It Was Frogs
Everyone stopped talking at once. Just a second ago there had been five or six different highly animated, drink induced conversations competing with each other to be heard, and if possible, to be understood. Now: Silence.
The party’s host, Bill Stafford, knew that going through with this party had been a bad idea. He should have gone with his instincts and cancelled it. Just within the last ten days his wife of ten years had left him, he had lost his job, and he had discovered the mysteries of cocaine. Not necessarily in that order. His wife had made all the arrangements for the party weeks ago; she had sent out the invitations and had ordered the food, drink, etc. Entertaining six couples that they had known for years seemed like something he could handle, Bill had told himself. It seemed easier than to call each couple and explain a cancellation. As it turned out, he still had to doggedly explain to each couple as they arrived that Ellen had left unexpectedly to visit her mother. He should have just called them.
A little bit ago, after having taken two earlier trips to the bedroom to get friendly with his new best buddy, “Cokeman,” Bill had looked at the noisy group in his large living room and had experienced a flashback to his youth. He remembered walking along a path at his grandparents’ farm in the country and listening to the din the frogs, or crickets, or whatever they were, would make in a swampy area as sundown neared. He sometimes stopped on that path that lead home, would clap once loudly, and yell, “Hey!” The effect was immediate; total silence. Gradually, things would start up again, and when they were going full-tilt once more, he would clap and yell again. Silence.
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Now, after giving him quizzical looks, his guests did start talking again, slowly at first, but then reaching almost the same level as before Bill’s outburst. He watched them from the hallway and grinning a druggy grin, clapped sharply and shouted, “Hey!”, once again. This time, most of his guests looked a little nervous. If it was a joke, they didn’t get it. Tom Mason, Bill’s next door neighbor, walked away from the now whispering group and asked, “Everything okay, Bill?”
Bill laughed a bit, seemed to approach hysteria, then backed away from it. “No, Tom, everything’s definitely not okay,” he said dreamily. “I think it would be best if everybody left. Yup, I do think that would be best.”
“Are you going to be okay here by yourself?” asked Tom’s wife.
“Sure, Linda, I’ll be fine. I’m not really alone here anyway; I’ve got my friend, Cokeman, in the bedroom.”
This time the silence lasted through the putting on of coats and the exiting of guests through the front door.
“Frogs,” said Bill a bit later as if reflecting on some profound truth. “I bet they were frogs. Not crickets, but some kind of frogs.” A few minutes later still, Bill was singing an old Rolling Stones’ tune at the top of his lungs when there was the loud sound of gunfire. And then: Silence.”