What do you think it means when your fifth grader’s horned frog dies the morning of the first day of school? Do you think it has significance, like the rabbit’s dying in the old pregnancy tests? Does the frog’s passing signify that Chris is going to have a “killer” year in science? Or perhaps that the year is pregnant with possibility? All these and other options paraded before my mind as the two of us stood sullenly in front of the aquarium.
The poor frog’s spindly and dehydrated legs splayed out behind him. The wet washcloth in the sink and the freshly cleaned out water bowl next to the prostrate frog belied Chris’ assertion that “he was alive yesterday, Mom, when I cleaned out his water bowl.” I’m always after him to clean out the bowl. I usually ended up cleaning it out, and this time I didn’t. Just too busy? Or Frog Killing Mom?
“Well, then, it was just his time,” I said solemnly. “Do you want me to take care of getting rid of him today while you’re in school, sweetie? Or is it something you’d like to do?”
“Would you do it, Mom?”
“How are you going to do it?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ll figure it out,” I lied, knowing the frog would go the way all our dead fish had gone, to ceramic bowl heaven.
“I wish I had the green frog. He moved around more.”
“Yeah, this guy was kind of sluggish.”
“How much was the green frog, Mom?”
“Honey, no more frogs.”
“I always feel guilty when I come into the bathroom and the frog’s cage is dirty. I don’t want to feel that way anymore. We’ll move your turtle into the frog’s tank and he’ll be much happier there with more room to swim around.”
“Come eat your breakfast, okay?”
“I’m not hungry.”
As he sat in front of the cereal, bagel with cream cheese and bacon, all of it transformed in his mind to the dead frog. He dramatically took a bite of the bagel, then grimaced and rushed into the kitchen to spit it out in the sink.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Whenever something or someone dies, I’m not hungry.”
“Does the frog’s dying make you think of someone else’s dying, sweetie?”
“Noooooa.” If looks could kill, I’d be a goner.
“Well, I only asked because of your statement, which made it sound as though you’d lost your appetite before when someone or something died.”
“Do you have to correct every thing I say, Mom?”
“Sorry, sweetheart. Eat your breakfast, please.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Well, you will be pretty hungry at around 10:00am, and you won’t be able to concentrate, Chris.”
“Yes I will.”
After one piece of bacon and a small creamer pitcher of milk drunk directly out of the spout, I acquiesced, knowing that the battle was futile. He had one and a half sandwiches in his lunch box, an apple, some green peppers and carrots and a bag of chips. He wouldn’t starve. Besides, he has the power of the sacrificial frog to carry him through.