“Catching Frogs” by M. David Hornbuckle

I snap and flash another one, holding the phone up over my head and looking up at that magic angle that makes my face look thinner and boobs look more round in my little black bikini. My sandals make little squeaky craters in the red clay and gravel mud as I cross the parking lot of the Super 8 to deliver the phone back to Mama, who’s sitting by the pool talking to some shirtless leathery old man. She’s been crashing here at the Super 8 in Fultondale for a couple of weeks now, taking a vacation. I come visit her some afternoons after school. It’s only about ten miles from where we live in Tarrant with Grandma and my baby sister.

“She’s a good kid. She don’t drink, don’t use drugs, and she’s a virgin. Her friends are buck wild though. Buck. Wild. I was buck wild, but I didn’t even know about half the shit they do.”

The baby frog we caught yesterday by the woods back of the parking lot is still sitting there by the pool drain, just chilling. I ease into the water and linger on the ledge next to it, gazing into its eyes. I understand why Mama needs a break. Grandma keeps both of us busy all the time with some chore or another. Mama’s been working a lot lately too. She’s a model. I ain’t never seen her pictures, and I know why she won’t let me, but I still would like to see them. I’ve seen the internet. I can’t be shocked. I bet she looks beautiful. I hope my body looks like hers when I’m 28.

“She does smoke cigarettes though. That’s the one thing she does, and I figure it ain’t that bad. So I let her get her lip pierced and get that tattoo.”

It’s a butterfly on my lower back. Other night I slept over here at the motel with Mama, and I thought about those wings flapping. I’d grab her up and take us both away somewhere far away from Tarrant, far away from Alabama. Maybe Spain or Germany or South America.

“When I was fourteen, I was already pregnant with her. So I just thank God, she’s gotten to be that age and ain’t got in no real trouble.”

She jokes with me that if I kiss boys in the pool, I’ll get pregnant. She’s silly. When we caught that frog she told me to kiss it, and I was all no way. She said if I did I might have little half man half frog babies. I started to say that ain’t how the story goes but then I thought I like it better that way. For all I know a prince would just disappoint us anyway.

M. David Hornbuckle is the founder/editor, whatever you want to call it, of Steel Toe Review. He is the author of two books, The Salvation of Billy Wayne Carter and Zen, Mississippi. (www.mdavidhornbuckle.com)

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