Mister Toad’s Wild Ride

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Once upon a time, during a moonlit night, an unsuspecting woman descended the steps of her backyard deck and stepped onto the stone patio. Her three rambunctious dogs raced past her, eager to hit the grass and sniff out the perfect place to pee before bedtime.

The woman knew the sniffing would take a while, so she strolled around the patio, hoping to add to the step count on her fitness app. Along the way, she kicked acorns, rocks, and leaves out of her path, unaware of the danger ahead.

Just as her foot began to brush aside a large rock, it hopped. Straight up and right at her. She shrieked and jumped in the opposite direction, narrowly missing the giant frog whose vertical leap made her heart spring into her throat. She stared at the frog, and he stared back – both of them certain they’d barely escaped with their lives.

And that’s how I met Frank the Frog, who has begun using our patio as his personal crash pad each night. Even though Frank’s harrowing hop nearly gave me a heart attack that night, I understand why he’s here. The patio soaks up the sun during the day, and cold-blooded frogs can’t warm up without help. So, Frank uses my patio as a heating pad. And as someone who sleeps with a heating pad to warm up my frosty feet at night, I can relate.

Since that night we nearly ran into each other, I watch out for Frank when I take the dogs outside because sometimes a rock is not a rock. It’s just Frank – toasting his belly on the sunbaked stone and hunting for bugs by the backyard light. I once saw Frank catch a cricket who probably also made the mistake of thinking he was a rock.

A few weeks ago, our 16-year-old daughter took the dogs out, and I cautioned her to watch where she steps since Frank might be out there. She spotted Frank immediately and worried he might get trampled by our herd of dogs, so she scooped him up and moved him to a more secluded spot.

Then, as teenagers are prone to do, she took his picture and looked him up online. It turns out Frank the Frog is technically an American Toad. He doesn’t “ribbit” like frogs do. He sings, and he’s pretty good at it. I don’t know if he’d make it on American Idol, but I’ve heard worse.

Last night, after another trip to the backyard, Kate came inside with news: Frank has a friend! A smaller toad (who we’ve named Francesca) was sitting just a few feet away from him. Kate lifted each one and put them in a safe spot under the light for bug catching. We’re hoping Frank and Francesca fall in love and have toad babies we’ll name Fred and Frannie.

While her intentions are good, I told Kate that Frank and Francesca might be freaked out by her toad relocation services. I can imagine Frank trying to explain the experience to a buddy:

Frank: “This giant thing came out of the sky and picked me up. Then it flew me through the air. I was so scared I nearly peed. It looked at me with giant blue eyes and put its long, weird finger on my head. It spoke in a strange language. Then it set me down in a beam of light and disappeared into the night.”

Bartender: “Sure, Frank. So, you’re saying you were abducted by aliens who examined you, flew you through the air, and set you down next to a bug buffet. Maybe you’ve had a few too many cocktail crickets, buddy.”

But Frank isn’t crazy or hallucinating. He’s just a toad posing as a rock who will likely stick around as long as fall’s warmer temperatures do. He’s welcome to use our toasty patio and extra insects whenever he likes.

We’ll leave the light on for him.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at gwenrockwood5@gmail.com. Her book is available on Amazon. 

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