Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Killing the Cat.

I was stumbling home from the local pool-hall/tavern that occupies the bulk of my free time here in this wonderfully, blessedly, sultry and hot, coastal North Carolina Summer. I’d stopped drinking at a good point, at which I was euphorically high, happy and inquisitive, and, as always, a mere 300 yard walk from my apartment.

As I promenaded down the cut-across walk that takes me through the seedy Campus Edge apartment community to my slightly-more-reputable Campus Walk across the street, I saw a frog occupying the sidewalk just ahead of me, minding his own business as only a frog can.

But I was not in the mood to mind just mine. I love frogs and have been fascinated with them since I was a little boy; a compelling, childishly curious impulse came over me, and I swept down upon the frog, captured him, and raised him aloft to examine him. I had no intention at all of hurting him, though 400 million years of amphibian evolution was, without a doubt, giving him the very opposite impression. In the wild when a creature with 600 times your mass rudely snatches you skyward, chances are that your final place on the food chain has just been brusquely and irreversibly established.

So I understood the frog squirming a bit, although he had about as little chance of escaping as if I actually had intended to eat him--it's not hard for a 155lb adult human to contain a four-ounce animal. But I just wanted to look at him for a minute, observe his markings, monitor his increasing panic. Amphibians are much more perceptive than reptiles, sharing many features of their tiny brains and nervous systems with humans. I watched his breathing grow more rapid and his eyes shift more suddenly, and wondered, seriously wondered, what level of cognition was at work there? Did his fear in any aspect resemble the kind of fear that I would have if a 90,000lb colossus rudely plucked me off the ground one evening? Or was it simply a primal sense of self preservation?

As he evacuated what seemed to be a quart of fluids onto my arms, I learned that we at least would have one action in common in the situation. Who knew a frog could hold that much liquid? I dropped him into the grass like he was radioactive, where he doubtless scampered away while I just thought, yuuuck.

And then I started laughing, a slow laugh building into a hysterical cackle, that would have made anyone in the vicinity immediately question my sanity, with possible good cause. I got exactly what I deserved: I wished to observe a small creature’s terror, like a Greek god playing whimsically with humanity, and the last-ditch natural defense of a little, Mesozoic amphibian did exactly what it was earmarked to do; it made me let him go.

As I was at my kitchen sink, exerting five minutes of furious scrubbing to cleanse the frog-filth from my arms, I wondered about the concept of inquisitiveness, about how the higher mammals’ natural need to investigate is both our greatest strength and most prolific source of predicament. I was reminded of an aphorism, wise and utile, and like most things wise and utile, perennially neglected.

Sometimes, curiosity does kill the cat.


Blogger Natalie said...

Very interesting. I am also currently entranced with frog because they live in my yard and sometimes climb up 6 feet or so onto my windows. Why? I must know!

Tue Aug 09, 08:40:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Hamel said...

A toad recently peed on my son's hand. He stood there,holding it, looking at me incredulously.

"What did he do that for?"

I burst out laughing.

"It's not funny, dad. Will I die?"

"Only of laughter, Ty."

I know you're not a fan of kids' stories, but this was one for the books, EJ.

Tue Aug 09, 09:10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Nightcrawler said...

That was one of the best "I was drinking... " stories that I have heard in some time! I give it 3 1/2 stars.

Tue Aug 09, 11:37:00 AM EDT  
Blogger The Evil Jeremy. said...

Glad you liked the story, guys (and gal). Hamel, no caveat necessary--that stuff is priceless.

Tue Aug 09, 02:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Natalie said...

I found a little bitty frog in my garage last night. Caught him, named him Jeremy and released him onto the front lawn.

Wed Aug 10, 09:12:00 AM EDT  

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