Tales of the Bearded Toad

Short stories and the occasional true tidbit devised in the life and times of the Bearded Toad

Monday, July 31, 2006


I don’t care,” she said. A silence ensued that made her wonder if he was still awake. “Are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here,” he replied with unmistakable indignation in his voice.

“Well, are you going to say anything?”

“Why would I say anything, when you won’t answer any questions that I have?”

“I did answer your question!”

“No, you didn’t answer my question. Whenever I ask you questions like that, you don’t answer it; you answer a different question. And no matter what I ask, or how I phrase it to try to get you to answer the question that I was really asking, you only repeat the answer you gave to the question you thought I asked the first time. You feel like I’m telling you that your answer is not good enough, and you’re right. It’s not. It’s not even the right question.”

“Well, then what did you ask?”

“Never mind. You don’t care.”

“I hate it when you do that passive aggressive crap!”

“Would you prefer that I were truly aggressive?”

“No. I’d leave you in a minute if you ever touched me.”

“So, what do you expect from me?”

“I don’t know.”

“Think about it.”

“I don’t want to think about it! I just want to go to sleep!” With her typically loud statement, he rolled over, gave a strong snort through his nose, and settled into position to sleep. She continued to lie motionless staring at the blurry, dark ceiling for a few moments more. The dog shuffled between them, and the sound of the fan took over.

She woke exhausted after having bad dreams throughout night. Her clothes were wet with damp with sweat again. Once during the night she arose to change from her drenched pajamas into dry shorts and a shirt. Bad dreams, sweaty bedclothes, and very little sleep were becoming routine for her. Not to mention the other part.

With his teeth slightly clenched, he rolled over and put his feet to the carpet. She always liked carpet better because of the warm feeling you get when your feet touch down compared to the shock and agitation you get when you touch down on cold hardwood. Knowing this about her, the last time they were looking for a place to live, he agreed to get an apartment with carpet, even though the dogs wreak havoc on the pale fibers. His morning routine continued as he wriggled into his clothes, put the dogs’ collars back on, and clicked their leashes in place as she made her coffee.

Outside the air was muggy as usual. A thunderstorm during the night had left it a little stickier outside than normal. It caused the skin on the back of his knees to peal apart after bending down to fill the plastic bags with the steaming piles from the already panting dogs. She walked over and deposited the bags in the receptacle, carefully dodging all the other land mines left by lazy dog owners. “I want to watch and see who this is, so that we can turn them in to the front office,” she said, with no intention of really doing it.

The coffee was dripping into the pot and had collected enough to pour a full cup. She pulled her favorite mug from the cabinet and filled it to just the right level. Two sugar-extract packets and a teaspoonful of creamer made it just right. The satisfying moment she had been waiting for was marked by the inevitable slurp and smack. He sometimes asked, “Why do you do that?” With a smirk she’d reply the same each time, “Just sucking the flavor out, honey,” a comment that would give him that boyish twinge he knew he’d have to suppress.

With coffee in hand, she slowly sat down to watch the morning news. “Strong winds downed trees and knocked out power to 1,300 residents last night,” the well made-up minor celebrity belted out. She heard the shower begin to spray with hesitant power and the curtain screech closed on its rod. He always took a shower first, leaving her to wait fifteen minutes so the tiny water heater could muster up the clout to coax another showers worth of water to warm up. The clown-faced anchor was failing miserably in keeping her attention. She watched the gimp legged dog slowly climb into his chair and begin to lick the dew from his feet. Somehow this was more interesting than the news of another car bomb in Iraq, the sort of news story that was commonplace to hear in the morning, given the time difference.

“Evalen?” She was jarred from her musings on the dogs tongue. She set her mug on the coffee table. “Evalen?!”

“I’m coming!” There was the nearly tangible agitation in her voice as she made her way into the bathroom. She knew what he wanted. Laundry was a weekend activity, which of course meant washing towels. Reaching below the sink to pull out a clean towel, she saw the bottle of personal lubricant that was a catalyst for bad emotions. She felt her throat constrict and her face get hot. She handed him the towel, turned and walked out without saying anything. Just a sharp glance in his eyes so that maybe he’d get a small amount of the agitation she felt.

Whose turn is it to fix lunches? Did I do it yesterday? What day is it anyway? Oh, yeah. It’s Tuesday.” She sometimes talked to herself as she went through the day, without realizing it. She made noises too, thinking they were only in her head. He would laugh at her and never tell her that she was spouting nonsense, especially when they were in a long line at the grocery store. The other people around always smiled but kept quiet too.

She pulled the peanut butter from above the refrigerator and set it next to a paper towel she’d laid out, struggling with the twisty for a few seconds before finally being able to pull four slices of bread from the thin plastic. She placed them in a square and generously spread the brown paste over two slices, thinking how it would taste at lunch when she ate it. “Oh, I hope we have enough jelly.” The jar was nearly empty, but there was just enough there to cover the other two sides of the sandwiches. “Goooood,” she said as she spread the last bit over the fourth slice of bread. Preparing and thinking about food calmed her down a bit.

As he walked into the kitchen for a glass of water he said, “What are you making for me?” As soon as he said it he knew he shouldn’t have. He saw her take in a deep breath, and his stomach dropped leaving him momentarily feeling scared. “I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have said that. I know you’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks,” she said flatly. It was hard for her to let go of the emotion quickly.

Turning the knob on in the shower, she tugged on the end of the strap releasing her robe. Hanging it up on the hook adhered to the back of the door, she stepped into the not yet warm flow. “Ugh!” Within seconds, though, it was too hot for her to bear. She adjusted the knob to get the temperature just right, enough to steam up the mirror but not enough to redden her skin.

He sat down on the toilet and pulled in a cleansing breath of the humid air and slowly let it out imagining that the bad feelings of the night before were going out with it. “I’m sorry about the way I acted last night.” He waited for a few seconds to see if she’d respond. “I just get really upset when we talk about it. It scares me, because I think you might leave me over it.” Another long pause ensued. “I love you and it worries me to know that you are upset so much. And it makes me think that it’s all my fault. I’m the one who got you into it, and now we can’t seem to stop…but I can tell that it is causing you to be angry a lot. It seems like you are directing all that towards me, and we fight a lot.”


“Wait. Let me finish. I know that we’ve gained a lot of weight in the past few months, and it’s keeping us from being able to have sex. Hell, we don’t even use the lube for that anymore; instead, I have to lube up my thighs before I go to work, just so they won’t chaff. We’ve needed to buy new clothes every month, and we can’t afford to because we spend so much on food. And we both know how restrictive that feels.”

“Brit, when I see myself in the mirror it looks like I swallowed a blimp.” He couldn’t help but laugh at that a little. “It’s not funny!”

“I’m sorry, but that was a little bit.”

“Well, I didn’t think so…ugh, what are we going to do?”

“I’ll tell you what. Let’s call in sick to work today. I can call and schedule an appointment with a dietitian, and we’ll go together to see her. I saw a book online yesterday that will help us break out of the nightly binging routine that we’ve gotten ourselves…well, that I’ve gotten us into.”

“But what does that have to do with today? You could schedule the appointment at work and pick up the book on your way home.”

He smiled and looked at her. “Today, I’m going to show you that I love you, Evalen. With all my bulging body, I love you.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Scarlet Pool

He began his spiel by touting the graces of the woman he had met. “She was a beauty like none other, with class exuded from every pore. The sophistication with which she espoused the benefits of facials was astounding. The way she rubbed the serum over my skin made me feel as though I were being touched by a regal heiress disguised as a mere counter girl.”

Isaac shifted his feet and nodded as Gill continued on about the girl. It seemed obvious to him that most of it was a lie or at the very least a huge exaggeration. He could feel tension rising in his gut the longer the conversation went. It had only been a minute and a half, but it seemed like an eternity. And what was that smell? Almonds? He could feel his face begin to contort, so he concentrated on keeping his expression hidden. No matter how uncomfortable he became while listening-one never really said anything back-to Gill, he never wanted to hurt his feelings. He looked at his watch and made his eyes swell. “Oh, my, I am late for a meeting!”

Gill's style was to attempt to impress everyone he knew and met with a grandiloquence of speech that caused a great deal of his meaning to be missed by those whom he was addressing. Those who knew him were more than aware that he was a lonely man, but his pushy insistence on talking through every encounter made it impossible to enjoy his company. Gill could see the uncomfortable awkwardness come over them when they saw him coming near. A shift in their seat, attempts to appear as though they hadn’t seen him, a feigned cell phone call were all typical.

Each time it happened, Gill would prick his leg with a pin through his pocket, to take his mind off the emotional anguish. This time, it hurt so badly he nearly fainted outright. He grabbed the counter with both hands, putting most of his weight on them, because his knees had become so weak he thought they would buckle and put him flat on the blue-flecked linoleum floor. He tried to focus on the reddening lines in his knuckles and how they traced into the thick spider web pattern on the back of his hand.

Why had he never held a woman’s hand, he thought? Why had he never held a man’s hand? That simple act of affection that he’s seen so many people undergo as he sat in the food court of the mall waiting for someone new to impress was not an experience he’d ever had. In fact the counter girl was the only person to touch him since he had moved from his parent’s house twelve years ago. He didn’t tell Isaac that it was last May when he had gotten the impromptu sales treatment.

The sore on his leg had been festering for two weeks now, but he refused to see a doctor. The increase in pain had made it more effective at taking away the emotion each time he pricked himself. Infection was something that happened to dirty people he thought, and he washed every day. The smell of almonds had only made him think that the new breath mints he’d started using were having a rather odd effect.

As he fell to the floor, hitting his head against a chair, he wondered if anyone would come help. No one every voluntarily came over to him; he always went to them. That pool of scarlet looks quite garish against the azure accents, he thought. Someone should scour these floors.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


NOTE: The Self Evolved suggested that I post this story which I wrote as a reading for our wedding, so it's a bit of a diversion from what I have been posting. Also, for those of you who couldn't tell already, I make some of this stuff up; most of it will be from here on out.

The old man walked along the path slowly, deliberately. He felt the slight pain in his knees that had come to comfort him somewhat, like an old friend that assured him he was still alive. He looked beside him and saw his wife smiling as she inhaled the fragrance of the garden. Her smile made him forget the pain, forget he was alive. He felt as though he were in a dream, like he was watching events unfold before his eyes in slow motion. She brushed the gray hair from her face with a withered hand. As it fell back to her side he slowly, gently squeezed it in his own. The soft firmness made her heart leap slightly, just enough to make her look up and direct that wonderful smile toward him. She knew what he was thinking. She always had, she thought.

As the path curved, a small pond began to cast the sun’s golden reflection upon them. He couldn't help thinking that the glow wasn't from the sun really at all; it was just a part of his slowly developing dream. The pond was very calm and undisturbed, with a clear, upside down version of the fiery-colored trees lining the banks. They walked together to the edge of the pond and stood on a large mossy rock that jutted slightly into the water.

At first he looked into the water and saw the small fish swimming almost effortlessly by, one behind the other, but his eyes began to focus on his reflection. He saw himself as a young man again, standing dressed in black beside his soon-to-be wife dressed all in white. He noticed the smooth skin and vibrancy of their youth. It saddened him to realize how much time had passed since that day. All those wonderful years had gone by so quickly. The youth looked at his bride, as the words of the minister were faintly present in the background. The young man confidently replied to the minister’s question. “I do,” he said. An easy smile crept upon his wrinkled face that wiped away all the sadness.

He blinked to refocus as reality flowed back over him as ripples from a jumping fish rolled over the scene. Smiling with that same youthful confidence he’d just recalled, he looked to his wife.

“I meant it, you know?”

She turned around to face him, putting both hands in his.
“So did I,” she said, understanding everything.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Formative Day

March 9, 2001 was a day that escaped me for reasons which I cannot now realize. I do, however, realize the importance of it upon me, the description of which may not have an effect upon you, but it still does upon me. It helped make me who I am.

As I left the building on my way back to the parking lot, I thought about how beautiful a night it was. The air was crisp but contained that notion that it was beginning to warm into the sentimental sensation spring tends to bring about. The sky was clear other than those curious little sparkles that never cease to draw the imagination as they drew a smile across my face.

I rounded the corner at the end behind the row of low slung buildings into the alley that contained a few parking spaces and many dumpsters. I had walked this route four times per week since I began the program in September. The buildings included a few restaurants, which of course disposed of their refuse into the respective dumpsters. I say refuse as that is what you and I would call it, but what the little girl whom I saw trying her best to stack things on top of the cement block she had dragged in front of the bin would call dinner.

Seeing a small black girl eagerly trying to attack the rancid pile, made me more confused than I was the time I saw my mother light a joint. I felt the learned racism from some of my old acquaintances arise. Some of them might say, “Just like a ‘coon to be diggin’ in the damn trash.” I also felt the rise of humanity arise in me, in that I wanted to help her. Most of all, I felt curiosity as to what had caused her to be in a situation where she had to dig through other peoples garbage to find enough food to survive.

I didn’t know whether I could approach her or not. I didn’t know if I could handle the smell of wet rust and rotting pizza along with the smell of a child whom I was sure had not bathed in weeks judging from the crust under her nose and the wax oozing from her ears. I didn’t know if she would act like the ‘coon my old friends thought her to be and bite me with a rabid tooth. I did know that my feet were moving me towards her, a realization that came when I heard the puddle of dumpster juice splash under my foot.

She looked up at me as though I were wielding a knife, intensifying that feeling I was trying to suppress as I new it to be one of false pretence. Remembering that I had swiped three miniature chocolate bars from the basket in the student services office, I took one of them out of my pocket, quickly removed the rapper and ate it. No, I did not do this as a cruel joke. I did this to show her what it was. As much as I would like to think this were not true, I still felt as though she were a simplistic being that did not understand the complex culture that “we” had created. I did this to show her that the chocolate would not hurt her in that way you hold out your hand for a dog to sniff to show it the same lack of malicious intent. I then took out a second bar and held it out to her. She took it from my hand quickly and ate it even faster. I then took out the other bar. She took this one more slowly. She said, “Thank you.”

As naturally as she had spoken these two words to me, I spoke the natural two word response to her, “You’re welcome.” I felt in that moment all of the preconceived ideas about other people fall away. Not because I had heard her speak, but because I saw another little figure walk from behind the painted green can. With skin like a dirty white napkin, she held out her hand.

Since I had given the last chocolate to the first of the girls, I had nothing to fill her gritty fingers. “Wait here.” I ran as fast as I could back to student services grabbing as many chocolates as I could hold. By the time I had returned, two minutes later, the girls had made it successfully into the rotting container of food scraps. It appeared that they had a preconceived notion too…that you couldn’t rely on other people; so, they didn’t wait. I vomited, dropped the candies, walked slowly to my truck, and called 911.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Loss of an Old Friend

Today I had to say goodbye to a friend. That’s not something that’s easy to do, especially one that’s seen so much with you. We met in December of 1998 one night while cruising around town, and we’ve spent countless hours together since. We went through my years at Auburn together, moved out to Denver together, moved into five different places in Denver together, and moved to three places in North Carolina together. We have even worked together. Through many jobs, homes, and trips to the hardware store, we’ve stuck together. Through seven and half years and over 110,000 miles my truck and I have been friends. Today, though, I had to sell the Tacoma. I almost want to cry. So, please, when you’re riding down the road, keep a look out for my old friend.