The dark green, shiny skin of the frog in my hands contrasted with the ruddy, crumbling sand beneath my legs. I sat cross-legged, elbows resting on thighs, while he squirmed and wriggled, desperate to be free. Beside me was a miniature village which had been built with careful attention to detail. Large pine cones, looking like perfect Christmas trees, lined the only two streets. Four bungalows had been built with small branches harvested from the woods behind the house. Although a few still sported a couple of bedraggled leaves, they looked like cozy log cabins where one might find a lumberjack, or a cowboy, lounging on the front porch. The largest and most sturdy building, which squatted in the center of town, was made entirely from old shingles. Its third -storey windows overlooked the entire hamlet. Tattered and hewn, those windows had been hacked out with a long-handled Bowie knife. A dirty Band-Aid encircled my thumb; another two criss-crossed my thigh on the same side.
My bare toes dug down into the cooler depths of the sand as I surveyed my work. The frog, having exhausted his escape attempts, sat quiescent in my hands. A few more details still had to be finished before he was required to complete his part, so I stuffed him back into the jar. “Stay,” I commanded. He looked up at me with glittery, unblinking eyes. I squinted back at him as the sun peeped over the roof of the house and began to pour its heat over my head. “Stay,” I repeated and smiled.
Carefully extricating myself from the sandbox, I began to circle it, placing grimy hands on hips in imitation of my father. I chewed on my lower lip, trying to decide my next course of action. “I know,” I said. The frog turned his back. He wasn’t interested. I sidled around the corner and peered in through the kitchen window and breathed a sigh of relief when I observed no sign of life. Then I hurried into the house, scattering sand, leaves, bits of mud, and twigs in my wake. I was in and out without anyone being the wiser, triumphantly carrying the lid of a small roasting pan. It would make the perfect pond for my village.
A green garden hose lay moldering in a tangled heap a few feet away; the handle of the tap, crusted with thick brown rust, was stuck fast and would not budge. After several unsuccessful attempts I thought to poke a long stick into one of the holes. That gave me enough leverage to budge it open. Then with a final grunt from me, and a few squeals from it, I turned the knob and was rewarded by a fountain of small geysers shooting out over its length. Tepid water poured from the nozzle as I filled my lid; I retrieved the glass jar and half-filled it as well. As an afterthought, I pulled out a handful of grass growing thick and luxuriant near the hose and shoved it in through the opening. The little frog sank to the bottom eyeing me from beneath the turf. His black gaze was filled with suspicion. It was a justifiable look.
A moment’s worth of excavations with my mother’s small garden shovel and I had a nice-sized hole where I could situate my pond. I pushed the sand up against the rim and grinned at its perfection. All that was left were the finishing touches: water for the pond, six newly procured Hot Wheels cars, a dozen green army men to play the role of villagers, and a brown and white, plastic horse, whose hind leg had been chewed into a diseased looking stump. My project was complete. A job well done. Something to be proud of.
Now it was time to release the Kraken.
Dumping the jar over I shook out my frog and held him up in the air. “Oh no!” I yelled. “Everyone run! It’s Godzilla!” Then I threw him into the water. He landed with a splash then slowly sank to the bottom. There he remained motionless, not so much a Godzilla as an elusive Loch Ness Monster. Try as I might I could not get him to perform his only task.
My peaceful little village remained serene and intact.
Well, a girl knew how to rectify that. I headed back into the house to retrieve my father’s lighter, a hot incentive to begin the rampage. Following my previous debris trail I crept back into the kitchen, pulled a chair over to the cupboards, and climbed onto the counter. From there I scaled the shelves, using them like the rungs of a ladder. At the summit I reached far inside to where all the best things were kept hidden. Scissors, matches, clippers, shears, and Dad’s cigarettes and lighter. Although my fingers scrabbled around I could not locate the Zippo, so I grabbed a box of wooden matches, stuck it in my mouth and then began to climb down. Stepping into the butter dish, I slipped down onto the counter, and bounced onto a chair that fell with a crash. For a second I lay sprawled across the floor. I had no time to decide if I was hurt or not; that clatter would not go unnoticed. Even now I heard heavy footsteps thunder toward me. Jumping to my feet I scurried from the house as if Godzilla were on my tail.
Charging around the corner, I stood panting in front of my town, wooden matches still clamped between my teeth, both knees beginning to bloom with dark blue flowers, and a river of red running down my arm.
But where was the frog? Obviously he turned out to be a slippery, green charlatan who did not appreciate the new friendship we had formed.
“Southern Leopard Frog,” by vladeb. www.flickr.com. Some rights reserved.