Mack Williams: Nowhere frog

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 22, 2016

Just the other evening, I was sitting in a Danville Chinese restaurant waiting for take-out to be cooked. During the previous hour, great nimbus cloud clumps had been solidifying their position in the heavens, looking as if they were finally going to make good on the promise of lightning and deluge.

The restaurant owners’ young children sat in a booth having their dinner (an added bonus for proprietors’ offspring). I have seen this before, and the thought came to me that a good part of their youth is being spent within the walls of the family business.

The clouds’ fulfilled promise began some distance away, 10 seconds (2 miles) passing between lightning and thunderclap (five seconds between lightning flash and thunder translates into 1 mile).

The owners’ small son went over to the window to see the rain pour down in sheets on the little shopping center parking lot; and when lightning and sound were simultaneous, the storm was directly overhead.

At that moment, the little boy cried out and rushed back to the booth for comforting from his older sisters.

One of those “Chinese good luck cats” sits on the cashier’s counter. It’s battery powered, so the raised paw actually waves a wave of good luck to the store’s patrons. When the repetitive, overhead lighting and thunder arrived, I almost imagined I saw the little “lucky paw” speed up (but perhaps it just seemed so).

Unlike that bobbling head in the Twilight Zone diner (with Shatner), the Chinese cat spoke only of good fortune, not perilous chance.

My food was ready, but the outside air was almost wholly liquid, so I delayed my leaving.

The rain finally lessened, and I made a break for the car. (W.C. Fields once said upon reaching home after late-night partying that he made a lunge for his front door when it “came back around,” but my case was different.)

Making my way to the car, I was surprised to already find water almost 2 inches deep in the parking lot, making me imagine the early stages of the filling the Roman Coliseum for mock naval battles (this first taught me by my Latin teacher, Mrs. Thayer Puckett, in 1965 at East Rowan).

Just before reaching my car, I heard something I’ve never heard in that very terrestrial, asphalt lot: the sound of a frog (more a baritone “croaker” than countertenor “peeper”).

It was as though the frog had appeared “out of nowhere” into that previously dry, dusty, oil- and- antifreeze-spotted place, non-conducive to frog life.

Many frogs are born and live in vernal pools; and the parking lot seemed to have become a paved one. (Just now, “cement pond” pops into my head, and those of a certain age know why.)

I started to wonder if that frog were an “enterprising frog,” taking advantage of this “just- born pond,” or merely a lucky, “fortuitous frog,” having stumbled onto good fortune.

Was it an “uber frog” or a “run-of-the-mill hopper?”

Did its “call” contain super-intelligent comment upon newfound circumstances, or was it just something aurally nondescript, to be repeated over and over for a number of years until the frog finally “croaks?”

Did the frog hop in there purposefully, to make its own unique “waves,” or did flowing water throughout the city simply “grab” it for eventual deposition in that “parking-lot-pond?”

In examining such questions of this simple frog’s “life-choosings” versus “life-happenings,” I saw a parallel with another being, not so simple.

Both of these creatures are not always “100 percent enterprising” or “100 percent fortuitous,” but instead a mixture of both throughout their lives, sometimes taking the initiative, sometimes being swept along.

Summing up the little frog’s being sometimes “at the helm,” and sometimes “awash” in life, I feel compelled to quote “the gentlemen from Liverpool” and say (or ask): “Isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

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