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When I Was Her Daughter Virtual Book Tour

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Memoir

 

Date Published: November 12, 2021

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Seven-year-old Leslie has a serious problem: someone is trying to kill her.

She must fight to save herself and her little brother from the stark realities of living with their mother’s raging psychosis. To evade the evil Russian spies her mother believes are after them, they forgo sleep, speak in whispers, and live on the run. Her mother searches for hidden listening devices, writes rambling manifestos about the impending Communist takeover, and attempts to kill herself and her children to protect them from rape, torture, and murder at the hands of the government. Controlling the chaos seems impossible—Leslie rebels, which only angers her mother, but when she obeys, terrible consequences follow.

Eventually, the police place Leslie and her brother in foster care. Freedom from her mother’s paranoia and violent tendencies offers the young girl a glimmer of hope, but she plummets into despair under the oppressive weight of abusive, alienating homes. All seems lost until a teacher intervenes, risking everything to bring Leslie to safety, to show her the redemptive power of trust and patience, and to prove unconditional love is possible, even without the bond of blood.

When I Was Her Daughter is a raw, honest account of one girl’s terrifying childhood journey through madness, loss, and a broken foster care system, where only the lucky and most resilient survive.

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Excerpt 

 

CHAPTER 1

Summer 1980

Age 6

My earliest memory is of drowning.

Mom squints and smiles at me. Holding my hand, she guides me into the ocean. I’m on my tiptoes and intoxicated with excitement. I want her to take me out so I can float like a buoy. The cool water lifts me up, makes me weightless under the blasting summer sun. Mom tells me, “Not too deep,” but I pull her toward the horizon, where all I can see is water and sky.

I’m six years old, wearing my pink and white floral two-piece with the ruffles over the chest and across the hips. The water’s surface rises under my chin like a blanket, and a lukewarm chill trickles along the back of my neck.

Auntie Philys and William wade at the shoreline behind me where the water rushes in and tugs at the land. Auntie’s polyester pant cuffs are rolled up, so I know she’s expecting to get wet even though she can’t swim. William is only five, and he can’t swim either. The sun makes the top of his blond head shine.

My aunt’s ragged voice rings out. “Help! I can’t swim!”

When I look back to the shoreline, I see the surf has knocked her down, and the water and sand take her, as if with fingers, into the sea. Like an overturned beetle, Auntie kicks at the air. Then, William falls, and the whitewash yanks him into the surf, too. I’m thinking I should go back and save them, but when I turn toward Mom to tell her, water gushes into my mouth and floods my ears with its whoosh, glomp, whoosh, and then I’m like a bundle of clothes in a washing machine. I don’t understand the thick scent that fills my nose—mushed strawberries mixed with salt. My eyeballs sting like a burn, but I keep them open. I need them to find the light because that’s where the surface is.

Mom lets me go. I inhale ocean and flail around for her—a hand, a body, something to anchor me. I’m slammed into the sea floor. It’s a scratchy, sickening drag along the bottom before I’m tossed again and tumbling. I strain toward the surface, teaching myself how to survive already. Something scrapes my thigh. Mom’s fingernails? No, her ring. The yellow topaz one with the prongs that stick up like needles. I reach for her but come up empty.

***

I open my eyes after drowning to see Jesus looking down at me. He holds me in his arms, carries me to my towel. Seawater drips like honey from his long, brown hair and beard. The sun behind him creates a halo around his head.

William lies on a towel on his belly, whimpering. I rest my hand on his trembling back.

Jesus leaves but returns soon, carrying Mom. He leaves again, and when he returns, he has Auntie Philys in his arms. He lays her gently on a towel.

“You’re an angel,” Mom says, her breath heavy like sadness. “You saved us. An angel sent straight from heaven. What’s your name?”

“It’s Jesus, Mom,” William says.

Jesus laughs. “I’m Dan. Just glad I was here.”

“Where did you come from?” Mom says. “The beach is practically empty except for those two fucking lazy excuses.” She points to a man and woman sitting as still as mannequins in low chairs about fifty yards away.

“I was just out on my board,” Jesus says. “The undertow took you.”

Mom’s mascara streaks her cheeks, and her short auburn hair sticks to her temples and forehead. “Damn Communists.” She shakes her head. “They’re everywhere.”

Auntie squints. “Roberta, knock it off.” She coughs into her hand, then gropes around the towel for her purse. “I need my glasses. And a cigarette.”

I sink into my warm towel, floating on being alive. I look up, but Jesus is gone.

“Lazy bastards!” Mom shouts and shuffles through the hot sand toward the lounging couple. “Kids are drowning, and you just sit there?”

They ignore her, staring straight ahead in their sunglasses. Maybe they are mannequins. Or Communists, whatever that is. Auntie puts her hand on Mom’s arm, but Mom kicks sand at their legs before giving up.

Towels over shoulders, we drag ourselves to the car. Boiled hotdog and coconut suntan lotion smells replace the scent of drowning. Soaring seagulls let squawks fall from their beaks. A cloud-gray bird lands at the edge of the sidewalk to peck at breadcrumbs.

We drive home in Auntie’s Ford Mustang with the fuzzy white dice hanging from the rearview. Lungs small and tight, I fall asleep and dream about how staying close to the surface keeps me safe.

On the sidewalk in front of our Paramount apartment, I turn the crotch of my swimsuit inside out to release clumps of sand. I should have died, but instead, I feel how soft the sand and I are, and how hard, too. I’m mad at the ocean for tricking me, for being so inviting when all it wanted to do was swallow me.

About the Author

Leslie Ferguson

Leslie Ferguson is an accomplished educator, editor, and writing coach. As a youth in foster care, she dreamed about becoming a teacher. She earned her credential at the University of Redlands and returned to her alma mater to teach advanced English before obtaining a master’s degree in English literature and an MFA in creative writing from Chapman University. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. A member of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association and the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild, Leslie is a repeat performer at So Say We All’s VAMP! and Poets Underground. She lives in the greater San Diego area with her husband, where she binge-watches coming-of-age character dramas and reminisces about her glory days as an All-American basketball player and collegiate Hall-of-Fame athlete. When I Was Her Daughter is her first book.

Visit the author online at LeslieFergusonAuthor.com.

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When I Was Her Daughter Blitz

 

When I Was Her Daughter cover

Memoir

 

Date Published: November 12, 2021

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Seven-year-old Leslie has a serious problem: someone is trying to kill her.

She must fight to save herself and her little brother from the stark realities of living with their mother’s raging psychosis. To evade the evil Russian spies her mother believes are after them, they forgo sleep, speak in whispers, and live on the run. Her mother searches for hidden listening devices, writes rambling manifestos about the impending Communist takeover, and attempts to kill herself and her children to protect them from rape, torture, and murder at the hands of the government. Controlling the chaos seems impossible—Leslie rebels, which only angers her mother, but when she obeys, terrible consequences follow.

Eventually, the police place Leslie and her brother in foster care. Freedom from her mother’s paranoia and violent tendencies offers the young girl a glimmer of hope, but she plummets into despair under the oppressive weight of abusive, alienating homes. All seems lost until a teacher intervenes, risking everything to bring Leslie to safety, to show her the redemptive power of trust and patience, and to prove unconditional love is possible, even without the bond of blood.

When I Was Her Daughter is a raw, honest account of one girl’s terrifying childhood journey through madness, loss, and a broken foster care system, where only the lucky and most resilient survive.

About the Author

Leslie Ferguson

Leslie Ferguson is an accomplished educator, editor, and writing coach. As a youth in foster care, she dreamed about becoming a teacher. She earned her credential at the University of Redlands and returned to her alma mater to teach advanced English before obtaining a master’s degree in English literature and an MFA in creative writing from Chapman University. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. A member of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association and the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild, Leslie is a repeat performer at So Say We All’s VAMP! and Poets Underground. She lives in the greater San Diego area with her husband, where she binge-watches coming-of-age character dramas and reminisces about her glory days as an All-American basketball player and collegiate Hall-of-Fame athlete. When I Was Her Daughter is her first book.

Visit the author online at LeslieFergusonAuthor.com.

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The Last Stop Virtual Book Tour

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Memoir

 

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Date Published: October 19, 2021

The true story of a son’s battle with addiction and a mother’s struggle with loss.

 

David is only fifteen years old when he first feels morphine flow through his veins after his foot is crushed in the hydraulics of a Bobcat. From that moment on he chases the feeling for the rest of his life. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine – he goes through drugs like candy, but it isn’t until he finds heroin that he is satisfied.

Through his personal correspondence and essays, David’s story unfolds as he goes from being an average American kid who loves sports, racing around on his skateboard, and writing stories, to being a heroin addict. His heartbreaking journey deepens as he takes his family with him down the dark and dangerous road of heroin addiction.

In 2014, David loses the battle, leaving his mother, Pat, to cope. Grieving a death from addiction is two-fold. After already losing her son to addiction, Pat has to find a way to grieve his death.

The Last Stop reveals intimate and detailed scenes of living the life of an addict and explores the mistakes and ways for families who love the addict to cope. David’s story gives hope for families immersed in the life-altering aspects of active addiction and empathy for those left behind when recovery stops being a choice.

About the Author

Patricia Sweet

In late 1999, Pat learned that her son, David, who was 25, had become addicted to heroin. Her life was changed forever. For the next fifteen years, David rotated in and out of active addiction, recovery, and relapse. In August of 2013, David was diagnosed with vertebrae osteomyelitis caused by his drug use, and at the age of 39, he lost his battle with addiction.

Wanting to help other moms who are living the nightmare of addiction with a loved one, Pat gathered the emotional courage to compile her son’s story, The Last Stop, with his short stories, poetry, and essays.

Addiction changes the addict and those who love the addict. Pat is a different person today, but she still enjoys a good book, a lively tennis match, the clicking of Mah Jongg tiles, weaving baby blankets, and long walks with her little terrier mix who rescued her two years ago.

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The Light Through the Pouring Rain Virtual Book Tour

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Memoir, Grief

Published: December 2020

 

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A true story about a young couple’s battle with cancer.

 

The Light Through the Pouring Rain is a remarkable love story that will
pull on your heartstrings and leave you inspired.

 

An emotional page turner that gives a first hand look into the lives of a
young couple madly in love and eager to start their lives together, only to
have it all halted by a cancer diagnosis. With no clear road map on how to
navigate their new normal, James and Anabel proceed into uncharted
territory, hand-in-hand, with the love of their families and their faith in
God to guide them.

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EXCERPT

 

Preface

 

Unfortunately, millions worldwide have experienced the pain of losing somebody. Every loss is not the same; every person that has left our planet has left behind families and friends. Each loss is an apples-to-oranges comparison. What I mean by that is that being offered someone’s condolences is nice, but don’t let them compare their “friend of a friend” to your pain. Accept their comfort, but realize nobody knows how to speak to someone who has just gone through something traumatic, as you’ve gone through. I realize that only people that have experienced pain in its worst form can identify others that have pain behind their eyes and have been traumatized like yourself. Everybody goes through their pain differently, and there isn’t a textbook to help you get over the pain of loss.

 

There is a cycle of grief that is the closest I’ve seen to understanding the stages that you will be going through.

 

  • Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
  • Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
  • Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
  • Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
  • Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
  • Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.

 

Losing a loved one is a shocking and traumatic experience. Sometimes it can hit your right away; sometimes it can hit you months later, like it did to myself. My best piece of advice is to take your time with each stage and realize that just because the list is in that order, that doesn’t mean that’s the order you will experience it. It goes out of order sometimes and rearranges itself enough to make your head spin. Everybody is different, and please, do yourself a favor and take as much time as you need. Don’t rush the process and use the process to heal. It may be one year later and I’m writing this book about my fiancée, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve healed. I’m far from it, to be honest, and I’m not exactly sure I will ever heal or be able to be in a relationship again. It is hard to come to grips with the fact that I found my soulmate, my best friend, my lover, and to have it all in one person, and I planned my life around this person and my happy ending will never come to fruition. It haunts me every day as I replay my life decisions over and over again endlessly. I don’t have any regrets about any decision I made during this process, because it was toward my goal of what I thought the perfect relationship should be. Now that has been taken away from me. I could never be resentful of anyone or ask, “Why did it have to be her? Why did this have to happen to me?” Because of my faith in God, I know this was a part of the plan. I knew Anabel would spark my brain and give me the baton to keep the marathon going and be able to help out so many around the world with our story. I know what I just said sounds crazy and may upset some, but I have a certain foundation of faith in God, and I trust his plan and refuse to let the pain I suffer on a daily basis—and the pain of her family and mine—to happen for no reason. I refuse to walk around with the weight of the world on my shoulders, with sadness, with depression and pain, when all Anabel ever did was bring happiness to anybody she ever encountered, although I have every right in the world to. I want everybody reading this to know that life and anything you experience is about perspective. This loss I will speak of could keep me in a dark place for the rest of my life, and I could stay there and it would be justified. Not a single soul on this planet could tell me otherwise. The world understands the aftermath of the loss of a loved one, and it comes with certain expectations. The world and the people who live on it understand that the one in pain will be a full bottle of emotions: full of anger, sadness, depressed, pissed off. That’s just a few of the emotions, and it’s not just limited to those. You can experience so many, and it’s okay. What I want to do with this story of Anabel and me is give you a different perspective on the life that we shared together, a glimpse of the real horrors and terrors that come along with the process of battling cancer. I think everybody understands the realities that come with battling cancer, such as weight loss, baldness, chemotherapy, and tiredness, but so many, including myself, don’t understand the true terror that comes along with it. I’ve lost so many family members to different kinds of cancer, but adults had shielded me from the horrors of it, and to be in the trenches with my partner was truly horrifying. I want to open the world’s eyes to the territory that comes with cancer, to make you think, Oh yeah, I didn’t even think of that. I want your brain to be there constantly running as you read this story and think even when life was stormy, they somehow were able to find the light through the pouring rain.

 

        

About the Author

James Ruvalcaba

Hello, I’m James Ruvalcaba. I began writing because I wanted to honor my
fiancee Anabel’s legacy and to be a testimony of God’s goodness. On a
personal level , I am a family man and hold them near and dear to me. I am a
down to earth person that loves interactions and conversations.I believe the
more we communicate the more we see the beauty of God’s previous workings.
Prior to being a writer , I worked with the special needs population for 10
years. I wanted to give back to the community and assist in achieving a
higher quality of life as a tribute to my Sister who suffered from
disabilities herself.

 

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Hits, Heathens and Hippos Tour

Stories from an Agent, Activist, and Adventurer

Memoir, humor, nature, music business

Date Published: February 28, 2021

Publisher: Encante Press, LLC

 

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Be inspired, intrigued, and entertained!

Everyone has dreams of what they want to accomplish in life. Marty Essen’s
childhood dream of becoming a herpetologist gave way to his dream of
becoming a popular DJ, which led to his dream of becoming a big-time talent
manager, which morphed into the dream of becoming an in-demand author and
college speaker. While he achieved most of his dreams at various levels, he
also realized that he didn’t necessarily have to reach the top to find
success or happiness. Sometimes “almost” is close enough.

Hits, Heathens, and Hippos: Stories from an Agent, Activist, and Adventurer
is a humorous and inspirational memoir that explores relationships and
careers and how seemingly minor events can lead to life-changing results.
Compelling stories have filled Marty’s life, and he tells those stories in a
conversational style that combines his talents as an award-winning author
with his talents as the creator of a one-man stage show that he has
performed at hundreds of colleges across the United States.

This is a must-read for anyone faced with an unexpected career change,
worried about finding and keeping the partner of their dreams, forced to
take on bullies (whether individual, political, or corporate), eager for
ideas to make life more satisfying, or just in search of a fun-filled
adventure.

REVIEWS

“A thoroughly absorbing and inherently fascinating account of a most
unusual life lived out in a series of equally unusual
circumstances.”—Midwest Book Review

“With thought-provoking explorations into making peace with family
members who adhere to differing religious values, tales of his time as a
talent agent, and escapades with gigantic rainforest monitor lizards—there
is much to enjoy in Marty Essen’s memoir Hits, Heathens, and Hippos:
Stories from an Agent, Activist, and Adventurer.”—a 4/5 starred
IndieReader-Approved title, reviewed by C.S. Holmes

 

EXCERPT

From the chapter “The Death Seat”

 

Before getting on the river, we all gathered around for instructions on our three-day canoe trip. Humphrey Gumpo, a specialized canoe guide, would be joining us for this portion of our expedition. The twenty-five-year-old native Zimbabwean had stopped by our camp a few days earlier, so we were already familiar with his instantly likeable, happy-go-lucky personality. He could be serious when necessary but often told elaborate stories that sounded convincing—until he flashed a wide grin.

As Humphrey warned us about hazards on the river, his seriousness was unquestionable: “There are four dangers you need to be prepared for, but they’re not in the order you’d expect. The greatest danger is the sun, because you can quickly become sunburned or dehydrated. Be sure to put on lots of cream and drink plenty of liquids.

“Snags, such as submerged trees, are the second greatest danger. Brian and I will point out snags as we see them. Give them a wide berth. But if you can’t steer out of the way, hit them straight on. The water current is moderately fast, and if you drift into a snag off-center, your canoe could capsize. If you do get caught, lean into the current until we arrive to assist you.

“The other two dangers are crocodiles and hippos. The main thing with crocodiles is to avoid dangling your feet or hands in the water—like bait. We will have close encounters with hippos. The important thing to know is that hippos always move to deep water. Most of the time, we’ll be canoeing in shallow water. If hippos block our way, we’ll stop to give them time to move. The one place we don’t want to be is between a hippo and deep water. We also need to be careful near high riverbanks, as we can’t always see what’s on top. If we startle a grazing hippo, it will plunge into the river unaware that we’re below it in our canoes.”

Jill and Susan gasped.

“Finally,” Humphrey continued, “a hippo could surface under your canoe. This is very rare, but if it happens you’ll feel a little bump, and the hippo will sink back down until you pass over it.”

When Jill and Susan gasped again, Brian did his best to calm their fears: “I’ve been doing this for eighteen years, and I’ve never had a client in the water. Once we start paddling, your nerves will settle down, and you’ll be surprised how safe and easy the canoeing is. Just relax and enjoy the scenery.”

While on the Zambezi River, we would paddle approximately forty miles, pass fifteen hundred hippos, and float over hundreds—possibly thousands—of crocodiles. I wasn’t as nervous about the dangers ahead as Jill and Susan were, but I was definitely on edge. Though I was technically just another member of the expedition, with no leadership duties, if it wasn’t for me, none of us would be here. Therefore, I felt obligated to put on a stoic front.

Since Jill seemed to be the most nervous of all, as we walked the half-mile trail to the canoe launching area, I said to her, “Deb and I have canoeing experience. We can canoe ahead of you, or if you prefer, between you and the hippos. Just let me know how we can help.”

“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

One by one we pushed off from shore onto a narrow channel of flat water. Humphrey and Brian led our convoy of five canoes, followed by Deb and me, Susan and Joe, Jill and Sam, and Skip.

I hadn’t canoed since Belize and was looking forward to using the initial unchallenging section of river to hone my strokes. On the Zambezi, however, even the most placid water can become challenging in a hurry. We were only ten minutes into our journey when we encountered our first hippo. My paddling refresher course would have to wait.

A young bull was in shallow water, caught between us and a herd of hippos with a dominant male. When he stood his ground and roared at us, we paddled to the riverbank and held on to the long grass. He continued roaring as he considered his options. He obviously preferred to deal with us rather than the dominant male downriver but eventually chose a third option and climbed onto the opposite bank. As we floated by, he opened his mouth in a classic “yawn” of aggression.

Yes, his big tusks were intimidating.

Slipping past the young bull was one thing. Now we had to face down the dominant male and six other hippos who were blocking our entrance to the main river channel. As we floated toward thirty-five thousand pounds of snorting attitude, I wondered how we’d reach camp before nightfall. Surely, these hippos weren’t going anywhere.

Then, in what seemed like a miracle, the hippos did what they were supposed to do—they submerged. Canoeing past an underwater herd of hippos for the first time was the ultimate exercise in trust. Although Brian and Humphrey had floated the river numerous times, could anyone really predict how a hippo would react? I gripped my paddle as if it were a rope in a game of tug of war.

The tension I felt paled in comparison to how Joe and Susan felt. The typically jovial couple had virtually no canoeing experience, and I could hear them bickering behind me. No matter what Joe did, Susan retorted it was wrong, and vice versa. They reminded me of the first time Deb and I canoed together, except their pitch was much more fevered.

The current in the main channel was faster than I expected. We moved along at a good clip with a minimum of paddling.

“There’s a snag to the right!” Humphrey shouted.

“I see it!” Deb yelled.

As we drifted past the snag, I turned from my position in the stern, pointed at the low-floating tree trunk, and shouted to Joe and Susan, “Watch out for the snag! It’s right there!”

All they needed to do was steer two feet to the left, but instead they veered just enough to hit the trunk off-center. I cringed as I watched their canoe turn sideways.

“Aaahhh!” Susan screamed.

“Brian! Humphrey!” Deb yelled. “Joe and Susan are caught on the snag!”

Joe shouted to Susan, “Lean into the current!” but she was too terrified to react. Their canoe listed precariously downstream.

We had all seen huge crocodiles along the riverbanks, and now in Susan’s mind even bigger crocs were waiting to rip her to shreds the moment she splashed into the water. “Oh my God! Oh my God! We’re gonna tip over! Oh my God! Oh my God! We’re gonna tip over! Oh my God! . . .” she chanted.

“You’re gonna be okay!” Humphrey yelled. “Just lean into the current!”

“Oh my God! Oh my God! We’re gonna tip over! . . .” she continued.

Brian and Humphrey paddled upstream of the frightened couple’s canoe and attempted to dislodge it. The heavy current held it in place.

“Aaahhh!” Susan screamed, as the canoe rocked.

Humphrey jumped into the dark, four-foot-deep water and pushed on the bow. It wouldn’t budge. He repositioned himself and wiggled the stern. The canoe slipped free!

Two tense situations in a short amount of time had raised everyone’s anxiety level. Moments after we continued on our way, Susan, still panic-stricken, pointed at a ripple in the water and screamed, “There’s a hippo right there! He’s swimming straight toward us! Aaahhh!”

“It’s just the current, Susan!” Joe yelled. “Calm down!”

A bit farther downstream, the river widened to a quarter mile across and the current slowed. Per Humphrey’s instructions, we changed the order of our single-file paddling. Joe and Susan moved up to second in line, Jill and Sam took over the third spot, Deb and I lingered in the fourth position, and Skip brought up the rear.

As the sun dropped in the sky, an idyllic calm came over the river, and a gentle breeze kept us comfortable. Best of all, the hippos were spread out and moving to deep water without much fuss. I could feel the tension melt off my shoulders. Others in our group seemed to relax as well. The adventure part of our canoe trip was surely behind us, and from now on sunburn would be our greatest worry.

A smile creased my face as I thought about what the next few days would be like: my feet would be enjoying a well-deserved break, the wildlife sightings would be spectacular, and the hippos would be serenading us along the way.

Ah, life on the river would be sweet.

The depth of the Zambezi wasn’t always proportional to the distance from its banks. Sometimes we canoed inches from land and were unable to touch bottom with our paddles; other times we’d nearly run aground at midstream. Actually seeing bottom was rare, however, as the water’s visibility was little more than a foot.

Deb and I were canoeing next to a low, flat riverbank when we felt a sharp bump. Perhaps we’d hit a rock. We were too close to land for it to be a—

Grrraaarrr!

Something huge chomped through the middle of our canoe and thrust us into the air!

At first, I thought it was a crocodile. Then I saw the hippo’s giant mouth!

As we continued skyward, my eyes shifted to Deb, who was rising higher than I was. At peak height, our canoe rolled shoreward, dumping us like a front-end loader would. I hit the ground first, followed by Deb—who landed on her side with an eerie thud!

The hippo dropped the canoe and vanished into the river.

Fearing the worst, I scrambled to my feet, calling to my wife, “Deb, are you okay? Deb, are you—”

She jumped up and we both wheeled toward the river, ready to spring out of the way if the hippo came at us again.

“Yes, I think so,” she said while scanning the water. “I’m gonna have some bruises, but nothing feels broken. How ’bout you?”

“I wrenched my back, but I’ll be fine.”

The hippo had dumped us on a shallow bed of mud. Though we looked like pigs after a good wallow, we couldn’t have landed in a better spot. Adding to our good fortune was that despite the ferociousness of the attack, it was over before we fully realized what had happened.

Once we were sure the hippo wouldn’t return, we hugged, whispered “I love you” to each other, and burst into laughter.

“We were attacked by a fucking hippo!” I chortled.

“I know,” Deb said between giggles, “and we’re just filthy!”

“I can’t believe you got up after that fall.”

“Mud is wonderful stuff!”

“A fucking hippo attacked us!”

As we stood by the river, giggling, Skip came running. “Are you guys okay? Is anyone hurt?”

“We’re gonna be a little sore,” Deb said, “but other than that we’re great!”

When Skip realized we were laughing, not crying, he grinned and said, “I saw the entire attack! The hippo lifted your canoe six feet into the air. It was so-ooo cool!”

When the hippo struck, the rest of our group was ten canoe lengths downriver. After pulling ashore, they ran back to us.

“Deb, Marty, are either of you injured?” Brian asked.

“No, we’re fine,” I said. “Look at what the hippo did to our canoe!”

We had been paddling a heavy-duty, wooden-keeled, fiberglass Canadian canoe. The hippo’s upper teeth had snapped the gunwale, and its lower teeth had smashed through the bottom of the canoe, ripped out a sixteen-inch-long section of keel, and pierced my dry bag and daypack. The canoe was beyond repair, but we could mend the dry bag and daypack once we reached camp.

“Eighteen bloody years, and this has never happened before!” Brian lamented.

“Sorry to break your winning streak,” Deb said.

The attack troubled Brian so much that he immediately conferred with Humphrey to figure out what they, as guides, had done wrong. Jill, Sam, Joe, and Susan were also troubled and obviously debating internally whether to continue on the canoe trip. As for Deb and me, we were still giggling away.

“I can’t believe you two are laughing about this,” Jill said. “If the hippo had attacked Sam and me, we’d be totally freaked out.”

“The only way I can explain it, Jill, is that Deb and I have just lived through something very few people have ever experienced. I feel like we’ve been given a gift.”

“All I can say is that it happened to the right couple,” Joe said. “If it had happened to Susan and me, we’d be done. As it is, we may still be done.”

“Yes, we’re very fortunate the hippo chose your canoe,” Skip added. “You two have handled the situation perfectly.”

“What are we gonna do with our canoe?” I asked.

“Leave it here for now,” Brian said. “Tomorrow we’ll send someone with a boat to pick it up.”

For the next several minutes, Susan, Joe, Jill, and Sam debated what they were going to do. They wanted to hike out, but the sun would be setting soon, and hiking through the African bush at night could be even more dangerous than continuing on to camp via canoe. Once they agreed to continue, we pushed onto the river arranged quite differently from how we had started. Humphrey paddled alone, Jill and Sam maintained their original partnership, Joe and Susan shared a canoe with Brian, and Deb and I shared a canoe with Skip.

As we began paddling, I noticed Susan and Jill shaking with fear. I also noticed that Deb and Susan were sitting in the middle seats of their respective canoes. With a big smile and in a voice just a little too loud, I couldn’t help announcing, “Hey Deb. You’re sitting in the death seat!”

About the Author

Marty Essen

Marty Essen began writing professionally in the 1990s as a features writer
for Gig Magazine. His first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the
Seven Continents, won six national awards, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
named it a “Top Ten Green Book.” His second book, Endangered Edens:
Exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica, the Everglades,
and Puerto Rico, won four national awards. His novels, Time Is Irreverent,
Time Is Irreverent 2: Jesus Christ, Not Again! and Time Is Irreverent 3:
Gone for 16 Seconds are all Amazon #1 Best-Sellers in Political Humor. Hits,
Heathens, and Hippos is Marty’s sixth book, and like all of his books, it
reflects his values of protecting human rights and the environment–and does
so with a wry sense of humor. Marty is also a popular college speaker, who
has performed the stage-show version of Cool Creatures, Hot Planet on
hundreds of campuses in forty-five states.

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