It was only a matter of time before hubris caught up with the sassy red fox who roamed the dimly lit cul-de-sacs of my sleepy little neighborhood. About this time last year, said hubris took the form of what you might call a ‘horseless carriage,’ out on the main road leading into town. Maybe you wouldn’t call it a ‘horseless carriage’, but if you lived here you might. It’s just that kind of quaint.
It may have been the fierce desire to maintain the quaint, sleepy sanctity of the ‘hood that had the cul-de-sac’ers up in arms and running for their torches when the sassy red fox started strutting around in the middle of the day.
“Rabies!” some cried.
“Menace!” hollered others.
“Who keeps stealing my Wall Street Journal?” wondered those who hadn’t actually seen or heard about the fox and whose passions lean more toward global concerns, such as lack of reading material to accompany their morning Joe.
Finding their thirst for fox blood unquenched despite repeated calls to Animal Control, those defending the home front went straight up the chain of command, tracking down everyone and anyone in county government who had a phone number and a pulse. In some cases, the pulse was optional.
Then one day last fall, there was Sassy, splayed out on the pavement, like some floor covering called “Dödräv” over at the Ikea. I like to imagine that if Sassy had to meet with such a cruel fate — the splaying, not the faux Swedish name — it was at least a county car that did the deed, delivering local citizens their tax-funded poetic justice.
I don’t know that this was the case, but I don’t know that it wasn’t the case. What if it was a Volvo? Wouldn’t that, too, be poetic? These are the kinds of things I think about instead of texting-while-driving.
Maybe there was more than one red fox lurking about. I have difficulty telling one fox from another. So for all I know, there was Sassy and a bunch of Sassy look-alikes. I doubt it, however, because since Sassy’s demise, the place has been hopping with an exploding toad population.
Rather, a toad population that is exploding. Exploding toads are another thing altogether. I’m pretty sure they’d have to bring in the federales to deal with that.
Call it a leap of logic, but I suspect a correlation between the decrease in fox sightings (to zero) and an increase in toad sightings (to 2.167 bajillion, give or take). I am given to this sort of dot-connecting and keen, insightful analysis. You might say I’m practiced in the art of deduction.
Whether the toads were there all along and were just keeping a low profile during Sassy’s reign or toads are the snack of choice for foxes and Sassy was single-handedly keeping the toad population in check, I cannot say. I’m just saying it doesn’t take Aristotle to formulate a theory based on the following: “Fox = No Toads” and “No Fox = Toads. Lots and lots of toads.”
Exit fox. Enter toads. I think.
I’m telling you these are toads when I do not in fact know this for certain, for two reasons:
- There is a tragic deficit in my formal schooling when it comes to knowing the difference between frogs and toads. I must have been absent from school when they covered this, maybe for my tonsillectomy or maybe when I was faking a stomach-ache to get in a little binge-watching of Gilligan’s Island re-runs. (Before there was Netflix, there was UHF.) I have lived a more-or-less normal life despite this deficit, and I think I have a general idea, owing to my keen powers of deduction. Nonetheless, in a face-to-face encounter with small, hopping creatures of an amphibian nature, I experience an anxious intellectual discomfort much like that some of you might feel in anticipation of having to distinguish a gerund from a participle .
- I suffer from a tragic combination of astigmatism and vanity. I endured the taunts of a boy named Tony (his real name, because it is seared into my soul and he deserves no anonymity) for all of fourth grade when I was first sentenced to life without clear vision or — at the time — contact lenses. Now I wear my glasses only for important things such as driving, reading, or watching golf.
Before you helpfully offer this, let me say that I know they make contact lenses for astigmatism now. I’ve tried them twice. I much prefer going through life seeing everything through a soft Diane Sawyer-filter to having things floating around in my eyeballs.
Now throw a little gullibility in the mix: a frog could walk right up to me and say, “Hey, I’m a toad,” and, unable to tell warts from wartless, I’d believe him/her.
In passing, others have mentioned the burgeoning knot of toads in the neighborhood. I see no reason to doubt them. I mean, who would say something like “burgeoning knot of toads” if they weren’t knowledgeable and serious?
So, for all intents and purposes, they’re toads.
The toad under the street lamp.
As the days grow shorter and my work days get longer, getting in my 10,000 daily steps means venturing out after dark. The street lamps in the neighborhood are bright but spaced far apart.
You might think it would be wise to use a flashlight, but given the vigilante nature of the neighbors (see Sassy’s story), it’s probably safer to push on through the patches of near-darkness, which is what I was doing a few weeks back at a pretty fast pace when a toad made what I assume was a poorly timed leap across the sidewalk just as my foot was passing.
It landed on top of my shoe and then, with the force of my foot’s momentum, went sailing through the air, landing — on its feet — about 10 feet ahead, just inside the ambient light circle of the street lamp on the corner.
You read that right.
I drop-kicked a toad.
We both froze for what seemed like . . . seconds. I know at least one of us was thinking, “Did that really just happen?” I don’t think I could have done that if I were trying. Not that I would. Nor would I advocate trying it. I imagine the toad was thinking the same.
Then the toad hopped away and I continued walking, trying to stay on a more well-lit path.
Now every few days as I pass by the brightly lit street corner near where the toad landed, there is a toad standing under the street lamp. Is it the same toad? I don’t know. I have more trouble telling one toad from another than I do telling frogs from toads.
Is he keeping an eye out for me? Trying to send me a message? Warning me to stay away by cracking his knuckles and shrugging his shoulders? Do toads have knuckles? Do they have shoulders? Do frogs?
Does he have county officials on speed-dial?
I’m beginning to know how Sassy felt being labeled the neighborhood menace.