Kissing cane toads doesn't work quite the same way
as kissing frogs. Mid-summer night's dream gone
by Barry Rosenberg
It came out of the shadows. It was big, it was brown and it was ugly.
"G'wan," it said, "gimme a kiss."
Walt Arthur paused. The forty-watt bulb gave just enough light to make out
the waiting creature. It was a cane toad, big as a football, its skin a
minefield of knobs and knots and knurls. `I'm hallucinating,' Walt
thought. `Too much tennis and too little food.' He scurried inside but
didn't tell his wife. Gwen would make him eat.
The second night that it happened, sure of his sanity, Walt looked around
to see if any of his mates were playing tricks. No, the garden was clear.
He edged around the toad and cautiously let himself in. The third time,
however, since the creature was not actually aggressive, Walt stopped and
took a good look. He'd always wanted to believe in magic. But a cane toad?
A pest-to-detest? Asking for a kiss? Walt, though a pacifist, had a strong
urge to boot it.
"I'm not kissing you," he declared, "and that's that."
"You would if I were a frog."
Walt considered for a moment. "I might," he admitted. "It's more likely."
"You would if I turned into a beautiful princess."
"That would help. I'm not too keen on an ugly princess."
"Yeah, well it'd have to be a princess, wouldn't it?"
Turning that over in his mind, Walt slowly said, "You don't turn into a
princess. You turn, maybe, into a prince?"
It's hard to tell when a cane toad blushes, especially in the dark, by the
light of a forty watt bulb. But Walt fancied that this one did. "A
prince?" the creature burbled. "You should be so lucky. I'm a common cane
toad. I turn into a common bloke."
Walt inserted his key in the lock. He paused and shook his head. "A frog
who turns into a princess, I might kiss. A cane toad who turns into a
princess, I might, perhaps, touch lips with. But a cane toad who turns
into a bloke? No way! No blooming way!" Walt rocked his kicking foot. "And
don't even think of asking me again."
Entering the living room, Walt dumped his tennis bag. The noise brought
Gwen. "You win?" she asked.
"No!" he snapped. "Bloody cane toad!"
"You played a team called Cane Toad?"
"No. It's the one that wants to be kissed. It. Him."
Gwen hurried to the door. She didn't actually expect to see a genuine
talking cane toad. What she did expect was someone in a costume. Last
week, a young woman in a koala outfit had asked for money to `Save the
Cuddlies'. This time, she might well be dressed as a toad and wanting to
`Get rid of the Uglies'. So Gwen stood in the doorway and peered both
ways. No one was there.
"Toady, toady," she called. The cane toad remained in the shadows. "Toady,
toady." Gwen placed her hands on her slim hips. "Wart," she declared, -
(That meant she was peeved) - "if I didn't know that you were crazy, I'd
know that you were crazy."
Walt stripped off his soggy tennis gear. He was mostly brown except for
patches of clay that still stuck to his sturdy body. "Lucky for him, I'm a
vegetarian. Otherwise," Walt chuckled. "it'd be barbequed cane toad for
him. Toad in the hole."
Still puzzled, Gwen asked, "Does it really want to kiss you?"
"Not it, him." Walt scratched his spiky brown hair. "Well, I guess it's a
him if he turns into a bloke. And not kiss me personally. He'd kiss
anyone, I guess. Well, any bloke."
`It's a game,' Gwen thought and her brown eyes lit up with mischief. "I
know! Let's ask Save-A-Door Dali. He wouldn't mind kissing a bloke. He'll
do anything if you call it... Art."
Walt snapped his fingers. He'd known Save-A-Door for about a year and his
friend definitely lived on the fringes. He'd leap at the chance to get
down and dirty with a chatty cane toad.
"OK," Walt said. "I'll ask him tomorrow."
Walt tried to recall Save-A-Door's real name. Uberman? Oberman? Something
German, he thought. Oberon? He did remember when Nambour Council had
decided to clearfell a street of old houses. Save-A-Door had turned it
into a Happening. He'd choreographed the demolition until only a street of
doors remained. He'd managed to save one a day, for which he'd been called
Save-A-Door Daily. That had transmuted into Save-A-Door Dali.
Save-A-Door's most recent Happening had involved being slowly hit by a car
on a number of zebra crossings. It had led to a remarkable drop in road
accidents. Unfortunately after the last hit, he'd come out of hospital to
find the accident rate was back to normal. In comparison, kissing cane
toads would be a walk in the park.
Eager to start, Walt left early the next day for NambArt. His friend was
already in and another Happening was obviously in the making. Save-A-Door
was wearing a see-through plastic bag over his head and body. A ribbon was
tied around the top.
Copyright © by Barry Rosenberg
All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.
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