3. Frogs

Drab Treefrog (Smilisca sordida)

Continued from last week’s installment of Digging in the Dirt.


Tabitha, a pale woman in her 30’s with blue-tinted black hair cut in a severe bob and–at 4pm–still in her pajamas, carried two mugs of coffee in one hand, a clipboard under her arm, and a stack of file folders in the other hand. She walked over to the picnic table and set everything down in front of Louisa. “Oh, look,” Louisa said, staring at the files. “It’s the ghost of businesses past.” A light breeze blew Louisa’s long brown hair into her mouth as she spoke. She pulled the strands back, but then slammed her hand on a pile of photos just before they had a chance to flit off the table.

“Yeah, I know they didn’t work out, but I thought I’d bring the records out in case we needed to look at anything.” Tabitha turned towards the house. “You mind if I fold some laundry while we talk?”

“Oh, sure.”

“Ok, I’ll be right back.”

As Tabitha jogged away, Louisa picked up one of the folders by the wrong side and contents began to spill out but she caught them. “The Muffin Store,” she thought as she riffled through the pile. “I still like that idea.” The wind picked up and a few photographs managed to get away, and tumbled through the dusty grass.

She jumped up and ran after them, and was halfway down the street when a bus from Shoreview High School pulled up and deposited two girls in front of the house. She collected the photos and walked back.

“Hey, you two!” she yelled.

“Hey Aunt Louisa,” said Pegs, who was lugging a heavy box along with her overstuffed backpack.

“Hey,” Evvie’s voice was quiet and tired.

“No softball today, Ev?” Louisa was concerned.

“Thursdays,” Evvie replied, and trudged into the house.

Tabitha emerged with a basket of laundry.

“What’s up with Evvie?” asked Louisa.

“Boys.” Tabitha rolled her eyes. “Every day is an absolute drama.” She picked up a crumpled towel and snapped it. “So, what’s the idea?”

“Frogs.”

“Frogs?”

“Yes. I have these,” Louisa said, and she fanned out the creased and dirty glossy photographs of frogs in different settings. Frogs on the edge of the water. Frogs on grass. Frogs on each other. “They looked better a minute ago.”

“What were you hoping to do with them?”

“I was thinking of putting together a coffee table book. And some note cards. And a puzzle.”

“I like them. I really do. Where’d you take them?”

“A water main broke in front of the house last week, and out of nowhere all these frogs showed up.”

“That’s bizarre. Frogs are weird.”

“I find these ones fascinating! I love how they sound, and how they shine in the light when they’re right from the water. They seemed to sing to each other. Someone else out there must love frogs.”

“Ok. Well, let me think about this and get back to you,” Tabitha said. She added, “I can look up some things online.”

“That’d be great. You’re so much better at that stuff.”

“No problem. How’s the boyfriend?”

“Jim’s still living at home.”

“His dad still nuts?”

“Moreso.” Louisa gathered up the photographs but dropped a few. She sighed heavily.

“That’s still happening?” Tabitha gestured at Louisa’s hands.

“Ever since that night in front of the cemetery.”

Louisa stood up and managed to get everything in her bag. “Thanks. I’ll talk to you soon. I have to go feed the dogs.” She gave her sister a hug and walked towards the car. “Bye.”

“Bye,” Tabitha waved, concern hovering. She wondered how long the curse would last, but then remembered that a grimacing 15-year-old was likely moping around the house. No one knew how long that curse would last either.

Continued in part 4.


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