February 2, 2008
"How Geraldine Becomes a Frog Trainer"
At the edge of the pond, Geraldine lies belly down on a board, face to the water,
the smell of mud, green slime, frogs, raccoon poop, hot gingham
and sweat. Her sweat. The sun is a winter wood stove on a summer morning,
setting her hair on fire. Her skin almost steams in the drifting morning mists.
She dangles fingers in the water, warm near the top and cool toward the bottom.
Imperceptibly, she moves her hand toward the frog hanging in the water
Moves it again, watching the tadpoles nibbling at the mud, watching the hellgramites
stalking the tadpoles. The sun rises further. The shadows shift
over the duckweed. A heron lands a few feet away. Geraldine
in slowly. The frog doesn't move. She lets out her breath, inches her hand
A mosquito lands on her leg, just below the hem of her dress. She inches
her left hand
to the spot, but not in time to stop the bite. Slowly she scratches
and inches her right hand closer
to the frog. A cardinal lands on the tip of a half submerged branch, walks
foot over foot to the water, dips its black beak in, raises it's head, points
the beak skyward, and drinks. Geraldine slips her fingers closer
to the frog. She can almost touch it.
The cardinal flies, a flash of red over the pond and through the thin trees.
A moment later, the paler female
takes it places, hops along the branch, bobbing the twigs toward the water.
Circles move out from the branch; duckweed ripples, rising and falling. The cardinal
takes a slow drink. Geraldine makes one
strokes the frog belly. The frog twitches slightly, then relaxes. Doesn't swim away.
She strokes again
and again. The belly; then slowly, the back. Slips her hand around the frog
and pulls it closer, stroking, cooing.
With a rapid jab, the heron grabs
a frog. Not Geraldine's frog, who now, for this moment,
sits placid in her hand,
Mary Stebbins Taitt