Three times I’ve had a frog.
And three times it has gone wrong.
* * *
I received my first frog as a gift in college. He arrived along with a little goldfish in a bowl of water with some pink rocks at the bottom. I named him Peeve and the fish Free Refills. My pet Peeve and Free Refills got along splendidly and had many joyous months of swimming and… swimming.
But unbeknownst to me, Peeve was plagued by demons. One afternoon I came back from class and found he had jumped out of his bowl. There he was, frying on the radiator like the lunch special on a hibachi. It was gruesome. Do you know how hard it is to scrape fried frog off a hot surface if you haven’t used cooking oil first?
(Free Refills lived a little longer but then dropped dead for no apparent reason while I was getting my tonsils out over spring break, which is another story for another time.)
Lesson Learned: Frogs have a flair for drama in death. (This lesson would prepare me well for the future. See story #2.)
* * *
A few years ago, my children were given a pair of water frogs. My kids, at the time, were 7 and 4. So let’s be real: those frogs were my responsibility.
It was clear from the start that Snowflake had troubles. While his cube-mate, Parcheesi, torpedoed from one side of the tank to the other, Snowflake just flapped around in languid circles. Sometimes he’d jam his head into the rocks at the bottom, as if he might bury himself. At feeding time, Parcheesi would gulp down his frog kibbles, but Snowflake would only pretend-eat, like Cookie Monster, gumming his food — mah-mah-mah — but letting it all fall out of his mouth. Every time.
Snowflake did not respond to my pep talks in which I told him that he was beautiful just the way he was and that everyone needs a healthy breakfast and that depriving himself of food was the wrong way to get a sense of control over his life. Slowly, he wasted away from his eating disorder until he looked like nothing more than an anatomical sketch of a frog on a scrap of wax paper, drifting through the water. It took months. MONTHS OF FROG STARVATION. One day, we found his emaciated little body tangled up in his bamboo tree, one leg wrapped around his own neck in a final act of acrobatic defiance. Holy hotdogs, Snowflake, I thought, that’s pretty fucked up.
Lesson Learned: As my son told his wide-eyed little sister – “See? That’s what’ll happen to you if you don’t eat your dinner.”
* * *
But wait. There’s more.
For nearly two years after Snowflake perished, Parcheesi thrived. But frogs don’t live forever, and Parcheesi got old in frog-years. He started to slow down, eat less, and sleep more. It became harder and harder to wake him up for breakfast.
One day last week, we came downstairs to find that Parcheesi had passed in the night. We shook the tank to be sure: nope, no movement. I poked him with a fork: yep, dead. So I spooned up his rigid, lifeless little body, and we all said some somber words and reflected on his time with us. Just before we took him outside to bury him under the same maple tree where Snowflake lies, the kids decided to throw a few frog kibbles on him, since he always liked those so much.
And that’s when he woke up and ate the frog kibbles.
Several days have passed, and Parcheesi The Miracle Frog continues to pull this stunt every morning, faking his own death and then popping back up like a goddamn frog zombie. Frankly, I’ve had it with the Frog Resurrection act. It’s not funny anymore. (I mean, come on. Even Jesus only did this party trick once.) One of these days, I’m going to call that frog’s bluff, and he’s going to find himself under a tree in the front yard.
Lesson Learned: A great way to lose your kids’ trust forever is to let them watch you almost bury their pet alive.
And all this is why I will never have another frog.
* * *