by Niles Reddick
The rain beat the roof of the vehicle so hard I couldn’t hear my Kris Kristofferson CD, and the left wiper blade couldn’t keep my driver’s side windshield clear enough, so I slowed the 4-Runner. When there was no traffic on the rural four-lane, I put the brights on and noted the hundreds of frogs hopping this way and that, and I could feel a slight squish under the tires. I thought of weaving to avoid them. I didn’t like killing them, but I also knew swerving to miss a frog could send the SUV hydroplaning, possibly costing our lives or the vehicle. I recall my wife’s best friend’s husband in Virginia flipping his SUV to avoid a squirrel. He and the squirrel lived, but I’m sure it made Paul think a squirrel’s life wasn’t that valuable.
I turn up the volume and I note I don’t hear the squish as much, but I can feel it in the steering wheel. “There sure are a lot of frogs out there,” my wife says, and my son in the backseat says, “Don’t run over them, Dad.”
“I won’t,” I say and note that it’s yet another lie I tell that I don’t even think is a lie because it seems so insignificant, and I wonder if it’ll count come Judgment day. My daughter is playing her DS and says nothing.
A scene with Pammie Mae flashes in my mind and I half-smile. I know it’s association because of the frogs on the road, but I think it’s odd it would even come to my mind after so many years and means my memory and mind work better than I think, and I remind myself to remember this next time I walk to a room in our house and stand there wondering why I’m there. Five years earlier, I had resigned from my job in Tennessee to move to Southern Georgia. Our building custodian, Pammie Mae, a chain smoking little woman who talked constantly with anyone in the building, had come to see me. In her guttural voice, she leaned into my office, crossing her legs as if she has to go to the restroom and said, “I hear you’re moving to Georgia.”
“Yep,” I responded.
“I lived down there once,” she said. “You can have it.”
“You didn’t like it?”
“Too many damned frogs,” she said.
“Yeah, frogs. Sons-of-bitches almost got me arrested.”
I was intrigued. “How’s that?”
“After my third husband left me, I was going out some and knocked back a few at the local bar. Not enough that I couldn’t drive home. Hell, sometimes I drove better when I was drinkin’. I got in my damned car, had the radio on, and it was raining. Them frogs was all over the damned road, and I kept swervin’ to miss ‘em. Police pulled me over and thought I was drunk. I told that bastard it was the frogs and he made me take a test in the rain anyway. Which I passed. And he gave me a warning for reckless drivin. Son-of-a-bitch. I got the hell out of Georgia as soon as could because of all them damned frogs. You better watch out.”
“I will. I appreciate it.” I wondered how this woman kept her job, since about all she did was push a dust mop up and down the linoleum hall and empty trash cans filled with paper. Mostly, she was leaning into someone’s office to talk and get gossip, which she then told to the next person she saw. We didn’t even need emails from Human Resources to be kept up on births, illnesses, or deaths. We had Pammie Mae.
When we got home, and I pulled into our driveway, there were more frogs, and I tried to let them hop across before I drove into the garage. I didn’t want any flattened evidence for my son to discover the next morning.
Niles Reddick’s collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities was a finalist for an Eppie award; his novel Lead Me Home was a national finalist for a ForeWord Award, a finalist in the Georgia Author of the Year award in the fiction category, and a nominee for an IPPY award. Niles has been a participant at the Canton Arts Festival, Southern Festival of Books, the Chattahoochee Valley Writers’ Festival, the Pellissippi College Write-In, and the Upper Cumberland Writers’ Festival. For several years, he was a guest blogger on A Good Blog is Hard to Find and has served as a freelance editor. His work has appeared in the anthologies Southern Voices in Every Direction (Iris Press) and Unusual Circumstances (Pocol Press) and has been featured in many journals and literary magazines, including The Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies, Southern Reader, Like the Dew, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Pomanok Review, Corner Club Press, Slice of Life, Deep South Review, The Red Dirt Review, Faircloth Review, New Southerner, and many others. He works for the University of Memphis at Lambuth in Jackson, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife Michelle and two children, Audrey and Nicholas.