Clive sighed, then he groaned. He was sitting on the grassy bank underneath the bridge listening to the melancholy slap of the water against the pebbles and stones that littered the water’s edge. Clive moved his chin on his knees, arms clasping his bejeaned legs. He presented a dejected air to the world at large. His solar plexus a turmoil of nervous energy.
“Oh woe is me” he declaimed to the spider climbing over his shoe. It was the only quote he could think of, it sounded melodramatic but, that was how he was feeling.
“What on earth is the matter Clive, you look ridiculous sitting there talking to your toes.”
It was Albert.
“I’m talking to a spider.” Clive managed to sound peeved as well as dejected. Albert hopped into view.
“Where is he?”
The poor spider, not knowing that Albert had no fear of Clive, was whisked into Albert’s mouth.
“Mmm, just what I needed.”
“That’s it. All my friends going one by one. You’ll be next. A pike no doubt. Clive’s voice was dull, muffled by his knee.
Albert shivered, “What a horrid thing to say. Whatever is the matter with you? I don’t know that I like you today.”
“Emily’s left me.”
“What do you mean?”
Albert hopped onto Clive shoe and looked up into his friend’s face.
“She’s gone to a festival with a friend.”
“What for?” Arnold could not understand Clive’s misery but he was concerned.
“They’ve gone to see some plays.“
“Is she coming back?”
“Oh yes. In a week’s time”
“That’s not long.”
“I know, but we’ve not been apart so long for almost a year. “
“Why does that make you sad and upset?”
Clive lifted his head. “I can’t see her, hear her, touch her, smell her, feel her.”
“Well that’s obvious if she’s not here.”
Albert started to fidget on Clive’s toes. “You’re being boring. All you have to do is find another female. I presume you won’t be happy with my company.” The little frog sounded somewhat stiff and offended.
Clive felt guilty. He was being self-indulgent. He did miss Emily dreadfully but he knew he was enjoying the intense longing he felt for her, wallowing in the pool of raw emotion he was feeling. “I’m sorry Albert, shall we go for a walk?“
Albert blinked and thought for a while. “How will you carry me?”
“In my hand, you will be quite safe.”
“Well, you’re too warm and dry but I suppose I could suffer that. It would be interesting.”
So Clive allowed Albert to jump into his left hand and they set off. He held it chest high with his companion crouching in his palm, blinking in surprise at his new perspective on the world, he had not travelled this way before. It was late afternoon and they were bathed in the gentle Indian-summer sun. The leaves were beginning to rustle brown, filled with the poisons of summer’s feeding, their life cut off by the unremitting restrictions on the veins that fed them. Clive liked to be among trees. In fact, he often sought their company, drawing sustenance from the great power they radiated. He began to feel happier as he responded to their healing influences.
“Why do you react so, to Emily being away?” said Albert. Albert was often confused by human behaviour.
“Well, I love her. I want to share what she does, see her, be with her.”
“Why don’t you see another woman? I know you enjoy looking at them.”
“Yes, I do.”
“And you would probably enjoy making love to them”. continued Albert.
“I don’t want to, I just want Emily.”
“Why her in particular?”
“You wouldn’t understand Albert, you don’t seem to mind who your mate is.“
“Well it doesn’t really matter. When the females gather and they release the great scent, I am possessed by a power far greater than me though I do long for a female with a great swollen belly and smooth brown back, wide expectant eyes, it’s not her that’s important nor am I to her.”
“What do you mean, isn’t it pleasurable?” Said Clive.
“I don’t know what you mean by pleasurable. Both of us are slowly driven into such a state of ecstasy that we are no longer individuals. We become one with the universe.” He was silent for a moment. “Once the spawn has been released and I have given them life, the Great Experience is over and I have no more interest in females until the next time.”
They walked on a few steps more.
“I’m hungry Clive, hold me up to those insects over there” and Clive dutifully held his hand in the cloud of midge’s that zigzagged under the lower branches of a great oak. Albert fed greedily.
“Ah, that’s whetted my appetite! I would now like some woodlice.” He imperiously directed Clive to a nearby fallen branch. “Make yourself useful and turn it over.” Albert squatted contentedly amongst the exposed multi-legged insects as they scurried about.
”You’ll get fat if you continue to eat like that.” Said Clive to his little friend.
“You’re the one getting fat Clive, I swim and hunt.”
Clive had not witnessed his anurian friend’s rapacious appetite before. It was getting near hibernation time and Albert needed to build up his residues of fat. Anyway, all frogs would eat, as long as there was food nearby but eventually Albert had his fill. He hopped up to Clive who was leaning against the trunk of the tree.
“How are you now Clive?”
“I’m fine thanks. I have a good feeling from this tree.”
“You mustn’t be too possessive towards Emily you know.”
The little frog was secretly concerned for his friend.
“You are right Albert. She is a free spirit I know, she likes me but she is free.”
“From what you have told me about human relationships, you are lucky to have her as a friend.”
“Oh my goodness yes!” Clyde was emphatic. “She’s wonderful.”
“That’s such a vague statement. Has love driven out your reason? At least that only happens to me once a year. You seem to be afflicted all year round.”
Clive paused to think on this as Albert snatched up a few foraging woodlice.
“She’s fun to be with, unpredictable, intelligent, independent, capable, constant…”
“Oh spare the agony” Albert teased, “she’s too good to be true. Are you sure you’re not inventing virtues?”
“I may be, but I don’t think so, I know I’m not!” Clive leant forward his body stiff and eager. “Albert you are wonderful. I’m quite cheered up. Where do you want to go now?”
“Well, I’m better able to put up with your dreadful skin than I thought…” The admission was reluctant but true, “and, you’re not boring anymore.” He drew out the sentence as he thought and hopped, ate and thought. “I know let’s go to the Old Bridge Inn. I’ve never visited there.”
“Are you sure you’re up to it? “
Albert looks surprised at this. “What do you mean? You go.”
Clive thought a while as he considered his friend before he replied “Let’s go then, hop on.” He put his left hand, palm up, on the ground for Albert to mount and they set off to the pub.
© Anthony Fisher December 1991