Sian Melangell-Dafydd offers the next contribution to Wales Arts Reviews’ Flash Fiction Week Series with Illegal Frogs.
Between the rest of the world and me, there are frog aquariums. Inside, they stomp heads, press their fingers to the glass like leaves, sometimes their eyes, just sometimes, but only for sharp seconds and then I remember all the juice in them, what good I am doing. I breathe and my chest is bigger and I always, always get a customer.
I grab a frog. This time, a wobbly-bellied one, river cool. Once I’ve cut its throat, it only gets cooler. Under its skin too, slime-cold. It’s skin slides off, like lychee.
My customer watches me and doesn’t watch me. He reads his phone but looks up, up to me and squirms on his stool as if he’s on seaweed.
I stick the frog in my pan with Mamá’s sauce; it sizzles as soon as it spits. When the sizzle makes frog-eye-bubbles in the pan, it’s time – one minute – into the machine with maca root, honey, whatever fruit we have: lucuma, pitahaya, pepino, all full up with the sticky life itself and something else we all know makes men ready for their wives. Blend. It becomes the green of trees by rivers, the green of rains, but it needs more honey. A quarter of a spoon and I wiz it again, until it glows. The customer looks up from his phone at me and the blended frog: green nostrils. I am done. I pour it into a tin mug, still sweaty from its last rinse. I squeeze the blender. Mamá says the last drop is the most potent.
His hand, too, is slippery with his five Soles. My five Soles.
The police come sometimes, take my frogs, sometimes break my aquariums. They fine me and I squeeze my hands in my apron like I squeeze the last drop. More than five Soles, more than fifty. It depends. But my customers keep believing, I keep believing, and we keep doing this.
Next customers; our dear friends. Always from the north end of the market with their lidded, scratched box, a little after midday – they’ve looked like young old people for twenty years, thanks to my frogs. Two frogs. One pays; one holds. I only get two Soles each for these. I tell them, my maca is a better baby maker than theirs – why not buy my drinks instead of carrying frogs about? But they say their recipe and my frogs keep their Papá breathing; they don’t care for how his penis works, so long as he breathes.
When the frogs run out, they run out. I’ll stand here looking at the world through empty aquariums and maybe I’ll see it better without their fingers, their eyes. But while the men still come down from Puno to trade, I trade. And between the world and me, there’ll be aquariums. The frogs will stomp each other, their fingers will look like the leaves where they used to live, and I will sell them, blended. Together, we save lives.
Illegal Frogs by Sian Melangell-Dafydd is part of a Wales Arts Review series publishing original flash fiction pieces by some of Wales’ top authors in a celebration of the unique literary genre and National Flash Fiction Day.