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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Frog and Toad are Friends

 Rabbit’s truck flashes on the screen. “Hey,” says Babe. “There’s a body up here. It’s not Frog’s.” “Who?” “Hold on.” Babe’s stomach becomes a frozen yolk, but she’s also annoyed. How like Rabbit to call with half the details. Silence, shuffling, she hears him huff his breath out, “it’s Griselda.” “Fuck,” says Babe, and then a beat later, “why’s it always got to be a woman?” “You know why,” says Rabbit. 

“What do you need,” Babe asks. It’s the usual. Tarps, bleach, a control box. “Because I’ve just got a control box? Out back by the swingset? Under the bed?” It’s not a dig. She’s the parent who makes a scrambling desert one-story into a whole-volume house. “Or maybe in the—“ “Go to my place,” says Rabbit. He’s not angry the way he might’ve been in the past when Babe’s sarcasm “didn’t solve anything.” “Break the lock on the trailer, the red one.” She nods to herself. Okay. She can do that. “Where’s your place?” Babe asks. It’s been two years. That’s nothing in Rabbit-time. “It’s on Apache,” he says. All their roads named for exterminated neighbors and celestial bodies. Babe lives on Starfast. StarFAT the children call it. StarFART. Truth, she thinks. “Okay,” she says. “Left at the gas station, back a mile, you’ll see the fence.” He doesn’t have to tell her the gas station has been a decade abandoned, or that every window from the highway to his place smashed in with a rock. She grabs a snake stick, a taser, a gallon of water. “Lock this behind me,” she says to the eldest. 

Babe’s got the kind of headache that comes from too much coffee, expired benzos, a lack of human contact. She can’t remember if she’s even hugged one of the children since Frog went missing. She makes a note to do this. Her shoulders roll up and out like she’s trying to take flight. She cinches them as she drives, the dirt road rattles them loose. It’s less a fence than a wall, but less a wall than a heap. Rabbit’s been embedding all his trash in concrete. All the trash from the trailers, neighbors’ trash, it looks like? Where’s he gotten it all? Wrappers glare red, orange, twisted into the rough gray blocks. Blue and green plastic bottles that’ll never see the ocean. Industrial crap, its wires running the top of the wall in low places. Babe can make out the broken glass that might deter someone from leaping the wall, mostly tourists. Rabbit doesn’t make it too hard for those in need to find him. It’s not invitation, it’s a long held pact. She sees where a makeshift gate opens. The combination is her birthday. Her real one, not the one Big Think gave her. “Fuckin’ Rabbit,” she mumbles. It feels cooler up here, above town, and she knows Rabbit gets a little snow now and then. The children beg to see it. “It’s just a few flakes,” she shushes them. Pulling the spiked chain clear of the drive so she doesn’t lose a tire, Babe thinks she’s not up for the labor. She’s only been able to hike the ridge to Frog’s a few months. She’s only stopped tremoring a few months ago. She’s only fronting. Back in the car she navigates between outbuildings, burn piles, clusters of yucca. Some quails go trilling in front of her car. “Why did the quail cross the road?” Her children ask. “So he could cross it again.” They do seem to spend the day scooting from one side to the other, giddy about what they might find or have left. Trailers sit and puzzling angles. One of these buildings is where Rabbit lives. She can’t guess which. There’s the red one. It’s rust red with the words RED STUFF spray painted blood red across the side. She’s got a can of that stuff that freezes and cracks a lock. She’s got bolt cutters Rabbit gave her a few birthdays back. A dozen birthdays back. Geezus. Ten minutes later she can wrench the tailgate open. She pops on a headlamp and directs her gaze systematically. 6 control boxes. Who knows what’s piled behind them.