The toad

The boys found a toad in the watering can

He blinked out at us from its dark shelter

His throat swelling in and out

With a look that said

Well, here we are


We put him in a bucket

With grass clippings, leaves

A plastic bowl of water

And watched him jump

And jump

For a top that was

Just out of reach


I held him

His skin clammy and rough

Warty as any storybook toad

But delicate and light

A creature improbable


Feeling his miniature bones under thin skin

It seemed the slightest pressure

A sneeze or a stumble

Would send him across that

Narrowest of lines

Between life and death


When the kids asked to let him go

Relieved and proud

We tipped the bucket

And watched him hop

Guardedly around the yard


He wedged himself

At last

In a crack in the concrete

Ronan, worried about him,

Covered the crack with grass

For shade


Ronan cried for a long time

He was worried that the toad would die

We did our best to reassure him

That a toad living in Dallas

Knows how to get around

To the cool wet places


But he was unconsoled

He knew

We had messed with the toad

Taken its winding lifeline in our hands

And, however unwitting

Might have tangled it


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