Frog Wild


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Crick, crack. Walliput, weeliput. Hickity-honkity, dew, dew, dew.

"Bit early, don’t you think?"

"No, not really, not what with the rain."

In the belly of the swamp, across acres of moor, men lined up to recite winter’s compositions. Tunes collided, rhythms overlapped, but none of them balked at the syncopated chaos, none but Hip-Hop. Oh, he longed to impress as much as any, but he had what they called a shy ear, a small note stack, a skittish horn. His masterpiece, the quiet labor of cold months, drowned in that wicked racket. He squatted with his mouth agape, silent as a mud bubble. The women hopped closer, Delpy-Mae among them. Chance of a lifetime and he was pure caesura.

The ridge of Delpy-Mae’s eyes angled his way. His neighbors crooned. Hip-Hop wouldn’t have all spring, that’s what Dad would say. He darted his head down deep into mud and when it came out his tympanums were mute, mercifully mute, with slime. With the world dull he ventured a note, a cascade of demisemiquavers to follow, the movement’s bright opening. But. It was an awful note, a thin note with no self-knowledge, and his brother Obelisk croaked out tears of laughter beside him. Delpy-Mae winced away. Hip-Hop’s sac deflated.

"They’re going nuts out there."

"Hog wild."

Crick, crack. Walliput, weeliput. Hickity-honkity, dew, dew, dew.

Hip-Hop made his way home, dizzy with failure, and wedged himself under the log. Dad would have none of it, and, after a day of it, told a long story how his Uncle Tom Clanker had set off one day down the road, self-exiled, unable to sing at all unless he was stark alone. No one had heard from Clanker in years. Hip-Hop gave in and agreed to learn one of his father’s old hits. A simple song, not his own—so much easier to submit to the butchery of the common howl. But when Hip-Hop performed it that night, Delpy-Mae didn’t pause or even shorten her jump as she sprang past. At once he drew back, thoughts gone to Clanker and the stillness of the open road. At least old Clank sang his own tunes; aloof, but authentic. A car swooshed past Hip-Hop, caking him with puddle slop. He retreated to a dark recess and tried to shake it all off.

"Now we’ve got one under the house."

"Didn’t know they could have such a pretty voice."

Delpy-Mae must have heard Hip-Hop’s lonesome song, for she came round—even though the humans were out and the cats on their laps. But she shook her head and tucked her chin. This was no place to call home. Too dry, too stone, too snake, too flat. She hopped away, but not towards the pond. When she reached the wall, she glanced back. Her graceful legs got her up in one clean shot. For him it took three tries, but he would have jumped all night to follow. It was simple enough to squeeze in after.

"Pool tarp must be loose."

"Well, I tied it. One probably snuck in while you sun dried."

The tarp quivered, tight and resonant above them. Hip-Hop’s song boomed, amplified a hundredfold. Delpy-Mae practically laid her eggs right there, but the moment was spoiled by a flop of women leaping up and slapping onto the tarp, drawn by the lure of the biggest song ever. The men, of course, pursued.

Crick, crack. Walliput, weeliput. Hickity-honkity, dew, dew, dew.

Hip-Hop froze, the octaves a bright jumble in his mind. There was simply no place to put his notes. The space was taken. His sac shrank. On the road, hopping from puddle to puddle, he might perfect his composition. But there’d be no one to hear it. Delpy-Mae got that sad, distant gleam and swam to the gap where the others came in droning.

"Now, now. Put that leaf rake down."

"Would you make up your mind?"

"Hush and hear it. Frog like that, singing harmony."

Thanks to the Pink Cloud gang.