Brad in the Pitt: A story about (not) living together

We moved in, so now he must leave. How typical? The human arrives to the detriment of another species.

It doesn’t matter that he was here first. It doesn’t matter that his impact didn’t extend beyond the square-foot-sized, watery, below-grade space in which he lived. It only mattered that we — the new rulers of every inch of this place — wanted him gone.

I did ask nicely at first. “Crawl up the pipe now,” I urged. I thought it was worth a try, even though I knew there was no way he was going to vacate the 65-degree warmth to enter the 20-degree winter. He stayed put.

For a while we simply accepted him into the family. I’d say hello and ask him how he was whenever I was down there doing laundry or retrieving a new light bulb from the shelf. He never answered.

Then, the morning after a heavy rain, I found the basement floor covered in an inch or two of water. Descending the steps to investigate, I saw another resident in the middle of it all. This one was bigger than the one we called Brad (who lives in the) Pitt. He was stretching his legs like a prisoner who had earned a few minutes of lap time in the recreational pool. “You can’t be here unless you stay in the pit!” I stressed. “Please get back in the pit,” I begged.

After I got the pipe open and draining again, after the pool had disappeared into a wet floor, he defiantly went everywhere else but where I wanted him to go: under the washer, into the overturned trashcan, around the dark perimeter of the basement. I gave up. I left the lights on, went back upstairs, took off my boots, and fretted about our newly found flooding problem. And I wondered, where had Brad been in all this? Had he to deal with this over-sized companion in his little hole this entire time?

Days later, utility pump in hand, it was time to drain the pit. With one hose out the window and another in the hole, my husband and I watched the water level fall as the murky silt stirred. Soon two eyes appeared near the bottom, so we switched off the pump and left. We had extracted enough water for the test we were doing. All we could do then was wait to see if the groundwater would recharge the hole, and the little bit we left for Brad and his friend wouldn’t impact the results.

When I next saw Brad he was laying outside his hole, looking peaked and weak. I could have caught him, but I didn’t try. To avoid messing with our experiment, I left fresh water by his side in a tray instead of pouring it into his hole, just in case it would help him. He eventually dropped into the thick murk as he usually did, and I decided to leave him alone.

What kind of frog was he? I wondered. This time he answered with a mating call. Walking past the basement door, I heard a low, guttural snore, the likes of which would come from a swamp. His call gave him away; he was a Pickerel Frog, and with the onset of spring I suddenly had bigger worries. If he and his friend got along so well and his friend was actually female, that little hole could soon become a thousand-bed nursery. “Brad, you’ve really got to go now,” I yelled.

Pickerel frogs hibernate under the silt at the bottom of puddles and don’t emerge until after the weather warms. The temperature outside at the time was 18 degrees. What would I have done if I had caught him? I couldn’t just toss him outside. And how many frogs would soon be in basement if I didn’t?

The fate of the frog pair in the drain is still unknown. Will they die of starvation or hibernation interruption? Or will they hop out the same pipe through which they came in? All I know for sure is that we are the humans, so they are the ones who must go. We are a kink in the natural system, and frankly it just isn’t fair.

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