Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Death of the Toad

The sun set hours ago, but I made a commitment to running, so out into the night I go.  I need it: the forward momentum, the solitude, the pounding heart, the reminder of what a body can do -- mind and heart and lungs and muscle and tendons and abdomen and arms-legs-feet propelling forward in unison, each contributing. Knowing I'm still healing, I choose gravel over concrete.

In the darkness the moon looms, nearly full, the air perfumed with spring. At peace, I stretch, grateful that the body knows how to release, to elasticize, to let go in ways that are often so difficult for me to do in the day-to-day.

The atmosphere is tense -- the rain bides its time.  Flashes of lightning reflect on the water.  The path is darker than I remember, but I persist.  The playlist is a shuffle.  U2 songs keep coming into rotation.  I hate U2.  Fucking Bono. He's such an arrogant ass.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Philanthropy or whatever.  God, I hate that fucking guy.  I curse my husband for downloading fucking U2. The peace and gratitude I'd felt in the parking lot moments ago is rapidly dissipating.

A firm believer in signs, I should turn around.  I don't.  The darkness deepens, the cacophony of the bullfrog choir is unnerving. Ripples of fear begin to undulate.  Now they're waves.

It's reaaaallly dark.  There's no one else here.  There's obviously a murderer lying in wait for me. I wonder if my murder will end up on Dateline NBC? Why are those frogs so loud? What was that thrash in the woods?!?  It's really, really fucking dark. Why did I think it was a good idea to run this trail alone this late? People don't wait in the woods to just gently murder a passerby.  That murderer is going to torture me, for sure.  No one but the damn bullfrogs will hear my screams.  What if I'm too panicked to even scream?  What if I go mute?  When the sicko is done with me, he'll probably toss my dead body in the lake.  I'm going to bloat.  Fish will eat my flesh.  There's no way I'll be able to have an open-casket.  I'm so fucking scared!  Should I turn around?  No, idiot.  Don't turn around.  You're halfway around the damn lake already.  Holy shit. This part is really dark.  Turn around.  Turn around! You are so dumb.  It's a trail in the woods.  There is nothing to be afraid of.  There is no murderer here.  You may encounter a nudist.  Nudists aren't murderers.  You're fine.  You're fine!

I round the bend and the sky widens above me again, a clearing in the forest. The light of the moon spills onto the trail.  There before me the path is covered by a flock, a gaggle, a school, a swarm of toads. And they're hopping, hundreds of them. This is Biblical. I should have known with the U2.  I should have known with the darkness and the mounting fear.  I should have turned around. I didn't. I awkwardly zig and zag through the plague of toads, frightened, disgusted, confused.  Bad omen.  Bad omen.

It happens.  I've done it.  My foot and the full weight of my body crush down on an innocent, unblinking toad. He's not small.  I guess maybe I would have expected him to scream.  To squeal.  To ribbit or croak.  Nothing could have prepared me for the sound that emanated there in the soft spilling light of the moon.  Slow motion.  The pop of the toad's exploding body echoes off the water, off the trees.  His insides expel with enormous velocity. The demise of the toad under me.  Friends, brothers, neighbors are splattered with the guts of the murdered toad.  They bear witness. The trauma.  They're going to need therapy.  I scream in a way I didn't know I could, wrought with disgust and guilt and fear and regret, but mostly disgust.  I cry and whimper from the shock; I just extinguished a life.  No. Extinguished is too gentle, too euphemistic.  Eviscerated.  I eviscerated that poor little creature. Literally.  No euphemism there. I feared murderers.  I became a murderer. The depravity! And the guts.  The guts are on my shoe.  I'm a killer.  The evidence is damning.  I felt the literal life seep (jet, really) from his body. The moon illumines the carnage.  The toads stare.

I turn.  I sprint back to the parking lot, a trail of toad guts on the path.  I can't outrun the deed. Fucking Bono croons: You're gonna sleep like a baby tonight / In your dreams everything is alright/ Tomorrow dawns like someone else's suicide / You're gonna sleep like a baby tonight.  Murder, Bono. Not suicide.  MUR-DER.  Of course Bono is there.  Of course he is. That asshole with his stupid sunglasses and his arrogance and his swagger and his judgment.  It was an accident! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!

And here is the parking lot.  The moon is veiled in clouds, unable to look me in the eye.  The fragrance of blooms and grass still hang in the air amid the tension of rain.  The bullfrogs croak. Veils and fragrance and impending tears that fall from clouds and a choir of bullfrogs who send out a mourning song: a funeral for the death of the toad.

1 comment:

  1. OOOooohhhhh! This is marvelous in its horror!
    Favorite lines:
    People don't wait in the woods to just gently murder a passerby.
    Extinguished is too gentle, too euphemistic.
    The toads stare.

    Your voice is loud and clear! I love reading your writing.