Moira Peckham, BFR Editorial Staff
Ernest edged out of the field and onto the bare, cracked earth. The grass rustled behind him as he left it in his wake. The stone river stretched before him; the bank on the other side, shaded by poplars, shimmered under the summer sun. He put out a foot to test the water. Hot.
Too hot, really, Ernest mused. But unavoidable. The river wavered in front of his eyes. He squinted at it, shifting his head from left to right before stepping out onto it, bare feet crying at the heat.
Better be hasty. Ernest hated this part of the season. Every year the river had to be crossed, every year it was almost too hot to bear. His feet had been used to the cool earth by the pond and the shade of the grass, but now the pond was dry again and he had to cross the river. But the first step was always the hardest.
With the first step completed, Ernest felt his confidence blossom. Oh yes, he thought. This will be my fastest year yet. The sun radiated onto the skin of his back. He could feel it drying. Better be my fastest year yet. A few more steps and he trod across a particularly blistering patch of the river. The sensation made him jump. I can’t do it. I have to turn around. It’ s too much. I’m too old. His feet were growing increasingly uncomfortable now. Ernest’s breath quickened as his muscles told him to turn back. He was itching to obey. Ernest looked up to gaze at the poplars, who were sighing sweet things to him. No. No matter. I’m almost halfway there anyway.
It was true. Ernest could almost see through the poplars to where the land dipped down to the creek bed. He could almost smell the water. His skin shivered at the thought of the cool liquid. The whisper of the grass on the approaching bank invited him to move more quickly into their embrace.
Ernest complied, feet protesting as he hastened his stride. He was nearing the opposite bank. Only fifty more steps to go, he reckoned. Once he got to the other side he would be able to rest before continuing on to his spot by the creek. He almost wept at the thought. His eyes strained against the sun.
The edge of the river was fast approaching. Record time. The river shook. The river rumbled. Ernest paused and a shadow fell over him. His feet stopped hurting. The shadow moved away.
Cathy turned around in the front seat to see what had jostled under the truck, but they were already too far away to see.
“What d’you think that was?” she asked. Marcus glanced in the rear view mirror.
“I dunno. Bullfrog maybe.”
Cathy frowned, “What was it thinking? Crossing the road like that?”
“It’s a bullfrog, Cath. It wasn’t thinking anything.”