Thursday, April 15, 2010

The World in Miniature: The Mating Calls of Frogs

by Bryan Russell

The Mating Calls of Frogs

A whisk of green motion in the grass. Elin looks down. She’s seventeen and saddened by the number, by the perilous ambiguity of it. It’s a shiftless number, not quite one thing and not quite the next.

Blades of grass move. A blinking frog, green skin amidst green grass. Two eyes, and an oddly hollow bubble beside them, as if a third eye had once been attempted. The frog makes a little jump, skewing to the left.

It has seven arms. On the left side it has the normal two limbs, but on the right side it has five, a cluster of reaching hands and sticky fingers.

They are all like that, Elin thinks, kiss or no kiss. So many hands, so many sticky fingers. Carlos taking the pictures of her, laughing over her naked shoulder. Elin never knew. Not before the rest did.

They all took a grab at her after that. John, Kev, Marcus, Dick. Dick. They should all be named Dick, the world simply being honest with itself.

The frog jumps its tilted little jump. It blinks at her.

Elin brings her foot down on the frog and it explodes. Blood squirts out and stains the grass. Seven arms wave out from beneath her sandal.

Her sandal is stained and damp. She lifts her foot, studies the wet ruin in the grass.

She takes off the sandals. The grass is cool and sharp on her feet and she walks, walks a thousand miles on a road of grass, walks to Mexico until her feet reach the hot white sand and the salty Pacific rushes up to wash them clean.


JustineDell said...

Whoa...and here I thought it was going to be cute story about a cute little frog.

NICE job!


Matthew Rush said...

Wow, great short Bryan (Ink) very evocative. Based on the hinted at circumstances I feel like I should be sad for Elin, or at least the frog, but I'm not ... I feel like she's found some empowerment.

I'm not advocating cruelty to animals of course, I just think finding the courage to leave a bad situation behind is good. And of course who could blame her for a little bit of rage?

OfficeGirl said...

I actually felt the frog explode under my foot. That was great!

Ink said...

I'm not sure I have any cute stories about cute little frogs in me. :) Even my stories to my kids are full of monsters and ghosts... or at least a flying cat or two.

Ink said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the ickyness. :)

Ink said...


I'm glad that's what you got from it, as that's what I wanted. I wanted that sort of conflicted sense for the piece.

Mira said...

This piece haunted me, and I'm quite miffed about that, Ink. I don't like things that haunt me!

But I will, reluctantly, acknowledge that haunting = extremely good writing.

What is especially skilled about this piece is that the tone is sad and strangly calm and quiet throughout. That makes the act of violence so startling, of course.

Unlike Matthew, I feel sad for Elin and very sorry for the frog.

Killing the frog was evil, no matter what happened to Elin or no matter what it represents symbolically. Let's just be clear about that.

There's never any excuse for killing a frog.

My two cents.

Ink said...

No excuse for killing a frog! But I hope the action is understandable and relates the process of her thinking.

Mira said...

Yes, of course!

And symbolically, it's perfect.

This is an excellent piece, Ink, and the fact that my mind chewed and chewed on it, trying to make it come out differently, or maybe start differently, is a compliment to the piece.

Very nice.

Susan Quinn said...

Lovely, Ink. I get Elin's empowerment right from the beginning. Something about being saddened by seventeen speaks of volumes of wisdom, like she's been aged, even though I don't (yet) know by what.

The line about the "wet ruin" chills me. But I like that she leaves her sandals behind, along with the mess, the ick.

Related, but seriously bizarre aside: Mutant Frogs

Also: After I wrote my short, I realized it was more of a vignette. The Mating Calls of Frogs is impressionistic, but definitely has classic story elements. The more I think about flash fiction (and its cousins of various lengths), the more I wonder where the grey areas are between them and vignettes.

Ink said...

That's an interesting question, Susan. I think there's probably a lot of overlap between a vignette and a piece of flash fiction. I think the biggest difference might come in the nature of the narrative arc.

I think vignettes have that feeling of being a piece of something. They'll hint at a larger story, a larger narrative arc. The vignette is a piece of it, carved out of the larger and suggestive of it.

The flash fiction, I think, is often more self-contained. This is all of it. The arc is there, a beginning hook, a character, a complication, rising action, and conclusion. Which, I suppose, is why it's tricky, getting that into such a short form (and probably why queries are tricky, too... do you think it would help people to think of a query as a piece of flash fiction? I think it might. That's my approach, really. It's telling a small story).