Written by: Rosanne Griffeth
"No, you shut up," I said.
I always had to carry the light and the bag. I would have liked to say I didn't know why, but my brother was so much taller and better with the gig. So I dragged the bag along and pointed the light at the pond's edges while he stood over me like the Shaka Zulu of frog giggers.
We visited Aunt Johnnie's farm in Tennessee every August, arriving just in time to help with the harvest which was no coincidence.
Mom and Dad dropped us off at the Greyhound Bus station in Atlanta. We waved like idiots from the back of the bus as it pulled away, while our parents grinned in anticipation of the only three weeks of sanity they had each year. Aunt Johnnie let us sleep in the first morning of our vacation, but there was ritual for the second.
Mountain mornings were cool, even in the dog days, compared to the sticky heat of home. Aunt Johnnie knocked on the door at four a.m., waking us. Tad slept on the top bunk, his legs overhanging the end and I pulled on them to get him out of bed.
"Get up, Tad. Time to get up."
I pulled one of his big feet over so it dangled off the side of the bed.
"Come on. Time to go murder frogs."
He sat up on the side of the bunk and yawned before jumping down. We dressed in the cold room before slinking out of the farmhouse, him with the gig and me with the sack and flashlight.
We stumbled in the darkness down the gravel road to the frog pond. The morning sounds in Tennessee were loud and strange to our city ears. Cicadas trilled notes on top of the rhythm of the crickets, and the barn owls hooted now and again. Foxes yipped in play somewhere in the distance and as we grew closer to the pond, the deep bass-toned frogsong called and answered.
"Sounds like there's some big ones," I said.
"Shut up. You'll scare them away."
We stood on the side of the pond, our approach causing big plops in the water from the shy frogs. We had to stand there, still and quiet until they forgot us.
I clicked the light on and pointed the beam at the verges, passing the light carefully until I caught the shine of tiny eyes. We judged the size of the frogs by how far apart those beady little points of light were.
Tad held the long pole overhead and aimed it, holding it aloft for a moment before striking. The three-point barb drove true to the spot just behind those glinting sparks and Tad blew air out and grunted as the pole sank into the mud. He pulled the pole back, lofting it overhead, then angling it back. I reached to pull the muddy, wriggling prize from the gig.
"That's a good one!" I held the bullfrog by the backbone and waved it around. Tad hoisted the gig pole on his shoulder and punched me in the arm.
I put the mottled, muddy green prize in the bag where it struggled.
"You shut up," I said, rubbing the sore spot on my shoulder, smearing mud on my shirt.
We repeated this after waiting five or ten minutes between each gig. Each time we got one--frogs would sail back into the pond. As the rooster crowed, the sky began to give way to pink and purple streaks so we hefted our take of ten big bullfrogs and hiked back to the cabin.
We sat on the bench by the kitchen door and skinned the legs, putting them in a big bowl of water Aunt Johnnie left there. She poked her head out and took the bowl when we were done, taking them into the big kitchen to fry up in bacon fat for breakfast. We always had eggs, frog legs, big rashers of bacon and salt rising bread on that second day.
Tad and I cleaned off and got dressed, racing each other down the loft stairs to hang over Aunt Johnnie's shoulder as put the breaded appendages in the fry pan.
They continued to dance in the oil like they had in life.
"That's what your legs is gonna do when you die, Tad."
"No, you shut up."
**Please go visit Rosanne's site - she has some wonderful upcoming publishing news and I know you'll want to read more of her work! http://smokeymountainbreakdown.blogspot.com**
with an interview.
Keyhole Magazine's third issue is out and features four of her stories.