Imitation Frog

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


“Don’t even worry about it man, I feel like people get shit from their parents all the time,” Jeff said on the exhale. They were sharing a filthy toadstool shaped bong, bright purple with translucent green protuberances that were both decorative and functional. Ryan took a bigger hit than usual in an attempt to hasten the inevitable memory loss.

“Yeah but this is something that’s so meaningless it actually means something, you know, like she really cares about it and stuff,” he said behind a cloud of smoke. “Beats me why she thought she could trust me with something like that, I mean, when have I ever been reliable, maybe so reliable in my not being reliable that she assumed it’d like circle back on itself and I’d be reliable again,” he stopped, out of breath and defeated.

Jeff nodded, a contented grin easing him into the sofa cushions. Ryan sat on a kitchen stool, which he’d purposely picked for its cruel lack of comfort as a kind of punishment for his filial crime.  

“You know, man, I one time got this plot of land, you know? I’m serious, like this one bit of land, like I was, you know, not a serf but the guy owning the serfdom. The landowner. Crazy, right? This girl, she basically forced me to commit to taking care of it for her, and I mean, gave me the deed and everything to hold on to. Well, it was this piece of paper that she said proved I owned it, or could own it if she didn’t come back. Which she actually never did, you know, but I think she meant to. Anyway, I tried to take care of it, but there were all these, like, plants on it, right? Like, vegetables and stuff.”

“Are you talking about a community garden?”

“Oh, shit, I mean, yeah maybe? It was this little plot of land, square, and there were all these other plots around it. And they were all growing vegetables, right? So I guess maybe it was this kind of community of land. Anyway, I killed all the plants by accident. But in the end, you know, it didn’t matter, right? She never came back.”

 

*

 

Ryan’s mother was set to arrive the next morning at nine AM. She’d made several vociferous declarations that she would need to lie down as soon as she got there, so Ryan began to hurriedly assemble the guest bedroom.

Achieving an apartment with a guest bedroom had been a macabre windfall—the previous owner had passed fashionably away, draped over the tub, puddles of vomit splashed and dotted over the porcelain like a bodily Pollack. Ryan was in the midst of haggling with her when this demise granted him a rush on the lease by a panicked real estate agent.

The furnishing of the apartment, too, was part of the hurried deal, as the previous owner was youthful enough not to have had the foresight to prepare a will—thus Ryan had an actual queen sized bed to offer his mother’s travel worn body.

He was in the process of making up the bed when a surge of unsolicited memory of his recent mistake threw him into a guilty scramble through the apartment—chairs shifted, sofa cushions pushed aside, vases emptied on a desperate whim. Still that fucking useless piece of imitation garbage couldn’t be found.

Who the fuck gives their son a two hundred year old fake emerald frog for their twenty fourth birthday, as a “piece of home” to take with him on the move, “something to remember grandmother by”?

At the time he’d thought it was a hoot, and joked to a roomful of friends that he’d have to superglue it to his head to make sure he never lost it. He then proceeded to actually super glue the thing to said body part in a rush of drunken euphoria at being the center of attention. The frog slipped off in a slick of sweat once he’d curled up for the night in an armchair—his buddy Hank then glued it to the bottom of the toilet seat, so that Ryan had to fish it out of the bowl the next morning after seasoning it with fresh stomach acid and pizza chunks. The frog became one of those classic Ryan jokes—visiting friends occasionally took it home, photographing it in compromising positions before returning it, so that the frog finally started to look its age.

The whereabouts of the antique amphibian had deserted that part of Ryan’s brain that was the dutiful son, the part that still called his grandmother every week and semi regularly visited his sister an hour north in Westchester. He’d had a couple dreams in which he’d become certain that he’d flushed the frog down the toilet, necessitating the use of absurdly long, bent coat hangers. These dreams always ended with the relief of an unclog and the bobbing of the frog to the surface of the water, at which point Ryan would realize that the frog, being made of a kind of fake emerald that had some heft, would sink, not float, causing him to wake up disappointed and for some reason with an erection.

The final overturning of the apartment relinquished no hidden trinkets, so Ryan lay down on the floor. He couldn’t decide whether to moan gutturally or kick a hole through the floor or maybe jump really hard on one of the pointless vases. He settled for a snorting inhale that vibrated his sinuses uncomfortably, and closed his eyes.

His mother was the sort of woman who didn’t really care what her children did. They had her blessing no matter what, she just hoped they wouldn’t do any drugs. And that they’d really try their best to pursue their dreams. Because they were such good kids, they had such spry minds and pure hearts and she really believed in them. Such good minds, which meant they should really be getting fantastic jobs. And no matter what, she’d support them and love them and they could always come home, and were they ready to move out yet? Because of course they could always come back but she just wanted to make sure that they were ready to be independent, because that’s really very important in a young person.

Ryan wasn’t soon about to forget the loving way he’d been presented with the frog, how much his mother had worked up to it. The frog would come down during the holidays from a special hand painted wooden box and stare goopily at the family from atop the television for the rest of the season. He became so distracted by it during yearly viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life, gazing not at Jimmy Stewart but at the glinting viridescent gems that served as pernicious pupils that he wasn’t totally sure if he’d ever actually seen It’s A Wonderful Life. On one of these occasions, he met the side eye of his mother, who smiled knowingly, as if to say, I get it. I, too, love the frog, looks that unnerved Ryan for their now obvious implication.

“So is this my inheritance, haha? What’s the resale value on this thing?” Ryan, trying to turn the event towards merriment, waved the frog in a fashion that was apparently too jovially blasé for his mother, who seemed to expect to be served an atmosphere of appropriate frog-related reverence upon its bequeathal.

“It’s not worth anything, hon. It’s fake emerald. But, of course, it’s been in the family for ages. It’s incredible that we have something like this, something we can pass on, something that’ll keep being used and cherished. I hope Chrissy isn’t too mad, let’s just not tell her for now that you’ve got it.” at this, Ryan’s mother twinkled and pinched his arm. “I just don’t know if she feels the same way about it as you and I do.”

And Chris had been irritated, he’d called her as soon as he was settled in his new place, with the frog, laughing about how stupid it was, how now he’d have to force his own spawn to be subjected to its eerie surveillance on movie nights, though the thought of another family movie night made him yearn for sterility.

“Wait, she gave you the frog? Like, the one that’s supposed to be centuries old? That Great Grandma rubbed every day as good luck?”

“Do you want this thing, Chris? You can absolutely have it. I told you it freaks me out. I have, like, these memories of it staring at me, like not being able to get away from it. Mom thinks I love it, though, she says you don’t understand it like I do.”

“Are you kidding? Keep it, if she wants to give her most cherished family heirloom to you, like, by all means! I mean, me, not understand that thing? She never stopped talking about it our entire childhood, how could I not understand?”

So the frog had remained with Ryan, and it would probably be the first thing Ryan’s mother asked to see when she entered the apartment. He’d practiced facial expressions in the mirror while saying, “I’m getting it cleaned!” or, “oh, come on, the frog only comes out for special occasions,” trying to convince his own face of his sincerity. Even though the frog itself hadn’t lived a truthful day in its antique life. Fake emerald piece of crap.


Submitted: January 04, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Claire Watkins. All rights reserved.

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