This is the completely unrelated short story I promised. I hope you all enjoy it until I get back.
The Things We Do
The way that Kronos: Wielder of Evil’s Bane, became integrated into the family was thus: the toad was rescued from a window well. A dipping in a faucet of running water and a quiet aquarium full of moss were enough to revive him, and his young captors soon set to naming him.
“You can’t call him Matilda. Matilda’s a girls’ name.”
“How do you know he’s not a girl?” asked the youngest captor.
“Toads aren’t girls,” said her brother. “We’ll call him Kronos: Wielder of Evil’s Bane.”
Kronos reveled life in captivity. He doubled in length and tripled in weight inside of a month, and soon lost the ability to hop. Arguably, he did not miss it.
It was in the following weeks that the children’s mother would return home from the post office to see Patrick, the neighbor boy, prodding the toad with a popsicle stick.
“No, no, Patrick. We don’t poke the toad. We pet him nice.”
Patrick brandished his tongue and replaced the tacky, red popsicle stick back onto it. Kronos squalled mournfully.
Patrick was the type of boy who neglected goldfish, dirty clothes, and potted plants. The toad intrigued him. His experiment had proved to him that the amphibian was indeed an object under the protection of the Whelnut household, and their attachment to him only made Patrick more curious as to what happens to toads in microwaves.
The Whelnuts fed Kronos handsomely, and it was by this that Patrick gained entrance to the toad’s shrine. Bringing handfuls of the garden’s potato bugs as an offering, Patrick was able to study the creature’s methods.
Kronos struck, swallowed with both eyes closed, and smacked his lips indulgently.
“Does that taste good? Have another. Lazy piglet.”
How could an animated mound of mud be worthy of such adoration?
“It’s nice of you to bring Kronos so much food,” said the captors’ mother, wandering in between loads of laundry. “I think he must like you.”
The feeling wasn’t mutual.
Patrick repositioned an uncooperative potato bug close to the toad’s face, knowing that Kronos would abandon pursuit if the insect escaped him by more than an inch or two. “Maybe he could stay at my house sometime.”
“Sometime” came within the next month when the Whelnuts were scheduled for a family reunion on the lake. Kronose: Wielder of Evil’s Bane, and all that was required to keep Kronose: Wielder of Evil’s Bane content was delivered next door to Patrick’s kitchen.
Patrick’s father spoke to him on the phone between conference calls. “If you want him to stay in your room, you’re going to have to clean it first.”
There were a lot of “ifs” in Patrick’s house. “If you don’t fold your socks, you can’t have friends over.” “If you want to see us before we leave, get up earlier.” “If we’re not home before you get here, there’s dinner in the freezer.” “If you can’t stay out of trouble, we’re sending you to daycare.”
Patrick didn’t know why he had felt the need to inform his parents that they were going to have a house guest. They would not have noticed. However, as Patrick was not one to volunteer for responsibility, his announcement alone should have shocked them. But it didn’t.
Patrick hefted the aquarium up the stairs. Kronos blubbered and hiccupped indignantly at the jostling.
“If you don’t be quiet, I won’t feed you,” threatened Patrick.
The toad gurgled.
Patrick fed him anyway.
Patrick’s parents were well integrated into the morning traffic by the time Patrick awoke on Saturday morning. He knew he would have the house to himself; he always did. In their absence, he would carry out his experiment.
Kronos fidgeted on his paper towel square as Patrick set him in the open microwave chamber. The amphibian surveyed his surroundings, the popcorn drippings, Hot Pocket residue, and bread crumbs, and seemed unbothered by them. Patrick, using the dining room chair as a booster, closed the microwave door.
“This will teach you, worthless thing,” said Patrick. His fingers scanned the buttons, and he wondered how many minutes and seconds it would take to turn a toad inside out. “You never do anything, and everyone just loves you.”
The telephone began to ring. Patrick ignored it. It was probably just his parents telling him that there were Lunchables in the refrigerator, and he had already found them. He decided that four minutes ought to do the job.
He punched “Cook Time.”
The answering machine crackled to life.
“Hello, Patrick. This is Mrs. Whelnut. How are you and the toad getting along? Listen, I forgot to tell you: there’s a squirt bottle that we use to spray down Kronos’ cage every now and then to keep it from getting too dry. I think it’s in the front bathroom. We left the back door unlocked if you want to go over there and grab it. We really appreciate you taking care of him. I’ll call in a day or two to see how things are going.”
Mrs. Whelnut hung up the phone. Patrick was drawing fingerprint swirls on the microwave door. Appreciate. It had been a long time since Patrick had heard that word. The angular “zeroes” blinked on the analog timer, waiting for him to finalize his decision. Inside the dark box, he could faintly see Kronos, who had lethargically loped to the edge of his paper towel.
Patrick set the toad on the counter. Kronos: Wielder of Evil’s Bane seemed unaware that his life had been in peril, or that he had, with his usual apathy, disarmed his opponent.
Appreciate. Patrick doubted his parents would even notice if he turned a toad into pink mist.
“I actually do things,” muttered Patrick.
He then walked across the yard to retrieve the squirt bottle.