Online since August 2002

Some Day My Prince Will Come

Clete found it on his porch, a small package, half a shoe box-sized, left by the mailman, clamped between the screen and front doors, held in place by the pressure of the screen door's pneumatic tube; a package wrapped in brown paper, decorated with a row of brightly colored stamps – a rainbow arching over a misty waterfall, brightly colored jungle birds, a square-headed man with a stern visage and thick black moustache. The return address was in scrawled handwriting, a three-digit number on Calle Luz, a mile and a half from the American Embassy, Ascension, Paraguay – the address of Frank Diaz, Clete's brother-in-law, who worked for the U.S. government, as a cook for the ambassador.

Parcel Without picking up his package, Clete let the screen door sigh shut again as he turned around and gave the neighborhood a shifty-eyed scan, in search of snoops, looking about as guilty as a man can look, because he knew his package from Paraguay held illegal items, and he could get arrested for having a hand in importing them.

Stupid Frank, he thought. I told him to use an alias on the address, give me an out if anyone in Customs figured out what was inside. I could go to jail. So could Frank – a Paraguayan jail. That's got to be a picnic ...

There were, Clete was sure, big-time penalties for exporting the rare cool contents inside the package from its home country, laws against importing them to the U.S.

He stuck his hands in the pockets and "sauntered" away from the door, out onto his sidewalk, for a better view of who might possibly see the pick-up. A rotund bald-headed plumber in olive overalls banged out of the Malones', across the street and two houses east. Problems with pipes; a problem endemic to the neighborhood: a batch of bad copper from Mexico twenty-five years back, when the tract was built. Clete's gait and demeanor were a stiff parody of nonchalance as he ambled back to his car to retrieve a "forgotten item" – his coffee mug, as it turned out. The plumber – oblivious to Clete, though Clete saw him as an undercover agent intent on retrieving the contraband and apprehending the person in possession of it – rummaged in a tool box in the back of his van, located what he was looking for (a pair of channel locks) and bustled back into the Malones' house, stepping over a flow of water, just stanched, that darkened the driveway beside his van; and Clete reached into his car and retrieved his travel mug, then straightened up again and looked for a telltale parting of the curtains covering the windows of the Malones' front room – a space enough for the telephoto lens the agent of the government disguised as a plumber would use to collect the evidence of the crime.

No space in the curtains. Maybe the plumber was legitimate. The neighborhood pipes had a long history of springing pinholes that grew quickly to gushers. Clete turned back toward the threshold, saw the screen door set slightly ajar with the obstacle of his package. He started back to the house but drew up short as the dull roar of the hard rubber wheels of a skateboard on blacktop caught his ear. He dropped to one knee and feigned concern with the adjustment of one of the sprinkler heads in his lawn, as a teenaged boy in low-slung jeans – showing off four solid inches of his boxer shorts – glided by, slump-shouldered, riding the gravitational tug of the slight downhill slope of Fig Street. As he rolled away then turned right on Tangelo Drive, where he picked up speed on the steeper incline, Clete grunted and rose to his feet with his travel mug in his hand. He pursed his lips, whistled a tuneless melody, then sauntered – oh so casually – back to his porch to trudge up the three cement steps, pull the screen door open, slip his key into its slot, and swing the front door into the house, as he kicked – gently, with the side of his foot, soccer-style – the package from Paraguay into his front room.

He eased the door shut behind him, slid over to the window to peer out. After thirty seconds, satisfied that no one had seen him with his package, he picked it up from the floor and took it to the dining room table, then got a small paring knife from the kitchen, to slice the tape that held the lids seams closed.

A puff of cold air wafted from a dense tangle of peat moss when Clete peeled back the two flaps of the lid. Frank had told him he'd use dry ice – slivers of the frosty cold carbon dioxide encased in bubble wrap, set down on the box's bottom, held snug by the packing of the moistened peat moss. It had done its job; when Clete rummaged through the tangle of organic matter, shaking loose the four frogs – each of them so small they could sit on an American quarter – the little amphibians were comatose, cooled down into a hibernation mode from the temperature inside their traveling home. Each fell from the peat moss as Clete shook the mass, hit on one of the place mats Clete's wife Juanita had arranged around the table, landing one after the other, the last two in quick succession, with tiny rubbery thuds. Then they lay with their limbs sprawled, one on its side, one on its belly, and the last two on their backs, eyes closed in gleaming amphibian slits, face-spanning mouths agape, long legs with the sinewy thighs stretched out straight from their bodies. Tiny, mottled, olive green tree frogs from Paraguay, who would, if things went the way Clete hoped, earn him the five thousand dollar first prize in the Third Annual North San Diego County Frog Jumping Contest.


"They don't look like much," said Ellis, Clete's next door neighbor, rubbing a stubbly jaw. "You sure they can jump like Frank says?"

Clete had the little frogs laid out on the peat moss that he'd stretched across a corner of the dining room table, to soak them in the warmth of the beam of his crook-neck sixty-watt nightstand lamp. They were, finally, after twenty minutes of basking motionless in the light bulb's glow, starting to show signs of life as they began to awaken from their cold torpor – little rib cages heaving with the level of respiration needed for the increased metabolism, long legs twitching with involuntary spasms; one eye slit (on the one Clete had named Ruben, after his father-in-law, due to the wide-mouthed, beetle browed resemblance between the old man's mug and the frog's) peeling open to reveal a tiny black ball-bearing of an eye reflecting the light from the nightstand lamp's bulb.

"Like fleas," Clete said in reply to Ellis's question. "Frank says these guy's'll go fifty yards with three jumps – he's seen it himself." He hadn't wanted to admit his own doubts until he'd seen signs of breathing; he'd thought at that they were dead.

Frog "That might..." Ellis mused, poking, Ruben. "That might not be far enough."

"Bullshit," Clete said, bumping Ellis's hand away from the frog, so he could rub the little fellow's belly with the tip of his index finger. "Last year's winner only did sixty-one feet."

"But that was just a bullfrog," Ellis said; and Clete knew what he was getting at: Jenkins, and his Amazonian frogs.

"Nothing that big is gonna be able to jump ten feet, much less sixty," said Clete.

"I don't know," Ellis said, as Ruben burped out a small croak. "You saw the picture; those guys got legs like Barry Bonds' arms."

"That goddam Jenkins wasted his money importing those big fat slugs," Clete said, scowling at the memory of the image of the picture on the front page of the Loma Alta Tribune – downtown travel agent Earl "Bud" Jenkins Jr., of Jenkins and Sons Travel Agency, grinning behind a banquet table that held a big slick blob sixty-two pound frog from "an undisclosed location" somewhere in the heart of the Amazon jungle, a frog that could – according to the accompanying story – leap from one bank to the other of the river for which it was named. Jenkins was, in Clete's estimation, a major asshole. Clete, Ellis, and Earl "Bud" Jenkins Jr., one of the sons in Jenkins and Sons, had grown up together in Loma Alta, graduated high school together a bit over thirty years earlier. The SUV-driving, cell-phone chattering, pinkie ring-wearing, big red tile roof house-living travel agent was one of those guys who always rubbed his mapped-out success in his "less ambitious" friends' faces.

"I got a feeling it's just publicity stunt," Clete said, as Ruben wriggled until he flipped over onto his belly, blinking at the light. "You know, advertise his agency, pump up some interest for the contest, get the crowds out to buy the hot dogs and cokes."

Ruben the frog turned his head right, then left, took in a deep breath.

"The guy's Chamber of Commerce, Rotary club," Clete continued. "That's what those guys do, but that friggin' frog of his is gonna just sit there like a bag of crap, won't be able to jump two feet."

"And I think," said Ellis, "it's just like the story in the paper said. Jenkins had a ringer shipped in, it can jump like a son-of-a-bitch, and he's gonna take that five thousand dollar prize."

"Let him try," Clete said, reaching out again to Ruben, to rub his head between the two protruding eyes, a movement that, to the frog, was a bit too similar to the sight of a descending raptor. He reacted instinctively, by jumping, proving Clete's brother-in-law Frank's claim of flea-like leaping ability, as he hit, with a wet thump, the ceiling of Clete's and Juanita Johnson's dining room, just to the side of the chandelier.

Ruben's small size and weight, combined with the mucoid slickness that covered his skin, caused him to stick there briefly, time enough for Clete to utter a loud curse; time enough for Juanita, his wife, to bustle into the house with two bags of groceries hanging from her hands, with her Chihuahua Ginger prancing in her wake; time enough for Juanita to ask (she hadn't been privy to Clete's plan) "What in the world...?" at the sight of the three frogs spread out on the peat moss on her table; and time enough for her to follow Clete and Ellis's line of sight to the ceiling, at the moment when the glue-like effect of Ruben's skin secretions gave way, sending the frog dropping to the carpet.

Ruben bounced, not high. He wasn't heavy, and the rug cushioned the impact. It was a bounce that brought him up off the floor only about an inch, bug-eyed and spread-eagled; and he would certainly have survived the episode if Ginger hadn't darted in and snapped him out of the air, chewed twice and swallowed.

Clete screamed, stabbing his fingers into the fringe of hair ringing his bald head. Ellis groaned, "Oh fuck," and placed a meaty palm on his beer belly. Juanita, clumping a bag of groceries on the table beside the peat moss, scowled and said, "Oh God, that's gross!" And Ginger, going suddenly more bug-eyed than was characteristic for her, began to hack horribly, with a glob of poorly chewed Paraguayan tree frog lodged in her throat.

"Oh sweet Jesus," Juanita proclaimed, and when the hacking persisted, she screamed, dropped her other bag of groceries and scooped her baby up. Clete spun around and kicked one of the table legs, sending shivers through his remaining frogs, as Ginger, in Juanita's arms now, grunted like a pig in her effort to dislodge the obstruction, her skin lurching forward and back over her rib cage with each attempted emptying of her lungs.

Juanita, still clutching her baby, began to run in circles, a large woman gone rampant, screaming to the men: "DO SOMETHING! DO SOMETHING! DO SOMETHING!"

Frog Ginger suffered an involuntary voiding of her bowels and bladder as her situation became dire, soiling Juanita's muumuu. As the oxygen debt increased, the distressed dog's grunts lost some of their vigor; her eyes rolled back in her head. Juanita bellowed wordlessly crushing the little dog to her chest as she – still doing her circular panic dance – bumped the table, tipping the nightstand lamp over, sending its shade, with its enclosed bulb, down, trapping one of Clete's surviving frogs. The sizzled of skin was clearly audible. Clete screamed and pulled the lamp up. The frog was stuck, braising fragrantly, to the lightbulb.

Ellis said, "Oh fuck me in the ass," and grabbed Ginger from Juanita's arms (whereupon Juanita swooned, falling to the floor) so he could apply a miniature Heimlich maneuver, pressing the first knuckle of his thumb into the soft spot just beneath the dog's rib cage.

It took him three thrusts, each one squeezing more bodily wastes from Ginger's southern orifices onto his t-shirt and Bermuda shorts. The third try was the charm, sending the partially chewed Paraguayan tree frog popping out like a champagne cork, to fly across the room and hit with a wet splat on Juanita's bare chest just above the slight scoop cut of the front of her muumuu as she sat leaned up against the wall. She shrieked, then went as big-eyed as her Ginger, when the dear departed slid down inside her garment to a stop inside her brassiere.

A short silence ensued. Ellis dropped the Chihuahua (she, from the lower height, bounced about as high as the frog had in its drop from the ceiling) and began to slide backwards, toward the front door. Clete peeled his frog away from the hot light bulb and cursed. Ginger panted, replenishing her oxygen, and Juanita leaped up wailing and went into a frantic, high-stepping dance as she stripped off her muumuu and then her bra, to the harmony of Ginger's labored breathing and the rug-scuffle of retreating men, as a layer of frog flesh that remained stuck to the light bulb began to smoke.


Only one of Clete's frogs survived until contest day. Besides the two that had died shortly after their arrival, a third got snatched from the grass upon landing after an impressive leap at Guajome Park – where Clete had taken him for a trial jump, his own back yard seeming too small for such prodigious leapers – by a small brown hawk, which carried his prize off in his talons to a distant eucalyptus tree where he tore him limb from limb and ate him, without any of the bony log-jam problems that Ginger had experienced.

That left one lonely amphibian, Clete's sole chance at winning the five thousand dollar prize in the Loma Alta Frog Jumping contest. A frog he put into the safety of solitary confinement in a small terrarium with clear plastic walls, where he sprayed him five times a day with a squirt bottle and fed him flies he knocked from the air space over his trash cans in the garage with a plastic fly swatter, stunning the insects, leaving them alive, then putting them in with his little carnivore, so his shot at the big bucks could live until he could jump for the money.


Contest day dawned with what the event organizers called "frog weather," a clammy fog hanging low over the Wal-Mart parking lot on the eastern end of Loma Alta. Clete and Juanita piled into the car with their next-door neighbors, Ellis and Ruth, and rolled over with the headlights on, yellow cones cutting into the mist. When they arrived, Clete carried his terrarium-housed entry over to the officials table, and Ruth and Ellis and Juanita and Ginger – Juanita carried her little darling everywhere with her, inside her purse – went to check out the competition.

"It looks like a big cow pie, with eyes," Juanita said, wrinkling up her nose at the sight of Jenkins' Amazonian frog.

"A sixty-pound cow pie," said Ellis. "That's a nice thought."

"God it's ugly," said Ruth, grimacing.

bullfrog "I wonder how he got them here?" Ellis said, thinking of the postage it would cost to cover the weight of the beast.

Ginger, her head sticking out of Juanita's purse, had gone crazy when she first saw it, writhing around and yapping up a storm and piddling herself. But she settled down when Juanita retreated. The distancing from the beast calmed the little dog, but she still shivered, with just her snout and eyes showing over the lip of the purse.

It hadn't been easy, getting a look at that monstrosity. A big, slick, amorphous lump of slime, mud-colored (dog shit-colored, according to Ellis), topped by a pair of obsidian black eyes the size of tennis balls, with a face-spanning mouth that had a hint of upturn at the edges, as if the beast were grinning, in malice more than amusement. The pre-event publicity made everyone want to see the giant Amazonian frog. A crowd gathered around it, pushing and shoving, until the officials announced over a bullhorn that everybody except the contestants and their handlers would have to leave the entry area, though they were free to seat themselves in the bleachers on either side of the jump zone.

The festivities were drawn out, by design. Beer and food stands had been set up, as well as artisan booths, to separate the spectators from their money while the judges awarded prizes for the "Biggest Frog" (The Amazonian, of course); "The Ugliest Frog" (a three-eyed, one and a half-headed, five-legged bull frog snagged from the creek downwind from the San Ignacio Nuclear power plant); "The Prettiest Frog" (a red and turquoise jungle dweller from Guatemala that was surely every bit as endangered and illegal as Clete's entry); and "The Smallest Frog." Clete's entry came in second on this, beaten out by – illegally, he protested – a local bullfrog so young it still had a very discernable tadpole tail hanging off its butt. Maturity, Clete complained (without success), ought to be a requirement in the category.

Ruth and Juanita bought themselves large coffees to ward off the dampness and chill; Ellis bought a Polish sausage on a bun smothered in onions and mustard for the same reason (and he snuck over and bought himself a beer, even though it was only ten o'clock in the morning), while news crews from two competing San Diego television stations jockeyed for interview position with Jenkins and his big fat Amazonian frog. In both interviews, one after the other, Jenkins wrapped his arms around his entry and lifted it, grunting, a hold that left the frog's legs hanging groundward, webbed feet brushing blacktop, thighs bulging enormously with well-defined musculature, loose flesh hanging over Jenkins' forearms. The cameras rolled; the crowed "oo-ed" and "ah-ed," and the T.V. reporters – a very pretty and petite young Hispanic woman and a very and petite and pretty young blonde – took turns kissing the animal, to see (ha, ha) if it would turn into a prince. It didn't of course, and the ladies, friendly competitors, shared a small bottle of mouthwash after the cameras stopped, spitting frog slime from their lips onto the parking lot in a squirts of minty green, while the frog blinked sleepily, unimpressed, it seemed, by their attentions.

With the fog lifting and a glow of hazy sunlight shining through, the judging and awarding of ribbons to crayon drawings of frogs from the local kindergartens began, followed by the Hooter Waitress leap frog contest: teams of two, side-by-side, bounding and squatting, bounding and squatting across the parking lot in their tight t-shirts and crawl-up-the-ass shorts with a good deal of bounce and jiggle to the raucous cheers of the men and the stony, disapproving looks of their women, with the near-identical suggestion springing up simultaneously in several spots in the crowd that it might be more interesting if the Hooters Girls were leap-frogging naked, as a guy dressed in a frog costume (there was beer involved in convincing him to wear this) staggered around and passed out candy to the children, and – inspired by the spectacle of the leap frog contest, perhaps – goosed a handful of the young moms, a transgression caught on the security camera, earning him a uniformed intervention by Wal-Mart's security guards, that led to a fist fight between the giant green groper and three rather elderly law enforcement fellows, caught on film by the San Diego news stations' cameras.

By two o'clock, starting time for the Loma Alta Frog Jumping Contest, the crowd was primed. They wanted to see some competition. A stage had been set up behind the jump zone, and over a P.A. system with garbled sound quality, the start of the contest was announced, beginning with the smallest frogs and working up to the Amazonian. Clete protested anew when the "almost a tadpole" winner of the Smallest Frog" category didn't even travel twelve inches in its three jumps. "You're handin' out ribbons to these son's-a-bitches, they ought to actually be able to compete," he shouted at the judges, as the tadpole's owner dropped his pants and bent over to show Clete a big pimply white full moon, drawing a Jerry Springer audience cheer from the crowd.

One ugly frog Clete steamed. He'd have danced over there and kicked that full moon right in its left hemisphere if it hadn't been his frog's turn to jump. He carried his terrarium over to the jump pad, lifted its lid, reached in and brought out his lone surviving Paraguayan tree frog. It croaked at him, a sound like a bird's chirp, and blinked its eyes as it sat placid in Clete's palm.

The jump zone was a roped-off pie wedge of parking lot, with a dinner plate sized rubber mat for a starting point. Chalk lines had been drawn in arcs, ten feet apart, radiating out from the start pad, and two Hooter Girls (their restaurant had just opened up over on El Camino Real, and the management was hungry for publicity) with a tape measure stood ready to record the distance of the leaps.

Clete hesitated, placed his other hand over his entrant and huffed warm air into the cupped palm cave, warming cold blood, increasing circulation, enlivening the little leg muscles that would bring him five thousand bucks.

"C'mon, buddy, let's see what that midget can do!"

Clete turned. It was Jenkins, standing behind his shapeless pile of frog flesh, grinning like a shithead. "C'mon, pal, put the pipsqueak down and let him do his stuff"

"You might as well pack that pig of yours up and go home," Clete replied. He raised his cupped tree frog. "We've got this contest sewn up."

At Clete's use of the word "pig," Jenkin's mug creased itself into a brief scowl; but he put a nasty smile right back on, under the mean twinkle in his eyes, and said, "I don't think so, partner; my guy's hungry for the win."

"We'll see," Clete said, as he turned and squatted, and gently placed his hopes for quick money on the jump pad.

The Paraguayan tree frog blinked, looked left, then right. One of the Hooter girls hooted, and her partner in the measurement game cried out, "C'mon baby, let's see what you got!" as the official assigned to the jump zone said, "Time's started. Sixty seconds to jump."

The frog swallowed, blinked. Clete smacked the ground behind him with his flat palm. The frog drew in a deep breath, but remained in place. The crowd, lead by Jenkins, began a collective chuckle. Clete smacked the ground with both palms, with a minor seismic effect that didn't phase his frog at all. He'd have stuck the little sluggard in the ass with a pin if it he could; but once on the jump pad, the trainers weren't allowed any physical contact with the entrant. So Clete crouched, frog-like, beside his tree frog, and frog-hopped out into the jump zone. His frog was unimpressed.

"Thirty seconds," the timekeeper announced.

Clete hopped back to the jump pad and began stomping behind his frog, then, as the timekeeper said, 15 seconds, her he got down with his chin on the ground and bellowed at the little frog's butt: "JUMP YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH!"

It was Ginger who almost saved the day. Ruth and Juanita had elbowed their way through the crowd for a rope-side view of the jump zone. The chihuahua, who'd fallen asleep inside Juanita's purse, woke at the sound of Clete's entreaties to his frog, and when she nosed her snout up out of the rim of the purse and saw once again the gargantuan animal that Jenkins had entered, she went nuts, clawing her way out of the handbag, dropping to the ground and charging out into the jump zone, yapping idiotically in her confrontation with the immense amphibian. Clete's frog, in a direct line between Ginger and her real target, thought he was under attack, so he – with a mere five seconds to spare – launched himself into a magnificent jump, on a arc that would obviously have taken it to the leap to beat if he hadn't, almost quicker than the eye could see, been zapped out of his trajectory, in a little fireworks burst of skin secretions and saliva, by the extraordinary unfurling of the tongue of the Amazonian frog.

The retraction of the tongue was slower than the emergence, an obscene slithering back to its source with its akimbo-limbed meal. The crowd went silent, then one of The Hooters girl's screamed as Jenkins' frog brought the morsel to its mouth; and then that morsel was gone; the only evidence of its existence the wet smacking of the larger frog's lips.

Clete popped up from his jump pad crouch, slapped his hands on top of his head and shouted into the stunned quiet: "SON-OF-A-MOTHERFUCKING-BITCH!" Jenkins started to belly laugh, braying like a mule, to Clete's ears. The Amazonian frog swallowed, burped; and Ginger resumed her manic, high-pitched tirade, that drew, for the second time in thirty seconds, that remarkable tongue.

Chihuahua The first attack had been too unexpected, too quick for the T.V. news crews, but they had the cameras rolling now (a languorous slow motion would be employed once the film got to the news cast), as the pink tendril, as thick as a man's forearm, wrapped its sticky tip around Ginger front legs and began drawing her back to the source, an effort slowed by the scared-shitless (literally; it was all on film) doglet's rear paw clawing at the blacktop, and the tension of the retractable leash running from Juanita's purse handle to the Chihuahua's collar. The leash was loosing, but Juanita, after she'd screamed at the situation, added to the tauntness of the life line by grabbing it, digging in her heels, and getting into a tug-o-war with the hungry frog.

The crowd froze, transfixed, and as Junanita began to win, pulling her baby in, they began to jeer her effort, taking – perversely, it seemed, to an appalled minority – the side of the frog. Ginger's gagging at the choking effect of the tight lease drew an anguished cry from Juanita. The little dog's eyes rolled back in its head. Juanita let out some slack, giving Ginger a gulp of air, a move that ceded several feet back to the frog. The majority of the crowd cheered; its antagonist minority voiced its outrage; and Ruth cuffed Ellis on the back of his head and shouted, "DO SOMETHING, YOU DUFUS!" So he did; he trotted over and stomped on the big frog's tongue, midway between Chihuahua and gaping mouth.

It worked. The frog released the dog and rolled its tongue homeward, briefly snaring Ellis's foot, pulling it out from under him, sending the fat man onto his ass and stealing his shoe, and eating it with a great lip-smacking gusto. The crowd when crazy, gleefully so, at the fall and the ingestion, but the mood changed in a heartbeat when the tongue shot out once again and snared the tiny arm of a ribbon-haired blonde toddler in a frilly pink dress. The girl's mother, right behind her, screamed and dove after her daughter, grabbed the girl's legs and got pulled belly first along the blacktop by the powerful retraction of the tongue. Ellis, still seated, and just a foot from the slithering pink extension, rolled belly first onto it, as a young tough with multiple facial piercings broke away from the crowd with a knife he'd pulled from his pocket, lunging in with an attempt to sever the tongue on the frog side of Ellis. The long muscle was too tough and fibrous for a quick amputation, but the piercing apparently caused the frog pain. He released his potential meal and sucked his now-bleeding appendage back to his mouth, sliding it under Ellis and giving him a spin that sent him rolling away toward the crowd, as a significant minority of the younger males broke ranks and moved in with boots and fists and a tire iron, and a death warrant for Earl (Bud) Jenkins' voracious entry in the Loma Alta Frog Jumping Contest.

frog tongue An animal from an unforgiving Darwinian jungle environment doesn't attain great size without substantial survival skills. The frog noted, in a mindless reflexive way, the movement in its direction, the vibrations of fiercely truculent sounds; so it jumped, soaring with one great extension of its mighty legs over the roped off jump zone, to land, beyond immediate danger, on the hood of a slow-rolling SUV, its front paws and wide-mouthed face, smeared with blood, pressed to the windshield on the driver's side. The driver screamed; she slammed on the brakes, sending herself and her young son into the tight embrace of their shoulder harnesses as their visitor slid from the shiny metal to the black top, where it leaped again, and again, and again, until it attained the marshy field to the south of the parking lot, and the small stream that gurgled toward the larger river that flowed with winter rains toward the ocean, five miles away. It followed the flow and found sanctuary in the backside of a brackish lagoon near a railroad trestle that spanned the water, where it located its mate – lost by Jenkins in a scene very similar to Clete's test jump at the park, minus the hawk – and laid ten thousand eggs that were fertilized upon emergence by the male; and in the spring – about the time Bud Jenkins had fully recovered from the beating he'd received at the contest – small dogs and cats from the nearby housing tract on the north slope of the lagoon began to disappear with an alarming regularity, and people there began to keep their young children indoors, and write letters to the editor of the local paper saying that something should be done.

Published June 2005

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