Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Caribbean Holiday for a Longsuffering Frog

I have a lot to tell you but not a lot of coherence left to do it with. See, Mike and Nick are both sick and I've been up with Nick at night to keep an eye on his breathing. I don't do the recliner thing as well as I used to. It was after 2:30 am when Nick finally dozed off after struggling to sleep for five and a half hours and then I snuggled into the recliner only to have the cat weigh down my knees and meow to wake me up just in time for school, which Nick wasn't attending anyway. Last night, while I struggled to stay awake, I cleaned the kitchen, deleted enough photos on my iPhone that I could download the latest iOS update, and tried to use the self-cleaning apparatus on my frog's new tank. It's not really self-cleaning. About that time, Mike went to bed and Nick settled in to watch slightly boring movies on TV. So, I think I got about four hours of sleep, but I can't count that high right now.

Don't you hate when you're exhausted but still can't sleep?

I want to tell you about my frogs. They're African dwarf frogs. On one hand, I'm sad because my frogs finally got a divorce. She was eating him slowly after five years of marriage. That's how marriages work sometimes. It takes five years to realize he needed a new life.

In my defense, they were together when I bought them and the sales lady said they needed to stay together. Then, the Internet, the reliable Internet, said that they'd probably die if I separated them. But I worried about him. He lost a hand and another Internet search said that either he had a fungus and would die in a week or so or she was eating him. He didn't die in a week or so and I watched as he lost first one paw and then another. Then, he lost an elbow and then two toes on one of his back feet.

He always worked so hard to climb under a rock, we named him 'Hider' when they were babies. I can't actually remember how long we've had these guys, more than five years. She was 'Jumper.' Hey, I let Nick name them. He was about ten.

So, I was at Petco getting Teddy a new collar. His old leather collar started to smell like rotting meat.

"The dog stinks," Mike would say. I'd take off his collar and suddenly he wouldn't stink any more. Then, it got pathetic. The leather of his collar started to be kind of sticky, like something was growing in it. I kind of expected mushrooms to start growing. I meant to get him a new one for Christmas, but I've been busy. And sick. So sue me.

While I was at Petco, I decided to get a new plant for the frogs so the double-amputee could get to the surface easier. He was pathetic when he worked to get to the surface and I worried about him. I worried so much about him that the poor sap at Petco heard the whole story about the cannibal wife and the poor guy who just wanted to hide under a rock to get away from her constant nagging and nipping. She even stood on his head sometimes. Who does that in a marriage?

"She won't care if he's in there with her or not," he said casually as he handed me the baggie with the aquatic plant in it.

The new collar I bought was too big. You'd have thought I was buying a collar for a Neolithic wolf. A few days later, I brought it in to exchange it, this time with the dog himself. My indulgent Petco employee was there again and I asked him again if the frogs would survive if I separated them.

"You're really worried about this guy aren't you? They're amphibians. Alone or together, they won't care."

This guy was good, succinct, non-judgemental, encouraging. I picked out a small tank so Hider wouldn't have to swim very hard to get to the surface. I'd let him die in peace in his small apartment. I bought another aquatic plant and collected a pocket full of pebbles and small stones at the dog park. When I got home, I bleached them in case any dogs had peed on them and set up the water and the plant in the new tank. When I netted Hider, he was flaccid. Oh man, it might be worth having this new tank for just a few days of peace for him. I just hoped the move didn't kill him.

It's been a week. 

I've been watching him in his new apartment a lot. He looks at her through the glass but never when she's watching him. He hasn't been hiding at all. He's been working his way to the surface of the water, taking a gulp of air, and floating like a man in bay of the Caribbean on a pool mattress. Sometimes, he rocks back and forth slowly as if there are slow waves. Sometimes he lies on a leaf and sometimes on top of a rock. He never hides. He never tries to crawl under the rocks.

He's been liberated. I can see he's happy even if he is an amphibian. Can frogs grin? We changed his name to Phoenix. He lives a new life, free of fear. Sometimes divorce is a relief.

She, on the other hand, looks a little lonely. She hasn't been jumping around as much as before. There's no one to dominate, no one to cannibalize. We changed her name too. Nick renamed her Helga. Helga is going to have to figure out how to live life without a husband to boss around, to chase under a rock, to bite when she's bored with herself. She can't even yell loudly enough for him to hear her through the two layers of glass. No, neither of them have ever made a sound, but I'm talking in a metaphorical sense.

I hope the rest of Phoenix's life is a metaphorical Caribbean holiday.

Thank you for listening, jb

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