Sometimes the Strangest Pets Provide the Best Memories (Short Story)

People might say that sometimes when you get sick, you can have a frog in your throat. But I learned early on that you can also have one on it. And a frog on your throat is an experience—I can tell you—that’s hard to forget.

There was a glorious creek that gurgled happily on my grandparents’ North Carolina farm. Each spring it gleamed with shiny frog eggs that hatched into the cutest teeny-tiny tadpoles. From the time I was a toddler, my MawMaw and I would play catch and release with our hands. The key word here is “release.”

One spring day, I remember thinking, Here I am, a grown-up 7-year-old with no pet of my own. The barn cats had no loyalty. The dog was PawPaw’s hunting buddy. The mule was too stubborn to acknowledge affection. The chickens refused to be hugged, the cow eyed me with disdain, and the hog—no way.

So, grabbing a small pot and a large mason jar from the kitchen, I marched down to the creek. There they were—frisky, newly hatched tadpoles, darting here and there in joyous play. Looking at me with their bulging eyes, imploring me to be their friend.

Scoop! The first pot picked up a few dozen. Carefully, I poured them into the jar. Scoop! Another few dozen of these strangest pets made it into the jar. That was enough; any more would spread my love too thin. I was feverish with the anticipation of new friends under my personal care.

Knowing that my parents and grandparents wouldn’t put up with my creek creatures in the farmhouse, I carefully placed a casserole dish with shredded lettuce out of sight in the bedroom closet. As I poured the contents of my mason jar into the dish, I noticed that my arm had a rash on it. I figured I’d just brushed up against poison ivy or something on the creek bank.

I really wanted to share some quality time with my new best buddies, but the exertion of the adventure had given me a headache. My eyes and throat hurt, too. Leaving the closet door open a crack, I crawled into bed and fell asleep.

When I awoke, a thermometer was sticking out of my mouth and blankets were hanging over the windows. In the darkened room, my feverish mind heard the word “measles,” but I just knew I felt awful, achy and itchy. People were talking about how my baby sister had to be sent to my aunt’s house so she wouldn’t get what I had. In fact, most people had to stay out of the room, except Mom.

Two days went by and I mostly slept or whined. On the morning of the third day, I felt something tickle my neck. I opened my eyes and froze. Another set of eyes, froggy eyes, stared back at me. Lickety-split, their owner hopped onto my chin, then onto the pillow.

In response to my yell—or maybe it was a scream—my mother burst through my bedroom door to discover what looked like the second plague of Egypt. Everywhere you looked, hundreds of little frogs jumped around. On me, the bed, the floor, the curtains, you name it.

I sat in a daze. That is, until Mom and MawMaw dragged in the old Hoover canister vacuum. “Oh, no! Not my pets!” I cried and cried.

Oh, the frogmanity! They even opened the closet and discovered my tadpole hotel. When the Hoover massacre was over, both women left without a word. My measles helped me escape a severe chastisement.

Still, I was terribly sad, and petless once again. As tears streamed down my measles-inflamed cheeks, I noticed my pillowcase fluttering. One darling little frog had escaped! I gently captured it and ran to the window. “I love you, little froggy,” I whispered into my open hands. “But get outta here right now!”

A week later found me cleaning out the old Hoover canister. Thoroughly.

Three days after that, I got a puppy.

Author: Janet Davies, Chicago, Illinois. Illustration by Kevin Rechin.
Source: The Country Life Magazine.

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