**It’s been a long time since I’ve produced a work of fiction here. As many good writers understand, life can get in the way. So without further adieu, here is a rough short story that experiments with voice. I hope you enjoy.**
My momma always said toads was a bad omen. Said, if late at night you happen upon one, you was to give it a wide berth lest you fall in its evil spell. I used to sit n’ day dream bout these toads of evil hoppin’ around searchin’ fer souls to take.
There was a toad that year Charlie died. Lookin’ back I can remember it clear as day but no one thought about it then, I guess. Shock maybe, or just a’feared that mentioning it aloud would bring the bad luck on them too.
I remember Rosy Haze sayin’ outside the funeral that the toad musta’ got ’em and swiftly bein’ hushed by her gramma. Rosy was a bit touched by God anyway, momma always said.
Yep, I remember it clear as day now. Hot summers day it was, not the kinda day you’d expect to see a toad that’s fer sure n I guess that’s what makes the tellin of this story so odd – kinda odd that puts prickles under yer skin.
We was playin round the side a the house when we heared this odd chirpin. Didn’t think nothin of it, cause birds was chirpin n singing all mornin anyways. We just kept playin in the dirt, crawlin round with our dinky cars n waiting on traffic jams caused by the odd ant crossin’ our made up streets. I was just thinkin’ on goin’ to ask momma for some lemonade cause we was shore thirsty playin in that hot sun when daddy come bustin out on the porch, screen door a’slammin behind him,
“What in tarnations all that racket?” He screamed at us. We jus shrugged our shoulders, “You kids ain’t messin’ with some animal out here is ya?”
And he come marchin’ over lookin down at us all ornery like a bear that’s been waked up too early. “We ain’t got nuthin daddy.” I spoke up fer us.
The sound was comin from the other side of the house. We followed daddy even though it was hot n the grass was dry n prickly under our bare feet.
And there it was. A big ol’ toad just lyin there in the sun makin the strangest sqwakin noise. Can’t recall as I’d ever heard a toad make noise before, heck can’t recall ever hearin’ one since come to think of it. You know I had goose bumps crawlin up my neck seein that thing lyin there in the middle of our scorched lawn sqwackin’ like…like…well heck, like nothin I’d ever heared afore. Or since.
Never saw daddy turn no shade a white like he did that day too. It was only brief but I saw it. Like his very ghostly soul came out n showed itself. He backed up a couple steps and I heared him say the lords name under his breath.
It was just a toad. But then, I was little n didn’t know much about the workings of the world then. Momma always said to give em a wide bearth. Maybe why daddy covered his ears n went back to the porch.
Bein’ kids we was curious. We ran behind daddy to the porch hollerin “Why he screamin like that daddy?”, “Is it got the rabies?” My little brother shouted.
Daddy stopped n just looked at us. There was fear in his eyes but he grabbed an ol milk crate n he said, “Look, it don’t mean nuthin’ and ya’ll gotta grow up some day believin’ right, so I wantcha to go over there n use this here crate n take it away? Understand? Can’t have yer momma screamin’ if she find out, y’know how she is bout them toads.” And he made a whirlin’ motion near his head.
I knew. But I also saw that daddy looked scared. Maybe cause I heared he done ol’ Mr Jones wrong in a poker game Saturday last, n’ maybe, just maybe mommas toad stories was under his skin too.
I didn’t know no difference. I wasn’t gonna fear no toad thats fer sure.
So off we went, doin as we was told. I’d never heard such a high pitched chirpin comin from no toad before but here it was, middle a’ our summer scorched lawn, openin its mouth and chirpin’ loud.
Lookin back, coulda been maybe caught out in the noon day sun was doin it to him. Lookin back, maybe that toad was just callin fer help in the only way it could.
I held the crate while my little brother, Charlie, tried to coax him in with a stick we’d found near the oak tree.
You know, that toad reared up at Charlie and chirped real loud? No one would ever believe the tellin’ but to this day, I swear it did.
The screen door on the front porch banged then. Momma comin our to see what all the fuss was. When she saw the big toad n heard the otherworldly noise it was makin she near dropped right there. “You kids leave that alone! What am I always tellin ya!? Dear Lord!! Get away from it! It ain’t right!”
Here we, bein kids n all, not knowin’ bout the truth of curses n such, we’re shoutin’ back, “It’s okay momma! He’s just hurt in’ We’s gonna help him back home.” “Yeah, he caint hurt us none if we help ‘im momma” that last part was Charlie.
Momma turned to the house then and we heared the screen door screechin as she yelled inside, “Charles Sr!! Charles Sr, look what them kids is messin with! Oh dear lord, protect my babies! Charles Sr. You get out here this instant!”
Charlie n me, we coaxed that ol’ toad in our milk crate n we carried it off toward the pond. Well, I was 9 and a girl, n’ Charlie was 5, so we wasn’t quite sure about toads but I knew bullfrogs was in the pond, never occurred to neither of us that toads was different. So off we went, n we spilled that ol’ toad there on the waters edge. Big as my head that one was. Heavy. Never seen one as big in all my years since.
Our good deed done we ran home to listen to momma n daddy fightin over that toad long until daddy passed out from drink.
Momma made us say triple prayers that night and held us in bed with her n her bible fer the next week. I guess until she felt the curse was lifted.
Week after that, Charlie caught a fish down to the pond n’ so proud of himself, it was a good sized catfish fer such a little guy, he held that fish high and took off runnin towards home to show momma. I sat laughin watchin him go. Neither of us heard the car speedin down the roadway. Charlie musta flew 20 feet in the air.
Can still hear momma screamin. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. Just sat there, frozen, as people rushed around hollerin.
And dammit, if that toad weren’t sittin there watchin me!!