I’ll be sitting on the porch in the evening, rocking back and forth in Grandpa’s old chair, staring as the fuchsia sun lowers itself behind the clump of kudzu infested old oak trees at the western edge of our land. Suddenly, I hear this splat. It’s a frog, frozen in a semi-crouch on the porch floor, waiting to get its breath back. After a moment, it will stretch and hop away like nothing untoward happened.
They hang from the porch ceiling, chirping at each other in their constant quest to get-it-on, and occasionally they fall like fat muddy raindrops.
I am not unfamiliar with the sensation of a tiny body smacking into my head or plunking onto the pages of the book open in my lap. When I was little, I’d scream and brush them away before I caught whatever nasty diseases they carried on their rubbery skin. But I never got sick or died from one of the falling frogs, so eventually was over it. Now I might laugh a little or run a finger down its back. They’re used to us, from all the nights hanging onto our porch ceiling while we sip coffee or wine and talk about when Grandma’s coming home from the hospital and wondering how Pete’s doing at college. I sometimes lean back in the rocker and tell them what I think of the color of Dale Mclay’s eyes and whisper fantasies about him driving up the road in his silver-striped pick-up, leaning out the window and calling, “Hey, Kara, dance on out here, girl.” We’ll speed out to the national forest and under all those toothpick pines we’ll spread a blanket in the truck bed and spend a few hours getting to know each other better.
The frogs know all my secrets.
It was August and the porch fans whirled twenty-four-seven to dry our sweat from our skin. The pages of my novel stuck together and I left thin smears of salt at the corners when I tried to pry them apart. And the frogs were falling, of course.
I heard an odd, dull thump, between pages 213 and 214, and peered out into the yard. The lawn was dim already from the long tree-shadows, and the knee-high grass hides most things. I stood, set my book on the rail, and walked down the steps onto the concrete path that wound toward the driveway. There was nothing I could see and the weird dusk light made the whole world out in gray and silver, running together like an Impressionist painting. With a little sigh that there was no sudden adventure to be had, I turned back to the house.
A man lay sprawled like a dead thing, just back against the far edge of the porch behind the hanging swing. I shrieked and slapped my hands over my mouth.
He was naked. Buck-ass naked and slowly sitting up as though all the breath had been knocked out of him.
I didn’t move. The naked man blinked and peered around him. He was really only a boy, about my age, and skinny as all hell. He opened his mouth, jutting his chin out and working his throat like he wanted to make a sound. Mud-brown hair fell down his face, plastered to him by the humidity. Again, he opened his mouth, and this time said in a long croaking voice, “Hello?”
I started forward, then stopped again. Nobody was at home but me. It was just me in my tiny little shorts and tank top, the naked boy, and about a hundred acres of field and trees before the mostly deserted gravel road heading in toward town. And the naked boy was between me and the rifle we kept in the front door closet.
“Hello,” I said, instead of running. I smoothed my sweaty palms down my front. The cherry-red tank top Grandma’d bought me last summer stuck to my stomach and back and breasts.
The naked boy blinked at me. He scooted to the edge of the porch and lowered his legs onto the steps. Then he sat up the rest of the way, leaning forward to crouch with his elbows on his knees. “Kara,” he said.
Oh. My. God.
“I remember. Kara.” He blinked and rubbed his eyes like he was shoving cobwebs away from his vision.
“Who are you?” My voice was too loud. It hung in the wet air.
He appeared to think about it for a moment. When he grinned, my breath caught. “Rain.”
I didn’t understand for a minute as I stood there staring at him staring back at me. And then I remembered, like a long, drawn out twist of memory-taffy: sitting cross-legged on the porch last week with The Tale of Despereaux held up to my nose in the dying light. I was thrown violently out of the little mouse’s story when a dark, sticky frog landed square on my knee. I laughed and cursed at it, petted its back, and said, “You’re all really like my very own weird rain. Kara’s rain.”
But this wasn’t likely. Or even really possible. I sat next to Rain on the porch step. “What are you doing here?”
“Sitting. I might sing.”
“You sing every night?”
He nodded. It was hard to tell, but his eyes looked yellowish and muddy, and very round. He turned and pointed to one of the corners of the ceiling. “There.”
I shook my head.
“I watch the last streaks of sun turn your hair bright colors.”
“Where did you learn to talk?”
His grin spread. “Where did I learn to turn into a man?”
“Where did your hair learn to be golden?”
“At the beauty shop.”
“Where did your lips learn to smile?”
I reached out and touched his cheek with my finger. He was solid, warm, and sticky. But everything was warm and sticky. And I smiled. “I guess they relearn that every day.”
I stared some more: at his smooth cheeks and the skin in front of his ears, at the curve of his lips and his thin eyelids with their short, curling lashes. He didn’t look anything like a frog. “Are you going to turn back when the sun rises or something?”
Alarm widened his eyes. “Do you think I might?”
“I… have no idea.” I touched his hand.
He turned his over, and lifted mine near to his face. I just watched, and after a moment he lowered our hands to rest on his thigh. With the fingers woven together, it looked like some deformed ten-legged creature had died there. “I don’t want to turn back.”
I scooted closer. “Then we should get you some shorts.”
Image by tiswango