Etiquette & superstition: frogs


There’s a neighborhood near my house that is known as Frogtown. It’s apparently called Frogtown because of its proximity to the LA River, and the former proliferation of toads around said river. Some people apparently don’t know the difference between frogs and toads. Anybody with a passing interest in etiquette and/or superstition should be able to distinguish the two, however. Today we will only focus on frogs.

ETIQUETTE: Frogs’ legs are a big pain in the neck to eat properly. You can only pick them up with your fingers after you have used a knife and fork to pry the bones apart and pull off the majority of the meat. Pretty much the only thing that is good about frog meat is that it is permissible to eat on Friday even if your religion has a “no meat on Fridays” restriction. For purposes of church dietary law, frogs are considered fish. So are beavers.

SUPERSTITION: A frog possesses the soul of a dead child, so it’s unlucky to kill one. An exception can be made, however, if you have cancer. Swallowing a bunch of small frogs whole is your best cure in that case, and if you already have cancer you’re pretty unlucky as it is, so you might as well try it.

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  1. Giant Toad

    I am too big. Too big by far. Pity me.
    My eyes bulge and hurt. They are my one great beauty, even
    so. They see too much, above, below. And yet, there is not much
    to see. The rain has stopped. The mist is gathering on my skin
    in drops. The drops run down my back, run from the corners of
    my downturned mouth, run down my sides and drip beneath
    my belly. Perhaps the droplets on my mottled hide are pretty,
    like dewdrops, silver on a moldering leaf? They chill me
    through and through. I feel my colors changing now, my pig-
    ments gradually shudder and shift over.
    Now I shall get beneath that overhanging ledge. Slowly. Hop.
    Two or three times more, silently. That was too far. I’m
    standing up. The lichen’s gray, and rough to my front feet. Get
    down. Turn facing out, it’s safer. Don’t breathe until the snail
    gets by. But we go travelling the same weathers.
    Swallow the air and mouthfuls of cold mist. Give voice, just
    once. O how it echoed from the rock! What a profound, angelic
    bell I rang!
    I live, I breathe, by swallowing. Once, some naughty children
    picked me up, me and two brothers. They set us down again
    somewhere and in our mouths they put lit cigarettes. We could
    not help but smoke them, to the end. I thought it was the death
    of me, but when I was entirely filled with smoke, when my slack
    mouth was burning, and all my tripes were hot and dry, they
    let us go. But I was sick for days.
    I have big shoulders, like a boxer. They are not muscle,
    however, and their color is dark. They are my sacs of poison,
    the almost unused poison that I bear, my burden and my great
    responsibility. Big wings of poison, folded on my back. Beware,
    I am an angel in disguise; my wings are evil, but not deadly. If
    I will it, the poison could break through, blue-black, and
    dangerous to all. Blue-black fumes would rise upon the air.
    Beware, you frivolous crab.

    Elizabeth Bishop

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