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  • There are bars on my windows and Slam-Lok Trellies on every door. There is a panic button remote on the mantle piece and one by the side of the bed to call the armed response.

    They came one time. Bulky bullet proof vests and squat helmets, high laced boots, and side arms drawn and ready. They hopped the wall and approached the house in response to an alarm one block over and two blocks up. When I came through the gate they asked me the address and I pointed them in the right direction.

    In South Africa home invasion is a real and present concern.

    I leave the cat to guard the house when I leave each morning before 6:00.

    She's useless. I can tell the birds have been in by the trail of bird shit from the door to the cat food dish and back.

    Other creatures are not easy to track.


    I've had issues with toads for years.

    I am not talking cute and golden eyed little guys here. I am talking about the raucous toad.

    Big. No huge. A full grown bufo rangeri can be 115 mm.

    And oh my God loud.

    In the spring when nature stirs the blood of creatures hot and cold, the raucous toad sounds off incessantly. Its call is a bit like a duck with a heavy smoker’s rasp. They can go all night long. When I walk by the pond in the park their chorus is guttural and primal, it fits in fine with the thickly lined shores of the pond. At dusk it makes a bit of a jungle out of the otherwise tame city landscape.

    But outside the bedroom at 1 in the morning is another matter altogether. One toad on a mission for love shatters the fabric of the night.

    The first year was hell. We chose the house for the pool and garden little knowing what came with it.

    The toads came and sat on the plastic skimmer along the side and went at it. When I came stumbling out all bleary and wild with sleepless rage, they slipped away to the bottom of the pool and lay there.

    I went in, they came out and started in all over again.

    And so went the nights and so grew the rings under my eyes.

    Over the years I gained some skill at slipping out with a flashlight and keeping it steady in their eyes, walking softly, softly and snatching them up.

    OK. The snatch part, that was always at arm’s length with an undisguised ooooooooh quality to it no matter how successful the manoeuvre might be.

    I learned that merely giving them a good gooi over the wall into the neighbour’s yard only buys you an hour of peace, long enough to relax and start to slipcback to sleep, no more.

    I learned that if you bag them to do a catch and release at the pond the next morning you have to use a plastic bag and you have to tie it shut.

    It's been a quiet spring so far and any sleep deprivation has not been on account of toads.


    Thursday night, I went into the kitchen to make a cup of double strength, instant coffee to carry me past 9:00. A warty monster hopped across the kitchen floor.

    Fucking toad.

    I made a half-hearted move toward him. He hopped behind the rubbish bin. I moved the bin, he made it to the recycle box. I shifted the box and made a grab.

    He croaked.
    I squeaked.

    Or maybe it was the other way around.

    Either way he vanished under the fridge.

    Shit.

    I was alone in the house, with the rains coming on. Lightening and wind and drips off the roof pattering down, and a toad, a monster toad, had taken possession of the kitchen and was Lord of the Under Fridge.

    I already had supper on the counter.

    I served myself from the living room side.

    I worked at the table.

    Wrote in the dim light.

    My tapping and the wind sighing and rain slatting down on the metal roof.

    All locked down for the night. I don’t do TV, no radio, no music but the storm. Just me and the page and the story emerging.

    I heard the scrabbling at the sliding glass door. My fingers froze above the keyboard. I felt the dark behind me but I didn’t dare turn round.

    It came again sliding, grating, nails against glass and a rattle and thick thump at the end.

    It was only a moment before I knew, but it was a long moment.

    Fucking toad.

    I got up and opened the door first, then looked around.

    He hopped out from under a chair. I got his attention, blocked his intention to regain the kitchen, and persuaded him with my foot that the great outdoors was better by far.

    In the nights when the pavement is warm, toads come hopping to sit and survey the world. They can be huge in your headlights on quiet roads, their shadows long and ominous. When I walk, their flattened corpses litter the neighbourhood roads.

    Maybe my toad was only seeking shelter.

    But I was only too glad to usher him out into the storm. Because if you’re lucky in this life, the things that go bump in the night are only toads no matter the warts, no matter the size, still and all, only a toad.
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