Strange Horizons, 6th March 2006

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Joanne Merriam tells a tragic tale of guilt and loss in "The Purple Hippopotamus Wading Pool": the death of a small child through a twist of fate.  If the protagonist had not been running late from an assignation with her secret lover, could she have avoided that particular stretch of road?  Her guilt drives her insane, and we follow the transition from loving mother to freaky S&M poledancer as the bottom drops out of her world.

Throughout this tale is the eponymous wading pool, once the pride of a squealing toddler, now a prop in a strip routine.  After an accidental encounter with her dead child through touching a photo, she wonders if she can use it to make contact with the other side.
Be warned that this story is not as light-hearted as the title would lead you to believe.  “Hippopotamus” is a dark tale of consequences, of thwarted desire, and of the discovery of a bizarre crossing point to the afterlife.
It is quite a smooth flowing tale, and the emotional breakdown does segue nicely into her new career.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to identify with the protagonist in parts, and there is little sympathy for her being in a situation that is mostly her fault and completely her choice.