The Matron Amphibicides
……….What Mrs. Ida Fleming did not know, when she hefted the heavy cast-stone, antique-replica base of her English-moss-finish birdbath was that, beneath the baluster a wee, bulbous, teenaged Fowler’s toad resided. So as not to disturb the little fellow Mrs. Fleming carefully righted the base and donned her Playtex Living Gloves before she gave the basin a good scrub with her old dish brush. As the hose ran to refill the now-clean basin, it occurred to her that the developing young frog might have grown too much to escape the cavity beneath the base, since he certainly, to her unpracticed eye, appeared too large to fit through the narrow slits between the base feet. And so, when the concerned Mrs. Fleming again turned the base over she discovered, to her horror, that when she had righted it the first time she had, in fact, crushed the head of the toad.
……….The spring cleaning of the terrace fountain was a chore Felicia Blundon despised. As she prepared to scoop the murky, algae-filled water from the stone trough her hand was arrested by the sight of tadpoles—hundreds of tadpoles at varying stages of growth, wriggling through the water like a reproductive diagram. “This will not do,” Mrs. Blundon remarked to her terrier, Boris, before she scooped the tadpoles into the skimmer net and carefully poured them into pickle jars. She filled four, then continued her cleaning. As her “splashless” bleach glugged into the greenish water she saw that last little fellow, thrashing his tiny vestigial tail until, alas, it thrashed no more. With a heavy heart, Mrs. Blundon placed the sibling and cousin tadpoles into a basket cushioned with dishtowels. After driving to a nearby pond, she crouched at the edge and poured each jar into the water. “Swim! Swim away, little frogs!” is what she was thinking, though she did not say it aloud.
……….A black bump rose from the calm brown surface of the water, and then another, and another, and the tiny amphibians swam into the gawping maws of a gang of remorseless snapping turtles.
……….Ms. Lucinda Pruitt prided herself on wielding a mean pitchfork. She filled her wheelbarrow with mulch from the pile with determination and energy. She would finish the perennial borders today! On to the boxwoods tomorrow! Forkful by careful forkful, Ms. Pruitt lovingly spread mulch around each of the 250 plants in her new border. Each one, she had selected and placed and she had, herself, dug those 250 holes. She smoothed a spot between a yarrow and an aster clump before moving the quaint, unglazed terra-cotta bell with “Frog House” stamped around the little arched opening. To her surprise, the house was already occupied by a slug couple and a good-sized green-spotted, one-eyed frog. What darling designs figured across his back! Quickly, Ms. Pruitt snapped a photo for Instagram. As she was formulating a clever caption, the frog was away with two impressive hops, making for the daylilies.
……….In a blur of black and white, Ms. Pruitt’s Pointer mutt blasted through the camellias and pounced, gleefully tossing the green frog into the air.
……….It was not until the morning after she returned home, jetlagged, from her Viking River Cruise that Mary-Ashton “Molly” Beasley discovered the scene. Returning to her car to fetch her PBS tote bag she discovered the still-moist remains of a Southern Cricket frog in the driveway. Apparently, as best Mrs. Beasley could piece together the events of the previous evening, her wheelie Tumi had rolled right over the midsection.
……….As the days passed, the remains desiccated, flattened, and blackened, becoming a sobering monument and reminder to Mrs. Beasley of the vagaries of nature. Passing the leathery mass on her walk to the mailbox each morning, she resolved to live each remaining day to the fullest.
© Liza Nash Taylor
Liza Nash Taylor lives and writes in an old farmhouse in Keswick, Virginia, with her husband and three dogs. Her two historical novels will be published starting in 2020 by Blackstone Publishing.