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Alone with a Toad

February 9, 2012

by Corinne Manning

(After Jim Heynen)

The schoolhouse was empty when the youngest boy moved the toad from the jar. It hopped twice on the counter leaving slimy prints before the youngest boy wrapped his fingers around it. The sun was easing off for the day and the light, as it dimmed, muffled the images in the room. He rubbed his cheek against the toad’s slimy skin. The smell, the boy decided, was something like licorice whips gone wilting in the lake. His stomach lurched upward.

He had something here to prove: that bump like warts meant nothing, that moments like these came as proof of living. He stuck out his tongue and flicked it against the toad’s back. His tongue tingled and he thought: this is what my tongue feels like. He held his hands closed and placed the toad’s head just past his lips. The older boys said to expect to slice the amphibians open. That when he sliced it open he would see a stomach, a liver, a heart. If he were quick enough he might see the lungs still flexing. What’s ownership if not this? If this toad was now his, he thought, as it squirmed and burped into his mouth the very least was to give it one last moment in the damp. The next day he cut open the toad and the lungs did not move.

I didn’t grow any warts either, he said.

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Corinne Manning’s work has appeared or is forthcoming from Drunken Boat, Arts & Letters, and Hoarse. She was the 2010-2011 Writer in Residence for HUB-BUB, an arts and culture nonprofit that awards year long live work fellowships. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

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  1. February 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    This is a great evocation of childhood, I like the first para especially, and the licorice whips line is a stand out.

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