I hope you’re having a wonderful morning, friends! I have a short story to share today. This is a little different from my usual posts, but I like to share my occasional writings when I can. 😀 I hope you enjoy!
a short story
“Wanna go toad hunting?”
Your cheerful voice startles me. I lift my head and squint at you, your eyes bright in the dim room, my vision blurry from staring at a computer screen for hours. It takes me a moment to process what you said. “Do I what?”
“Toad hunting!” Your six-year-old face is filled with pleading hopefulness as you tug on my elbow. “Please?”
I hesitate, glancing back at the blinking cursor marking my place in my unfinished essay. Through my open window, I see a sky streaked with pink and gold and I feel the warmth of the summer sunshine on my skin. I stand up and close my laptop.
You grin in delight and take off for the door, tugging red boots onto your feet as I slip into my purple ones. You pick up a sand bucket and swing it by the plastic handle. “Let’s go!”
We step outside into the golden summer evening, and the hum of cicadas fills my ears. The sun is hanging low in the sky, washing everything in deliciously warm rays. I feel your small hand slip into mine. “C’mon,” you urge. You lead me behind the tall bushes that line the front of our house, then look up into my face and lower your voice to a solemn whisper. “When you’re toad hunting, you’ve gotta be very patient.” I nod, trying to supress my grin. “Got it.”
“Okay,” you whisper. “Follow me.” We creep slowly through the narrow tunnel between the wall and the shrubbery, and I’m amazed at how much bigger this space seemed when I was younger. I scan the ground, watching for movement, and a sense of wonderful familiarity washes over me. Suddenly I am seven years old again, tiptoeing with my older sister through this hidden tunnel, our shaky flashlights scanning the ground, our eyes wide in the fading light.
“There’s one!” you shout, pulling me back to reality. You dive for the startled toad and scoop it into your hands, beaming as it wriggles in your fingers. “It’s a big one!”
We capture toad after toad until the sky is full of stars and the plastic bucket is full of wriggling, croaking prisoners. Then we sit in the light of the kitchen window and take them out one by one. You give each toad a name – the more ridiculous the better – and then release it into the darkness, where it hops quickly away, relieved to be free. When the bucket is empty, we’re off again. This time we venture into the backyard, peeking beneath logs and searching in every shadowy corner.
As we search around the back steps, another memory comes rushing back. “There used to be a little hole in the ground here,” I tell you, dropping to my knees and searching between the blades of grass with my fingers, but I know that the burrow is long gone. “A toad lived inside, and I would come visit him every day.” I can see my eight-year-old self in my mind’s eye, my purple dress stained with dirt as I sat cross-legged on the ground and stroked the wriggling toad with a gentle finger.
“Did you name him?” you ask, sitting down beside me.
“I don’t know,” I tell you. “I can’t remember.”
“Well,” you say after a moment, “You can name this one.” You set an enormous toad in my lap and I jump a little, then laugh. “Okay… I’ll call him Jumper.” I lift the toad into the grass and he hops gratefully away.
“Bye, Jumper,” you call. You wave, and your arm casts a shadow against the ground. “Look,” you say, wiggling your fingers. “We can make shadows.”
I create a wide-mouthed shadow monster to devour your hand, and you collapse in giggles. Our shadow creatures wage war for a long while before finally agreeing on a truce. “And then they hug, ‘cause they’re friends now,” you narrate, squeezing me tightly. I hug you back, and in that moment, there isn’t anywhere in the world I’d rather be.
Why don’t we do this more often?
I close the lid of my laptop with a sigh and rub my aching eyes, feeling weary and exhausted. Outside, I can see warm sunlight washing over the treetops and hear the distant buzz of nighttime creatures warming up for the evening.
I glance across the room. You are taller than me now, but your curly hair and bright eyes are the same as they were when you were a smiling six-year-old.
I get to my feet and wave my hand in front of your face, drawing your eyes away from your phone screen.
“Wanna go toad hunting?”
You squint at me with an unfocused gaze. “Do I what?”
“Toad hunting!” I tug on your sleeve. “Please?”
You hesitate for a long moment, then you let your phone drop to the table. A grin spreads across your face. “Alright.” We pull our dusty rain boots from the closet and I grab an empty plastic container to carry our prisoners. We step together into the warmth of the evening, grasping onto the final moments of childhood while we still can, holding on to that feeling of remember when before all of this is nothing but a memory.
What have you been writing lately? Have you ever gone toad hunting?