A literary sketch depicting a slice of life in 500 words or less.
Published weekly at 2PM each Tuesday.
To view the works of Stephen P. Byers visit www.booksbybyers.us
A sandy beach our playground, the shallows of the lake our source. Nancy and the boys caught frogs, racing them across the sand, encouraging leaps and jumps with twigs, often accusing one another of violating the rule between pushing as opposed to nudging. Experience found the best capture to be a frog that reacted to tickling. In most cases tickling a frog with a small twig rarely impelled a jump, but finding those that did react could result in a win, depending on the skill of the tickler. Some frogs detested tickling, their reaction being enormous leaps in whatever direction they happen to face at the moment of tickle. Skillful owners tried to reserve the tickling technique for rare instants when the frog headed in the right direction, meaning towards the lake.
The good jumpers sometimes got so far off track, confusion arose as to ownership of a particular frog. Various attempts, like fastening numbers around their heads, never worked. Colored elastic bands created effective ID’s, but they, too, had a problem. If too tight on the leg, the frog’s leaping ability seemed impaired, while if too loose, the frog wiggled out of it. Nancy once put a red elastic band around a frog’s neck, bringing on what appeared to be asphyxiation, necessitating the immediate removal of the offending choker. No one ever produced evidence about the survival of the victim, his life span perhaps drastically reduced.
When two tickled frogs happened to leap at the same instant when aligned with respect to each other, spectacular midair collisions occurred, owner identification obscured in the entangled wreckage. Having once learned this technique, it became a tricky defensive maneuver. Having nudged one’s frog to aim it at an opponent’s entry, a good tickle could induce various unexpected results, the most successful being a technical knockout, or at least a dazed frog eliminated from the contest. The attack involved a high-risk gamble since one could never be sure whose frog would suffer the more severe damage.
The race started at the top of the beach, the winner the first to reach the water’s edge. The everlasting argument concerned whether big old fat frogs that could leap farther were better or worse than smaller ones that made two or three leaps to one by the large fellows. Public opinion favored the smaller guys, resulting in all contestants in the last race being fat and old, with no interest whatever in the proceedings, many disqualified for simply sitting still, making no effort whatever to comply with our vociferous encouragement, tickling and nudging to no avail, even pushing producing little effect.
Swimming, diving, tennis, baseball, hide-and-seek, and an annual regatta filled our summer hours. We played out the joys of school-free vacations as days grew shorter and nights colder. All too soon, it ended. We waved good-bye on Labor Day and back to school we went
Gordy's letter came in last week's mail enclosing Nancy's obituary. What memories! What joys. What sorrows! Rest in peace. Nancy.
The idea is to die young as late as possible. ~ Ashley Montagu