r a l bi a s e s a b out h ip p op o t a m i , i n c l u d i n g t h e misconception that they ate fish.

One afternoon when their parents were avoiding predators, the zebra calf and the hippo decided to head to a flowing river, the edgy alternative to the watering hole hangouts, where animals the hippo’s age went courting in springtime.Only a tree hung above them where a lizard slept in a sun patch. Gazing at their reflections, the zebra became bored looking at herself. She nudged her hippo bud. The zebra had spotted some glowing fish she had never seen in the savannah before.

“I dare you to go in there and catch one of those fish,” she whinnied.

“Not again with your practical jokes. You know hippos don’t eat fish. If you want to eat those fish so bad, you catch them,” the hippo mumbled.

“Fine, I will.After you do so,” said the zebra. A trio of giraffe calves passed by and snickered.

“The water’s glowin’!”exclaimed the littlest one.“This hippo is going to eat that fish,” explained the zebra.The giraffes gaped in awe.

“Those fish glow?So they must be tasty…” said the middle giraffe, “I’ll stick my neck in there.” And he did so by a simple crane of his neck down at the water. His flopping lips were stung black with a radioactive shock afterward. Reaching up again, the combination of electricity and radioactivity caused a cloudy slash, thus knocking the hippo into the water.

The zebra wasn’t at the border of the river yet. The hippo was drowning and calling for help. The zebra had a heart as well, and tried to jump in with her useless hooves to save her friend. It was too late.

The hippo had swallowed the radioactive-electric fishwater (the name is all yours for your hippie funk band)and his body transformed and deformed. His ears fell off, his eyes shrunk, his body grew bloated and the thin river bed could not hold his body. He had become the manatee. A storm swelled above the river, the thunder knocking the water forward, taking the river flowing to the sea.

Decades later, the hippo became a manatee, landing on the shores of what is now Florida. The hippo’s family never forgave the zebra for turning their child into a manatee.