The garden is a sun trap. The grass sizzles from early morning right through to the evening. She watches her boy run blindly over thistles and rocks. His hardened feet oblivious to the scratches. His nails and knuckles are full of dirt. His hair catches the dying light, drinking it in until it glows. A child carved straight from the Earth, with eyes the colour of heather, skin the texture of autumn leaves, and the temper of the sea. The garden is a jungle. The previous owner has left it to twist itself into wilderness. Branches claw their way into every space, invading. The parched lawn reaches the boy’s nappy in places, if he crawls, he disappears entirely. His tanned face camouflaged perfectly with the yellowing grass, like a soldier waiting for ambush. Boxes still litter the inside of the house. Some of the windows don’t open properly. The inside is suffocating. The garden is loud. Cricket and bird song drill the air. The boy’s yells act as an occasional exclamation point. Every breath tastes of wet earth. The pond had been massive, obnoxiously so, she’d started to drain it – puncturing thick rubber lining with a pitchfork, sending the fetid water back into the ground – before the movers had finished unloading the van. Midges surf on the breeze, still sensing the water. She wonders how long they’ll stay. A frog appears out of the undergrowth. It’s ungainly, moving each leg separately. It looks weak and skinny. Too frail to jump. Too many limbs to walk. Its croak long evaporated. It’s searching for something. It sticks out its tongue, hunting. It can also taste the soil in the air, the final whisper of the pond. She stands transfixed as more emerge. A silent march of gaunt amphibians. They stop constantly to rest. Their breathing visibly laboured. It is a slow parade. Her son half slides, half clambers down into the belly of the pond. His weight sends thick sludge erupting up through puncture holes. The primordial sound causes a stir in the frogs. They are born with the gurgle of mud in their ears. The frogs fall clumsily. They clamber. They collide. There are so many. Too many. They want their pond. They’ve returned to mate. To produce their tapioca spawn. To produce a plague. She wants to save her boy from the advance. She doesn’t want to retreat but she feels herself take a step back. Something crunches under her foot. A frog. Its eyes now cloudy and its once slick skin like sandpaper. Rising bile washes away the taste of soil. Hot yellow burns her throat. She looks around. Not one frog moves now. Perfectly preserved by the heat, they are figurines.
Martha Lane lives in the North East of England in a house with a drained pond. Each year dozens of frogs return, sometimes queueing at the door, to breed and every year they are disappointed. Unfortunately for them, the giant pond wasn't safe for her two children. Martha has used her recent corona quarantine to write lots of flash fiction, and looks forward to reading and writing more of the genre. Tweets at @poor_and_clean.