Frogs

Macfisto’s Pick
John A. Ward


I press the lid onto my Styrofoam coffee cup. The fit is critical. Get it right or dribble coffee all the way down the hall.

“That’s a poison frog,” he is talking about my tie.

“Yes, a poison dart frog,” I say.

“I’ve seen them.”

“Where?”

“In Guatemala.” He looks like the dust jacket photos I’ve seen of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Marquez is from Colombia, but I have a notion that everyone in South and Central America looks like him. I know it isn’t true. Daniel Ortega looked nothing like him.

“You lived in Guatemala?”

“Yes, I helped a biologist collect frogs and snakes.”

“You were a graduate student, or a technician?”

“No, guerilla commander.”

“I’ve heard that the frogs are disappearing, becoming extinct.”

“Yes, the nights are getting quiet. They used to be filled with their peeping, but it’s not because we collected them.”

“No, I think it’s parasites or pollutants.”

“It’s not just the frogs. The rain forests are disappearing. In another fifty years, the only frogs will be the ones on your tie.”

“I’m 62. I’ll be dead before then.”

“Men can live to be 120 years. You’ll be only 112 then.”

“Not me, men in my family don’t live that long.”

“It’s true. You have to choose your ancestors carefully.”

“Of course, none of them died of natural causes, so who knows. What about you?”

“Oh, I’m already dead.”

“Really! How did you die?”

“Poison arrow.”

“You look good for a dead man. How do you manage that?”

“Push ups and wheat germ, and I have unfinished business.”

“Oh?”

“I’m looking for the man who took the frogs.”

“It’s not me. This tie was a gift.”

“I believe you. You have an honest face.” He pushed a hollowed reed across the table to me. “Take this.”

“What is it?”

“A whistle. It makes the sound of the poison dart frog. If you find the man who took them, blow it and I’ll come.”

I pick it up and put it in my pocket. He turns, walks out into the parking lot and disappears among the cars.

Coffee drips all over me on my way back to the office. When I check the lip of the cup, it’s defective, crushed and bent. I don’t know if I did it, or if it was like that when I got it.

pencil

John A. Ward was born on Staten Island, attended Wagner College in the early ’60s, sold his first poem to Leatherneck magazine for $10, and became a biomedical scientist. He is now in San Antonio running, writing and living with his dance partner. E-mail: jaward04[at]sbcglobal.net.

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