A Frog on a Log in a Bog
When Maggie (Mrs. Amok) arrived at
The Isla de Mí Mismo.
On Friday, May 27 Maggie returned home, exhausted, to her family home on ‘Isla de mi Mismo’ the Bahamas.
Margaret was greeted at the gate by Zubu (Chinese: 术不姑 )the new maintenance man that her husband, Postel, had spoke to Maggie about on the phone. Postal had been bragging about the ‘wild man’ to their friends and colleagues. At first glance, Zubu appeared to be a refugee from the circus, perhaps ‘The Wildman of Borneo,’ covered with bone piercings, and rings of day-glow paint circling around various parts of his grass dressed body. His skin, shining in the late day’s sunset, seemed scarred and ridged like a crocodile. Maggie thought that he should be in an old circus Freak Show, climbing and screeching.
Zubu wasn’t a ‘savage,’ nor was he from Borneo. He was a Yale educated Chinese-American and Connecticut-born. He enjoyed working and studying at Postel’s lab and helping with the Hadron Collider. He also enjoyed the zoo, the garden and dressing up to scare visitors. Though he dressed as a stone-age wild-man type, the lowly groundskeeper was a genius zoologist and took care the Amok family compound.
Zubu spoke in the same high New England tones of his teacher, Postal.
They met at Bezerkly many years ago, when Zubu ran the school’s lab and behaved like a normal human.
Despite his savage appearance, his demeanor around Maggie was harmless, clumsy and insecure . Why would Postel ever hire a such a creature? Zubu was effective when it came to frighten other scientists and their hired thieves away from his experiments that were sometimes leaked by the news. Ah-ha!
“Master Postel wanted me to show you the new pets, Miss Margaret.” He smiled at her with a wide gap-toothed smile. “Follow me. Your husband wants you to see the garden. First, here is the aviary and beyond that is the pond. Do you like it?” Maggie put her hand on the screen of the bird sanctuary.
“Don’t open up the door, Ma’am. WE cannot let anything out.”
She backed away after hearing bird sounds that sounded as if they were from another planet.
“Don ’t worry, Ms. Starling, they are very rare and ancient birds, but they will not hurt you, except for the nasty ornithomimids they’re like cassowaries, but larger — and, uh… toothed.” The ten-foot-tall bird-like thing was staring at her through the fence, and then it ‘smiled’ a gap-toothed smile. Holy crap, Postel!
From the tiniest amoeba to the largest pre-historic sloth, almost every animal on the entire private island owned by Mr. Amok was inhabited by the DNA that the scientist used the most, his own. Hallucinating, laughing and out of his mind from lack of sleep, Postel couldn’t wait to share his zoological creations with his wife, who’d just spent half-a-year in the fantasy world of making movies.
In 1986, Postel Amok had won the Nobel Prize in Physiology for his work in genetic engineering and his project The Molecular Time-clock, that would someday “connect the past using our own DNA.” Maggie had once heard him rambling on, over dinner, with his scientist friends, telling them he’d soon be able to clone animals out of the past by using only his own DNA. “I’ll travel down the entire evolutionary chain in two-hundred-thousand-year increments.” His ‘pond’ zoo began with of animals that grew rather quickly. His next plan was to use the Collider to reach into the future, and create a new and advanced human.
“Miss Maggie,” Zubu said politely, “Professor Amok is especially proud of his pets.” He smiled. Maggie took a deep breathe and tried to glance at his left shoulder. Maybe this is wild man is only Postel beneath some bizarre make-up. Him and his desperate sense of humor. I wouldn’t put it past him. On Zubu’s bare shoulder she couldn’t spot Postel’s signature birthmark. No helix, thank god.
The pond was immense, almost a lake. It had small tropical islands with coconut trees. There were also floating logs for Postel’s amphibian’s and reptiles and a waterfall to keep the water properly aerated. A desalinization unit sat behind the trees. Maggie noticed a few carp and some very large lungfish in the shallows with red markings on their backs. They swam down into the murk before she could get a closer look at them.
“Let me introduce you to our two very rare Anthracosaurus,” said Zubu. “They were believed to be an extinct genus of embolomere, from the late carboniferous period 310 million years ago.”
“In English please, Mr. Zubu.”
“They are ancient amphibians, misnamed ‘coal lizards,’ once found in the British Isles. They can grow up to 10-feet long.”
“They are huge!” Of course, one had a gap between its front teeth — like Postel. Strange.
“The larger lizard, er amphibian on the left is Sal and his friend, with the smile is Amanda.” Amanda swung her gap-toothed smile toward Maggie from the muddy bank and hissed what Maggie took as a warning. Amanda’s mate, Sal the scaly brute, complimented Maggie on her legs with a chirp and a tongue swipe to groom his algae covered head. Maggie felt the impulse to run but was then drawn in by the red Helix birth mark on the black back of Sal as he turned away, also grinning that grin that Maggie did not want to think about.
Though the two twelve-foot-long newts looked at Maggie as if she were a stick of Joe Blow chewing gum.
The pond also had a frog sitting on a log illuminated beneath the setting sun. A mighty big one. And it was blinking at Maggie.
“That is Beelzebufo Ampinga, miss,” said Zubu. “That is her generic name.”
“We call her Ribbit. Your husband’s friend, Doctor Vegzet, said that he brought ‘Beelzebufo’ home from Madagascar, while Mr. Amok was working with the new atom collider in Switzerland. But, look at its shoulder.” Sure enough, the amphibian had Postel’s signature birthmark. Zubu talked on, “She was thought to be extinct since the Cretaceous and still has smaller relatives in South America. She seems to like you, miss.”
Maggie stuck out her tongue at the blank-eyed beast in fun.
Zubu looked shocked.
The frog rolled out its polka dot tongue like a festive New Year’s Eve noisemaker. Maggie felt a little guarded in front of Zubu, but that didn’t stop her from making a “ribbit” sound and a greeting, “Hello Ribbit!” The frog repeated her ribbit, and then added a series of other “ribbits” looking at Maggie for understanding? Suddenly, its tongue shot out and grabbed a huge moth. The moth, Maggie noted, also displayed the same helix mark on its wing. Beelzebufo held it in its mouth long enough for Maggie to get a reeeeal good look. That looked like a, “No it can’t be!” It had her birthmark, on its leg, and not Postel’s helix. Her brown birthmark was shaped like Florida! The frog chewed its bird-sized moth and nudged its head as if inviting her to “Try one! They’re not so bad, tasty once you get past the hairy wings! Tons of fiber.” Ribbit slurped it down.
Postel has done it! Maggie thought. Gone back in time! And all of these creatures must be his relatives from the beginning of time! Our Christmas list will be enormous this year. “Let me put my bags in the house, Mr. Zubu. I need to freshen up.”
“Your room is ready. Do you need a key? I’ll get one. ”
“Thanks, but I have it.” Maggie walked up the front porch steps and into her once familiar home.
The evening air smelled like perfume. The scent came from Dionaea muscipula, an aromatic and beautiful perennial flowering flesh eating plant — that was, no doubt, another distant relative of Postal.
“Mr. Zubu, is it okay to open some windows? It’s hot in here. ”
Even the house smelled like fresh lowers.
“Stay in, keep the windows and screens closed and use the air conditioner, and don’t wander. Some of your husband’s pets may be unnerving.”
“Like the bats in his belfry!” she joked.
“No, Ma’am!” Zubu had missed Maggie’s little joke. Does he lack a humor chromosome?
“Your husband is a bit crazy, but a genius,” he said. “I’ll take care of feeding the animals outside and the cats in their separate, new enclosure. The waterfall is very calming at night and…let me introduce…”
When he looked up, he saw she’d gone into the bathroom and closed the door. “Yell if you need anything, ma’am.”
Oh, those poor eyes, she thought looking into the bathroom mirror. Behind her, in the window she got a shock seeing Ribbit, again, looking at her through the screen. The dark circles beneath her eyes were big enough to run chariot races. She was so tired that she imagined that her eyeballs were bulging and her tongue was flicking. Maggie took her glasses off and walked back into the bedroom. “Oh, boy. I wonder what else is new and weird around here.”
“Hiya kid! Hiya, hiya, hiya!”
Isla de Mí Mismo (The Isle of Me) was teeming with creatures that contained Postel’s questionable traits. Nearly everything that crawled, flew, and swam within and around the island would resemble ‘him’ — and bearing his “personal signatures” of a gap between the front teeth and a red double helix birthmark on the left shoulder.
“And what about my DNA,” she asked aloud? Did my crazy ex actually combine my DNA with some amphibians including that of Ribbit the Devil Frog? I’m in big trouble.
It would take more than all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put Maggie together again. She needed to talk to her son, Edison. Maybe he had an insight into his weird father’s psyche that she didn’t. (The drugs). He was the only person that Maggie knew who would have been able to correct the madness of his father, Postel. It was already 2 a.m. and Maggie didn’t want to wake her son, who had ‘problems’ sleeping.
Maggie told Zubu that she needed to sleep and without any further discussion returned to her room. The heavily screened lanai of her room faced the pond. It was still light. She walked onto the lanai after pouring herself a drink and sat at a little white table overlooking the pond. “He really did it!” she thought. She sipped and looked down into the pond beneath her where she found herself staring, again, into the sympathetic eyes of Ribbit. And when it jumped, it lurched.
Until recently, the screen star could rely on her beauty. She tried to get herself ready for bed. In the mirror, she could watch, what she imagined was, the rapid progress of her own decay which appeared to be hastening every day.
“I’m a mess! I DO look like that frog, and with my aching back, I DO lurch.” Exhausted, Maggie walked into the bedroom and collapsed upon the bed. Before she drifted off, she heard one last mournful and strangely sympathetic “Ribbit?”
“You must be a link along my evolutionary chain, you cutie.”
Maggie’s resemblance to the frog outside was partly coincidence.
In Maggie’s dream, she saw her husband’s colleague, Dr. Vegzet, toss a Maggie clone to the woman-eating flora and fauna.