By Dan McClenaghan
There’s no telling how the frog got into the lettuce. Hopped up out of an irrigation furrow just prior to harvest is the best guess. What is certain is that he ended up in Jolene Rivard’s salad, a rainbow of raw vegetable matter collected by Jolene herself at the salad bar. She didn’t see him hiding there until three bites in, when she stuck him in the butt with her fork.
This minor harpooning sent the small amphibian into a high hop that arced across the table and terminated in a landing, with a splat, on the top patty of Jolene’s husband Frank’s double cheeseburger, momentarily unbunned for the addition of condiments.
Frank tilted the ketchup bottle back and gazed into the eyes of the frog.
The frog returned his gaze and let out a feeble chirp. The melting cheese had entrapped him.
Jolene looked across the table as the frog struggled to free itself from the orange goop. Her sudden awareness of having possibly eaten some frog slime salad dressing made her stomach churn. She took a deep drink of water to rinse her mouth, then spit it back into her glass, as Frank nodded at the salad bar and said, “They got a crock of these guys up there? Wriggling around next to the radish slices?”
This frogs-in-a-crock image ramped up Jolene’s incipient nausea. She jumped out of the booth and strode, with extreme urgency, to the restroom, while Frank lifted the frog from his burger—strings of cheese stretching from each of its four little feet—and dropped him into Jolene’s water glass.
Jolene returned, pale and shaky, and slid back into her booth, as the waitress approached with the iced tea pitcher.
“Oh shit!” the young woman said upon spying the frog, which was swimming the perimeter of his new home.
“Got him at the salad bar,” said Frank. “Then he jumped onto my burger.” Frank pointed at the frog indentation on the cheese.
“Here, I’ll take him,” said the waitress, reaching for the glass.
“No!” Jolene shouted. She’d waitressed in her younger days, and she was pretty sure that a frog going back to the kitchen was destined for a ride inside the garbage disposal. “Bring us a to-go cup.” she demanded. “We’re taking him.”
Frank knew better than to protest. He drove. Jolene navigated. She told him to go to Guajome Park, to the small lake there. Frank carried the frog to the lake and poured him out of the to-go cup. The frog swam off.
It turns out, he was a she and, upon maturation, she laid eggs. Tadpoles emerged. Hundreds survived to adulthood. And on a warm spring evening they formed a choir, to sing a croaking ode to the kindness of Jolene.
Previously published by Excuse Me, I’m Writing.
Dan McClenaghan writes stuff. He began with his Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium, he started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. He’s tried his hand at novels, without success, although he has been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed. Aside from the writing, Dan is married to the lovely Denise. They have three wonderful children and five beautiful grandchildren; and Dan is a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!
Photo credit: Marc Dalmulder via a Creative Commons license.