A journal of narrative writing.
The Frog Strangler

It rained frogs on January 1, 2012. “Charles, it’s a hell of a story for any aspiring writer!” Dad said. He’s the venerated TV anchorman, Dave Davis, at the CBS affiliate in Dallas and my hero, mentoring my career. It sounded like a challenge.

They came down in a Biblical, some said Mayan-esque, cascade. A reference not lost on Texas’ Baptists. They wailed apocalypse, Armageddon and some other A-words. Amphibiwords. It was awful. Guilt-ridden Jews and Catholics thought society deserved it and didn’t caterwaul—just shook their heads.

I couldn’t tell if they were worried or meekly turning their cheeks to inherit the earth. As a freelance writer trying to sell my skills on the open market, I needed to find an angle or an edge that my competition and Dad missed.

The frogs weren’t the little, ribetting, hoppity kind, but the six foot, strutting, haughty type. The frogs said, “The fish, reptiles and mammals had it their way for a long time, now it’s our turn, Giggers.” They used that term for people—the G-word.

It was amazing how fast they rose to the top of the cultural heap. Men started to have collagen injected into their tongues, and lip-agrandizing was a must. Men had their tongues lengthened instead of their penises. Women thought that was inconceivable.

The Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker icons took on a greenish tint. Makeup warts were more popular than freckles or sparkles, even Madonna added six. Michael Phelps was running as vice president on the GOP, Green Old Party, ticket. Everyone knew he was a token biped. Head of the ticket was Thunderfrog, Eduardo Estivation, whose platform was “a pool in every yard, and tadpoles in every pool.”

I sold an article to the Mckinney Courier Gazette. It was picked up by some of the bigger papers. Since I didn’t have a job to lose, it was pretty bold, titled, ‘We’re not in Calaveras County any more, Toto,’ which led to my next writing gig, or, assignment I should say. Mr. Estivation liked the audacious voice in that first piece and wanted me for his “up close and personal” interview.

The Dallas Morning News sent me to meet him. Brave questions were needed. My stomach fluttered like bugs were in it. He was relaxing by his pool; sitting on a chaise lounge shaped like a giant lily pad and had a big bowl of crickets that he flicked out with a sticky, four foot tongue. I thought I’d puke when he offered me some, but held it down with my glottis clenched like a fist.

“So, you’re Charles Davis, the Gi… uh, guy that gets the exclusive interview with the next president?”

“You’re confident of victory, Mr. Estivation?”

“Call me Ed E. And, yes, absolutely. The polls have me getting almost one hundred percent of the Amphibivote and a majority of the human vote. Even people know that you’ve screwed things up for too long.”

“Some say frogs were the second plague God put on the Egyptians to warn the Pharaoh and that this is our warning.”

“Your warning was when all Amphibians started to disappear due to over-polluted water. The presidential oath is, ‘Serve, protect and defend.’ Presidents ignore it. You ignored our demise as though the canary dying at the bottom of the mine means nothing. What is it with man? Do you really need a baby human in the cage to die at the bottom of that mine? Are you so species-centric that only your own impending death matters? Warnings obviously do no good. A change is needed. A metamorphose. Not a change in shade—a real change. Nothing shady.” His laugh was a booming, reverberating croak that brought curious tadpoles out of the pool with gills flaring and partially formed hind legs kicking.

The butler, a big-mouthed man with protruding eyes, brought a bucket, dipped it in the pool and sloshed some on the master of the house. It smelled like rotting swamp. Ed E rubbed it on his skin with his webbed hand as though it was sun lotion. He blinked at me with one of his translucent eyelids. It made me clench again. I don’t know why.

His wife came out and stood near the pool. “Anura, this is Charles of the Dallas Morning News.” I didn’t correct him on the career upgrade. She nodded and smiled—I think it was a smile. Anura dipped her backside into the pool and with a squishy, aqueous sound, released a couple of dozen gelatinous, grapefruit-sized eggs into the water. I felt a salty taste in my mouth and all the clenching and tight lips in the world wouldn’t save my lunch and actually powered the projectile vomit across the pool onto Anura’s back.

I felt Ed E’s tongue snake around my neck with pythonic genius. My hands went to my throat reflexly but couldn’t pry it loose or even get a grip against its slickness. If I would’ve had anything left, I’d have lost it then and probably drowned in my own spew. Everything went black.

Mrs. E’s cool, clammy fore-flipper stroked my head and the world slowly came back into focus. It was a different world for sure and I was reminded by the bait-bucket air and my sore neck. Later, my interview was on the front page where I’d left out the tongue-lashing from Ed E. He got my vote even though my stomach flipped when I heard one clever political pundit say, “You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to find a president.”

Dad taught, “The journalist shouldn’t become part of the story.” I’d omitted the choking incident. President Estivation was impressed, still liked the voice he almost ruined, naming me his Press Secretary. Dad, at his station, replayed a TV interview I had with a gang of reporters. He spotted my nervous tick, “Son, why do you reach up and rub your neck after every question?”