FALLING TOADS • by Cheryl Diane Kidder

She fast-forwarded the whole of Magnolia to get to the one scene she loved, her litmus test for the newish man in her bed, even though she was already feeling cramped and invisible.

He was not amused.

“Why don’t we just watch it together? I heard Tom Cruise is fantastic in it.” He reached for the remote.

She pulled it out of his reach, stretching her body away from him under the covers. “No way. Tom Cruise is a total asshole but this one scene is worth the price of the rental.”

He rolled his eyes and picked up his beer, threw his arm behind his head. “You really compartmentalize everything, you know that?”

“Yeah, so?” She frowned at the video player. It was not moving as fast as she’d like it to and she was having to relive all those awful Tom Cruise moments. She looked away from the screen. “It’s served me very well.”

“Just means you can’t hold two thoughts in your head at one time.” He laughed.

“Actually, means I prefer to focus on one area at a time.”

“Like the toads for instance.”

“Exactly like the toads for instance.” She loved the scene with the toads falling from the sky, the sound they made, how surprised the characters were when it happened, what it implied for the rest of the movie, the mystery of it all.

“You shouldn’t have told me about it.” He kicked the covers off his legs.

“Too late now.” She glanced back at the screen. Almost there. “Besides, now you know what happens you can concentrate on how well the filmmaker pulls it off.”

“I’d rather watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” He got out of bed and walked barefoot into the kitchen.

She glanced over at his naked body, wondering why it did absolutely nothing for her after such a promising start. “The remake sucked. I haven’t been able to find the original.”

“I’ve seen the original. I want to see the remake,” he yelled in from the kitchen, his head inside the fridge looking for another beer. “It’s supposed to be way bloodier.”

“Well, that was the beauty of the first one.” She was getting close to the scene she wanted. She switched the remote to slow forward. “The violence was all implied.”

He plopped back onto the bed, beer in hand. “Didn’t look fucking implied to me. I thought it was pretty graphic.” He took a sip of beer. “For the time.”

She rolled her eyes at him, concentrating on the video player. She didn’t want to go too far but she wanted to go far enough so that she didn’t have to see any other scenes from the movie. She hated the movie but loved the one scene. She was afraid he’d want to further dissect that whole situation but maybe once he actually saw the scene, apart from the movie, he’d understand: the visual plus the sound.

“I’m getting really, really close here.”

“This is why God made DVD players. This is ridiculous, just turn it on and let it play.”

“Not everybody can afford state of the art electronics.”

“Seriously? Your priorities are totally screwed up. Are we there yet?” he said. He moved his arm and the beer spilled a little on the bed between them.

“Oh God Charlie, look what you’ve done now.” She threw the remote down on the bed and went into the bathroom, got a towel and brought it back.

“It’s no big deal. Why are you making such a big deal about it. It’s just a wet spot.” He grabbed the towel from her and wiped it up. “You’ve probably had worse things in this bed.”

She tried ignoring his last remark, picked up the remote and continued looking for the flying toad scene. She didn’t care if he saw it now or not. She was hoping now he’d either go to sleep or just leave so she didn’t have to explain why she loved that scene and why she had wanted to show it to him. She wanted to be able to talk about her dreams and how close this part of the film comes to something she’d had dreams about since she was a little girl, but now she wasn’t sure. She wasn’t sure she wanted to share anything at all with him any more. He wasn’t so special. He wasn’t that different from the other men she’d known. Why did she think he might listen, that this one might be the one who’d listen to her talk, watch the movies she wanted to watch, understand about foreign objects in the bed? Why did she think this time would be any different from all the rest?

He leaned back onto the down pillows and drained the beer. He closed his eyes and she wondered if he was dreaming about flying toads splattering onto the bed.

She punched the remote control to mute and watched the scene by herself. The plump green bodies falling through space, hitting the pavement, the cars, the buildings, covering the roadway in puddles of green.

But it wasn’t the same without the sound on. As soon as he was gone, she’d play it back again with the sound turned up and let the little green bodies get into her subconscious and splat around in her dreams for a week or two until she couldn’t stand it any more and had to go looking for another one, one who wouldn’t make a mess, one who understood about magic and dreams and the indescribable beauty of falling toads.

Cheryl Diane Kidder’s work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in two anthologies: Ava Gardner: Touches of Venus, and Meg Files’ Write From Life. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: CutThroat Magazine, Weber — The Contemporary West, Bound Off, Brevity Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Dogzplot, Watercress Journal, Jersey Devil Press, The Northville Review, JMWW, Cobalt, Identity Theory, Map Literary, The Atticus Review, The New Purlieu Review, Eclectica, Word Riot, In Posse Review, The Reed, the Clackamas Literary Review and elsewhere.

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