Exercise in Description, part II

– After a Long Drought it Rains, So Why is Everything Groaning? –

It didn’t start raining until after I fell asleep, and it rained all night. In the morning I was not shocked to discover this. I had dreamed of loose sand, a house built on a sinkhole, and rushing noises like gusts and cascades and drains. The house shifted and the foundation crumbled, floors bowed, sills cracked, windows shattered; I had to flee beneath collapsing beams and falling plaster. Precipitation is insidious; in Medieval England it was considered a source of madness.

It was still dark when I opened the door to go out. The frogs had come alive and I realized I had not heard them for months. It was a raucous wall of sound which seemed to be the audible aspect of the fresh influx of dew, for they struck me simultaneously. And it smelled good.

After a minute of listening I got my bearings and began to appreciate this variegated chorus. To be sure, it was an arrangement perfectly conduct by the universal ardor of lovemaking and the anxiety of survival. The desire to be noticed and also not noticed. A strange convergence. Each voice found its rhythmic place in the general texture of sound. And only occasionally, from the grassy ditch, from a nearby tree, from under the porch eaves, would a frog chirrup individually as if taking a solo. Then somewhere in the swamp behind the line of trees I would hear the deep, satisfying Brraap! of an alligator furnishing the bass.

From end to end the sky was overcast and blotted out the sunrise. Thus there wasn’t the normal predawn darkness which is soft, with a pale line of pink in the east, but an indeterminate grayness that could work as well for evening as for afternoon. Clouds darkened the sky and dampness darkened the streets, the soil and the bark of trees. But the leaves, newly gorged and bejewelled with dew, were of such a happy green as to be phosphorescent and glowed through the haze rising off of everything. There must have been lightning earlier.

On the broad brick walk a neophyte frog, the nub of its tail still there, took stiff, uncomfortable steps and froze for long moments. His fear at being exposed was evident. When he leaped it was brief and clumsy, almost sending his back legs tumbling over his snout. In fact, it reminded me almost exactly of those plastic toy frogs you bought for a quarter at the supermarket from the row of dispensers near the exit, between the speckled spheres of bubblegum and the mood rings. They rolled out of the machines in a clear bubble. Always in unnatural colors, jaundiced yellows and faded blues. On the tail was a little tab you compressed with your finger then let slip past the tip and snap up, sending it into an awkward somersault which concluded in a nosedive.

I was on my way to work or I would have caught it. I miss my childhood.

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~ by Peter on March 12, 2008.

One Response to “Exercise in Description, part II”

  1. Immaculate. Like a perfectly executed technical exercise as the title suggests, so accurate and precise and clear, the transformation of the frog to its childhood toy image beautifully done and it articulates the theme, so the image has a very subtle emotional resonance as well. And that’s the most impressive thing about this piece of writing, i think, that it is technically perfect yet maintains a clear and subtle emotional tone. or something, i.e., you are a brilliant writer,

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