Published by The Rumpus Readers Report
This is Herschel.
Herschel is an upright rhinoceros wearing an un-shirted dickey, suspenders, and broad striped tie, standing in front of a swing set at dusk. He moves rarely, maybe never. He watches what I say and what I do. He scoffs knowingly and regularly.
When I was little, I opened my aunt’s present because I couldn’t read cursive. I pretended to really like the salad bowl, and he said, “Oh my God. Oh my GOD, that’s hilarious. Hey Pete! Hey Pete! She thought the salad bowl was for her. GAHD, that’s rich.“
Another time, I wore the wrong thing for just walking around the lake, and he said, “Why are you so dressed up? Who do you think you are? The Queen of Important Land? We both know that can’t be true. Because you like poetry. I mean, poetry, am I right? Change your outfit.”
Herschel told me I was selfish for loving art. Herschel loves repeatable skill work and on-the-job training.
One time, I opened my heart to someone, and he said, “Really?” I didn’t say anything. “Really? You’re gonna go and do that? Out here in broad dusk light, at the playground? You’re just a kid. A kid at the playground. Even though you’re in your mid-twenties, and you’re not always at the playground, like I am. So what? Every time you make anything resembling a misstep, I bring you back here. I laugh in one low huff the moment you arrive. You land face first in sand. Sometimes the huff is so low you can’t hear it, but you can assume.”
Herschel is never invited to hang out, but he shows up. I don’t like him much. But he’s so freaking tall.