King Frog

Stadely drove his ‘69 Pontiac down a dirt road through the trees. After an hour of bumping and dipping over rocks and potholes he pulled into a clearing on the edge of a muddy ravine. Hundreds of naked bodies writhed and twisted in the gorge below to a pounding bass line. Stadely grabbed a rifle from the seat beside him and got out of the car. For a minute he rolled a cigarette with the gun rested in the crook of his elbow. He watched the young women and men move below, mud covering the faces and beards and breasts. Well, well, well… Stadely heard someone say. He turned to see a motorcycle cop wearing reflective sunglasses. The officer put his gloved hand on Stadely’s shoulder.

Stadely looked down at his rifle then back to the cop, seeing his own spidery reflection in the silver lenses. I’ll be in and out quick, Stadely said. He looked back down at his gun.

That’s what you told me last time, said the cop.

But the policeman didn’t follow as Stadely walked over the bluff toward the ravine.

When Stadely got to the edge, he took off his clothes. Soon he was slogging into waist-high mud, careful to keep the rifle raised above. He smeared mud over his face and shoulders and was then lost in the crowd, no one paying the rifle any heed.

At one end of the ravine was a giant cleft in the side of the sloping wall that the mud river appeared to be flowing out of. Stadely moved toward this hole, feeling muddy girls’ fingers touching his shoulders and back and hair as he went. The music got louder the closer he got, violating his eardrums with abrasive, electronic pounding.

When he entered the cave he raised his rifle to his shoulder, pointing it into the shadows ahead of him. The crowd thinned in the darkness and now the music was accompanied by the breathless gasps and cries of an actual orgy in progress. Stadely continued on deeper into the darkness until the sex noises faded and even the music was faint. Eventually he trudged up a slope out of the mud river and onto a slimy cave beach. A torch hung up on the rock wall beside a wooden door carved with ornate patterns. Stadely stood muddy and naked, his rifle leveled now at the door. Bartholomew! he called out. I’ve come back!

After a minute, the door swung open. A giant frog stood there, wearing a golden crown and a crimson robe. Stadely stumbled backward. His hands shook as they gripped his rifle. The frog advanced, opening its giant, toothless mouth. Inside the huge mouth floated the disembodied head of a beautiful woman. The woman’s dead eyes stared and Stadely felt his bones go cold. The frog closed its mouth and swallowed the head. Friend of yours? the frog finally asked. It then grabbed Stadely by the neck and squeezed. Stadely was forced to drop his gun. He had to use both hands to pry the slimy fingers back.

That—was—my—wife, Stadely said, between gasps. The frogs eyes laughed. You should have told her to stay out of the ravine, it said. Its mouth opened again and closed around Stadely’s head. Stadely reached up and jammed his fingers into the monster’s eyes and held on as the frog flailed back and forth. Finally his head popped out, dripping with gooey green fluid. He fell to the ground, holding his neck. Then he rolled over to grab his gun and fired up at the thing’s chest, emptying all fifteen rounds. The frog king fell forward, crown toppling, hissing and whistling its final breaths before it splatted down on the mud.


When Stadely climbed up out of the mud river, the motorcycle cop was still waiting. He watched as Stadely brushed off as much of the mud as he could before pulling his clothes back on. He said nothing as Stadely walked past and got into his Pontiac.

The music was still thumping as he pulled away. He could hear the bass a mile or so down the road as the wind dried the mud in his hair. But fresh tears streaked down through the dirt on his cheeks. He cried all the way to the Turnpike. After he merged into the speeding traffic he felt a deep sense of peace. He hummed to himself until all coherent thought dissipated and his mind was finally blank.



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