Hopping Mad

Kathryn England

Kathryn England

Kathryn England is an Australian author who writes books, short stories, and articles for adults and children. "HOPPING MAD" is in Short Circuit #14, Short Édition's quarterly review.

"This is the last straw," Alma said. She had just opened the mail at the kitchen table.
Sitting opposite, Walter peered over the top of his newspaper. "What straw is that?"
"It's another letter from the town council."
"What's he complained about this time?"
Alma clicked her tongue. "A frog in our fish pond."
"I didn't know we had a frog."
"Well, apparently we do, and it wakes him at night. We've been asked to remove it."
Alma and Walter had lived in their cottage since their marriage fifty years earlier. There were ten other houses in the street. It was a harmonious community. People chatted over fences, borrowed cups of sugar, waved to each other when passing, and looked after pets when owners were away. Alma and Walter had gotten on particularly well with Gloria and Dennis next door. But the elderly couple had moved to a retirement village six months ago and George Plunkett had moved in.
Instead of approaching Alma and Walter with grievances, George wrote letters. So far, he had written to the council about dandelions in their lawn spreading to his yard, their grandchildren's little rubber bouncy balls (which he refused to return) landing in his yard, the perfume of their flower garden being too strong, and their Christmas lights being too bright.  
Walter's paper flopped inward and he flicked his wrists to straighten it out. "We should go and bang on his door and have it out with him."
"Well, I did that in a roundabout way once, didn't I?"
"You took him scones."
"Which was the perfect opportunity for him to air any gripes."
Walter raised an eyebrow. "And did he?"
"You know he didn't. We got a letter from the council the next week asking us to replace the smoke detector in the kitchen that he said keeps going off."
As if on cue, the smoke detector above them beeped to let them know it needed new batteries.
Alma reread the letter. "It's not even our frog. It's not like we bought it and put it in the goldfish pond. It must've hopped here from that swamp outside town. It's a wonder it didn't jump into George's fishpond. It's twice as big as ours." 
Walter's paper shook as he chuckled. "It's a squatter. We should give it an eviction notice."
Alma got up and took some rubber gloves from a drawer.
"Where are you going with those?" Walter asked.
"Frog hunting."
Alma donned the gloves and went out the back to their fish pond. She caught the frog and put it in a bucket with enough water to keep it comfortable, then drove it to the swamp and released it. 
That night, George Plunkett was woken by croaking. He sat up like an Egyptian mummy come to life, threw on his dressing gown, got pen and paper, and sat down to write a complaint to the council. But then he realized the croaking was more frequent and louder than usual. He opened his back door and was met with a frog chorus.
The bullfrog, it seemed, had returned with friends—and moved into more luxurious accommodations!
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