Adventures of a Toad Protectorate

(about toads and the men who love them)

The adventures of a Toad Protectorate

Corporal Biggins and I waltzed into the Cleveland Downtown Animal Hospital and discovered, with both relief and surprise, that there were no toads under ailment there. And we loudly praised the Lord, that He had spared our preferred slimy creatures.

Toads, you must understand, had gotten me out of plenty a tough scrape in my marine days (it was hard to tell who was more amphibious sometimes, me or the real amphibians!). Back then we sometimes used toads to catch flies, for nourishment, or we filled them up with nitro-glycerine to heave into a hostile bunker (the enemy rarely expected an exploding toad). And though that latter option meant sacrificing the life of a toad, I always appreciated their selfless heroism. My mates sometimes worried that I'd turn one of our favourites into a grenade, and they’d remind me, “Don’t explode Little Chester”—he was our favourite brown toady, "--send up ol Dynamite Deirdre instead...” Deirdre was a new toad we hadn’t yet developed an attachment for, and so one day she bit the dust in bunker in Manila. But it was ok; Deirdre was a heroine, and we still had Little Chester.

During my years in the marines I would confide all my intimate secrets to a certain other toad, wise old Tiresias, who was blind in both eyes. We found wise old Tiresias in one of the toad-bogs in and around Delphic Greece, and I grew to trust his uncanny prowess. “Tiresias, my dear hoppity monk,” I said to him once, “My heart aches and I know not why.” And so Tiresias would hear my tales; “Did you know I stole private Jennings’ tube socks,” I confessed, “I feel woe beyond the depths of all sorrow.” Often Tiresias would just spit and pee in my hands, but one time I heard him distinctly say to me, “Live it, Live it, Live it.” Aha, a message of inspiration—he was telling me to just live my life. "Live it, Live it," he croaked again. I thanked Tiresias for his profoundly simple insight; I wanted to shake his hand, but all he had were his stringy frog legs.

“Aw, fuck,” said Major Bader, who did not approve of toads in his company, “that warty bastard is just saying ‘ribbit, ribbit,’” and he flicked a cigarette ash at Tiresias. Typical cranky Bader, I thought, and I scowled at him; I told the Major he would be getting a pipe bomb in the mail if he kept up with his infidel smartass-edness. He scowled back, "Well, aren't you a peachy little devil," and called for the MPs to slap me with irons. Three lonely days I spent in the stockade for that piece of insubordination, but heck, I was just sticking up for my wise creature-friend Tiresias.

But much, much later, at the Cleveland animal hospital, is where the current story unfolds. Corporal Biggins and I walked in to the hospital lobby on a weekday morning, asked a few questions of random passersby, and discovered not even the slightest trace of a toadlike patient under care there. We rather rejoiced at this initial good news, exultating like two people really happy, as though we were a couple of gas-station attendants who had just won the lottery. “Hurray, hoppity hoppity shazay!” I shouted in the face of a hobbled dromedary--I licked the animal’s one hump and spat out the fur; I was just so relieved the toads were safe (The dromedary whinnied in resentment; I calmed down, and afterwards apologized for my exuberance). It seemed for the moment the toads really were out of harm's way. Just how mistaken we were, I'd discover later that same day.

While Corporal Biggins was in the men’s room, I walked up to the lobby desk and in a loud, Scottish accent I asked the receptionist, “What ever became of E. Perseus Slade, the famous veterinarian and much-reviled toad-incapacitator-- who once operated out of yon poppycockish horizons?” The nurse receptionist, a young mountain-lion of a woman, peered at me curious, as though I made no sense. I flashed my marine credentials (though I had been out of the marines for 3 years, and was now delivering powdered sugar in a pickup truck for the Wilson R. DeGroot Powdered Sugar Distributoring company, I still carried my marine badges) and good thing they impressed her. She saluted me turgidly, and whispered, “Slade has disappeared like so many morning mists,” and gave me a quizzical half-smile. I nodded, baffled. The nurse was strangely metaphorical for an animal hospital flunky, but I liked her style and diction. A real looker too; I asked her to a coffee shop, hoping I could discuss these missing toads. And luckily--for me and the amphibians both--she agreed to meet me, that afternoon, at Cafe Cleevage. When Biggins finally came out of the washroom, I told him he could go home.

(unfinished of course)

No comments: