A couple of weeks ago, I got my car inspected and the oil changed. I decided to take a walk while waiting, and I set out shortly after turning in my keys.
I was not particularly familiar with the road down which I was walking, having only been on it far enough to reach a certain turn that takes me home. After that point, it was unchartered territory, and felt a bit like the exploration adventures my friends, siblings and I would take through a neighbor’s fields years ago.
Back then, we looked for mushrooms, insects – and after the first sad discovery – a pile of bleached-out bones from a long-dead sheep. Every time we walked past the sad remains, we said a prayer that it hadn’t suffered, before running off to find something new to tell our parents we had unearthed.
This most recent walk was no less interesting. I found a baseball, discarded or lost, on a mostly uninhabited stretch of road. I disturbed a bird, whose nest must have been in a tree nearby, and who flew overhead of me diving and squawking noisily until I was a safe distance away.
And I found insects. A whole cloud of buzzing, biting somethings that caused me to run for a tenth of a mile or so until the snacking on me stopped.
But most interesting was the tiny frog. As I walked back to the garage, I saw a slight movement in the grass. Closer inspection determined it to be a frog no bigger than my pinky fingernail. It was the smallest frog I had ever seen.
My immediate reaction was that I had to take it home for my son to see before releasing it back where I found it. So I emptied the coffee cup I had been carrying and popped the little guy into it, replacing the lid to keep him contained.
Shortly thereafter, I was headed home. I couldn’t wait to see the look on my son’s face after showing him this itty-bitty amphibian. I picked up the cup to peek one last time and was surprised to see it was empty.
I pulled over and opened the cup, thinking the frog must have hopped up and adhered himself to the lid. No such luck; however, I did see a small movement in my back seat that, upon further review, turned out to be the frog hopping around. He had climbed out the drink hole!
I’m certain I looked stranger crawling around on the side of the road after the little frog than I even did running up the same road swatting at nearly invisible insects a half an hour earlier, but I was determined to recapture my miniscule friend.
He hopped this way and that way, and then headed for the security of the underside of my seat. Carefully, I reached up underneath, only to discover that he had hidden himself under the bracket that keeps the seat bolted to the floor.
I drove the rest of the way home, certain the kids would have better luck retrieving him. They didn’t. In fact, we never saw him again. There must have been an opening large enough for him to squeeze through near where the bolts go through the floorboard, because no evidence exists that he remained trapped in the car, either.
I imagine him hopping away near where I found him in the first place. Maybe he looked back and laughed while watching my frantic search for him. Maybe he’s even eating some of those pesky bugs. I could live with that.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.