It was half past midnight when I opened the back door and released Charlie into the night. The skittish Goldendoodle planted his feet at the top of the steps and threw his head back. He whoofed the night air, inhaling deeply and then thrusting the offensive scents away from him with an indignant snort. Something was afoot. And whatever had incited his scramble for the backyard moments earlier retreated. It can very well wait ‘til morning, thought he. And I’m sure if he could, he would have crossed those fluffy legs of his and beat a retreat.
Then I heard what he had so precipitously smelled. Wah wah wah, it sounded. I reached for a flashlight. Wah wah wahh, it went. What the bloody f—, I thought. Rustle, shuffle, rustle, then again: wah wah wah. It was coming closer, booming louder, and now I was alone at the top of the steps; my guard dog had fled to the shadow of the doorframe.
The rhythmic bleating of cricket frogs I was used to. The high-pitched chirping of tree frogs? Yes, I could identify that. But this was surely extra-terrestrial, E.T. meets Contact, fire alarm by way of fog horn. My brain clicked through different possibilities and settled on the villain illustrated in the nearby yellow signs. Alligator.
Alligators eat dogs. Click click. Crocodiles can climb trees. Click click click. Prepare the house for siege; the drop gators are coming.
The clicks turned to curse words, which summoned back-up in the form of my pajama-clad mother. “It’s not an alligator,” she insisted. She whisper-laughed (Dad was sleeping just one wall away) and I littered my language with F-bombs and pointed into the dark unknown. “It’s a frog!” Another wah wah wah joined the first and as my eyes widened, she amended her statement: “It’s two frogs! Just frogs! Frogs.”
Amphibians, pfft, I thought. I snatched up my iPhone and soon became an expert in frog calls. Not a ribbit. Not a croak. Not this, not that, definitely not that. As I crossed each hopper off the list, a triumphant terror blossomed on my chest, the intersection of being right and being right about something it would have been nice to be wrong about. And then, a sinking happiness. Audio confirmed it: My drop gators were just bloated bullfrogs.
Did you know those things can be 8 inches long? Freaky.