The tragedy occurred around bedtime. Pam called me from upstairs, in an I’m trying not to sound panicked tone. “Honey, come up here please.” “Okay,” I said from the computer with the hope that my response bought me five more minutes. “NOW!” she repeated urgently.
I rushed up the stairs. “What? What is it?” Pam and the boys were all standing outside of Hayden’s room. “It’s the frogs,” she said. The frogs were technically Hayden’s, a gift from his godmother three years ago. Fred and Shaggy, named after THAT Fred and Shaggy. Pam didn’t need to say anything else. I could see Caterina, one of our two cats, licking her paws and her chops. “Caterina ate the frogs,” Hayden wailed. “Oh, no! I’m so sorry, Hayd.” He had buried himself in Pam’s arms. “Why doesn’t everyone go brush their teeth, and I’ll clean up the mess,” I offered.
I surveyed the crime scene. The lid to the frog tank had been knocked off. Puddles of water and red pebbles were strewn across the top of the dresser. There was Owen, hot on my heels. “Do you think they’re dead, Dad? Do you think she ate them?” “I’m not sure, O, but you should be brushing your teeth.” Then, a discovery. “Look! There’s one on the floor,” he said. And indeed there was one of the frogs, dead in the center of the room. But Hayden’s cries had just subsided, and I didn’t want this to start another round of sobbing. “That’s frog poop, Owen. Now get out of here and let me clean up.” At this point, Pam was in the doorway looking at me. As Owen passed by her he said, “Well, that poop has arms and legs.” Dammit, I hate when kids are right.
I scooped the frog up in some tissues and flushed it down the toilet when the boys were finished in the bathroom. I ran the frogless tank down to the laundry room in the basement, where I emptied the remaining murky water into the laundry tub. Well, this is one way to get me to clean the tank, I thought. Then, I bagged the tank and threw it away in the outside garbage.
Back upstairs, Hayden railed against Caterina. “Stupid cat! I hate you!” “She didn’t mean it, Hayd. That’s what cats do.” Little consolation for a six year old. “Get out of my room!” he yelled to her. And that was the funny thing–she wouldn’t leave his room. She remained under the bureau on the damp rug, licking the walls. “Do you think the other one’s under there?” Pam asked. “No, she ate it,” I said. “Now let’s get these guys to bed. It’s late.”
About an hour later, we both emerged from the boys’ rooms, having fallen asleep with them once again. We had been looking forward to watching the season premiere of HOMELAND on Showtime all day, and we weren’t going to let a few deaths spoil our evening. These days, we don’t watch a lot of TV, so when we find a show that we must see, it’s a big deal. I insist we watch it on the big screen in the basement. So, we get our snacks, turn out the lights, and curl up on the couch for some nice suburban escapism.
HOMELAND is a show about terrorism and a turned U.S. Marine. It is edge-of-your-seat viewing, and the season opener did not disappoint: chase scenes, new villains, and more secret alliances. As we sat there engrossed, Pam shot up in her seat. “Holy shit! I think I just saw a frog out of the corner of my eye.” “Shut up!” I say. “A frog or a grasshopper,” she says. “Are you messing with me?” “NO!” We pause the show and stand up. And then. And…then… “OH MY GOD! IT’S THE FROG!” she yells.
Screams. Loud screams. Loud, curse-filled screams from both of us. Have you ever been involved with the death of a small creature, but it totally wreaks havoc on your mental state? Back from the dead images, from all the horror movies of my youth, flood my warped brain: Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow, Pet Cemetery. Fred or Shaggy “hops” lamely in our direction and Pam bolts up the stairs. “I can’t do this,” she hollers. “Come on,” I say. “Don’t leave me here.” From the other side of the door, she exclaims, “I don’t do animals.” “Oh, really, but what, if it was a human you’d pick up the body?” I say in disgust.
“We should put it out of its misery, right?” I ask from the bottom of the steps, where I am now alone (sort of). “I guess,” she says. “Well, get me some tissues and I’ll take care of it.” She finally gives in, but by then I’ve lost sight of him. We spend the next 10 minutes moving furniture, blankets and toys, and still no Fredshaggy. “I guess the cats will get him,” I say, hopefully. “What if the boys find him first?” Pam wonders. We are at a loss on what to do, so we decide to at least finish HOMELAND–standing up, of course. There was literally one minute left. As we turn off the TV, Pam yells, “There he is!” “Where?” “Right next to the Bat Cave.” Sure enough, there he was. His one leg clearly maimed and his froggy skin covered in lint from the carpet. “Sorry about this, buddy,” I say.
After I finish flushing my second frog of the evening, Pam and I try to piece together the events. CSI we ain’t. Theory 1: Caterina used him as her springy plaything, and eventually brought him down to the basement while we were watching the show; Theory 2: I accidentally dumped him out in the laundry tub when I was pouring out the gross frog water. Whatever the scenario, we are exhausted.
“Oh, no,” Pam cries from the dining room. “What now?” I ask. “Rufus (our yellow Lab) just ate an entire bag of Milano cookies.” “Oh, well, he’ll be fine.” “Honey, they have chocolate in them. Dogs can die from chocolate.” “He’s not going to die,” I say, on no particular authority. “But, if we wake up, and he is dead, then it’s your turn to pick up the body.” I turn into a petulant child. I begin my rant about the manliest job expected out of a husband and father–taking out the dead. “I had to do the frogs tonight, that dead deer on the lawn this summer, and every damn spider that comes in this house!” As I list my corpses, Pam looks at me with that look that says, Yep, and I married him folks.
It’s been two days since the event, and not one word from the boys about the frogs. I thought for sure I would have to run out the next day with them for the replacements, Velma and Daphne to be sure. But neither one has said a thing. Which is fine by us. We were outnumbered by the pets in our house since getting the kittens last summer. This puts the human/animal ratio back in our favor at 4:3. And that suits us just fine. For now.