By Courtney Druzak
At ten, Kelsey and I are not permitted past frayed yellow ropes and decayed wooden posts. They are the barriers to her grandparent’s pond. But the bullfrogs are singing. Their inflated throats release the sound of drums. We walk in circles around the perimeter of the tiny pond. Peer between brown cattails. Eye water lilies. Search for the swollen throat and sharp, slippery body of bullfrogs. But we’re too far away to find the frogs. To pluck their lively squirming bodies from the water. To jump in shared surprise. To release them with a happy shriek.
“Do you see anyone?”
Kelsey stares at her grandparent’s house. She watches the curtained windows. “I think they’re still out front on the porch.”
I step over the yellow rope. Inch toward the water. Pink water lilies drift close to the pebbled shore. I strain eyes and ears. Search for the green body and deep voice of a bullfrog. All I see and hear are orange dragonflies.
“Hurry up!” Kelsey whisper-yells on the other side of the yellow rope.
“Look for their eyes, or bubbles, you can always—“
Kelsey’s voice is drowned out by a noise. A noise that hits eardrums and ricochets through the ear canal to the brain. A white-boom-red-screech-blackout-death noise. My brain freezes inside my skull. Uptake and reuptake screech to a halt. Proteins miss their targets. My frontal lobe loses power. But somehow adrenaline gets through. I jump forward. I land a foot deep in the pond. The water turns to ash grey silt. Kelsey screams.
“Gotcha!” A male voice, laughing.
Kelsey and I turn to our right. Her cousin Michael, my classmate, strides toward us. In our pursuit of the bullfrogs, we overlooked him. He plucks something from the green grass twenty feet away. A rifle flashes in his other hand.
He turns to us, waving the gun in the air. “Hey!”
I blush pink. I’m still in the pond water. Sketchers shoes and socks are soaked through. The bullfrog’s voices are gone. A ringing silence remains.
I step out of the water. Glance at Kelsey. We approach cautiously. Meet Michael at the gravel driveway.
“What is it?” Kelsey asks.
He grins. “A rabbit.”
“Really?” Kelsey looks at the body in his hands with mild interest. Her family is a hunting family.
I stare at the black gun at his side. A foreign object.
He sets the rabbit’s body down on the hood of her grandparent’s blue truck. White fingers smooth grey fur, tickling. I expect the rabbit’s foot or ear to twitch. Head to pop up. Legs to scramble. Body to fly across gravel and grass to dirt burrow. Lungs to rise.
Michael’s fingers disturb a patch of red amongst grey fur. His smiling eyes meet mine. “Don’t you want to pet it?”