The Toad is right up there with the viper when it comes to expressions of morality in literature. He’s the method by which feminine goodness is put to the test and the punishment for mean or shrewish behaviour. What then, is the meaning of this?
I like to sit in the garden when it’s dark. The cloak of darkness brings privacy and I enjoy that moment when the sun fades and a feeling of stillness begins to make its presence felt. There is a big old rat that takes short cuts across the garden. I’ve never seen it but others have. The rat doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother the rat. So, when I heard a rustling in the shrubbery I assumed that was just Ratty making his nightly foray into next doors garden. It was not.
Tilting an ear for clues as to what that was, lurking in the undergrowth, a toad hopped onto the seat next to me and settled itself in. I knew it was a toad because I had initially mistaken it for a fallen leaf. Putting my hand down to sweep it away was how the toad and I became acquainted.
Acquainted might be a bit of a stretch. It was more of a blind date moment when you suddenly realise that you had better make your escape, by any means possible, for fear of impending physical proximity. I fled inside, but as I was closing the kitchen door, the toad made a dash for it and vanished into, or under, the sofa.
The Right Hand Neighbour was away so I needed a plan. I am not the first woman to have wondered how to dislodge a toad from the sofa but I might be the first one to have done it with Tupperware. With little chance of being able to see my unwelcome guest, I threw down Tupperware containers in the hope of entrapment, and waited for the sound of toad against plastic. Not on the first attempt, it has to be said, it worked. Once caught, I threw him out.
Cleaning up the mess was not the end of the matter. The toad was throwing himself against the door and was still at it when I switched off the lights and went to bed.
It’s habitual, to throw open the kitchen door first thing in the morning. In came the toad. It was no good trying to deter him. Once a toad commits to a course of action he has no choice but to see it through. He simply doesn’t have the means to reverse, but he did have all the toad moves. Not even Tupperware could do it this time. What was I to do? Should I call for assistance and change the locks?
I’ve been vigilant. I didn’t want to live with a toad but that toad now makes himself known whenever he gets a chance. He’s leapt courgettes, scaled tables, settled on benches and even tried to share a glass of water.
No matter how revolted I am at the prospect of the companionship of a toad, he’s ground me down. Unless I stay inside with the doors locked or can impose upon the Right Hand Neighbour to lie in wait, I’m stuck with that toad.
I cannot help but wonder if, in the telling of this tale, it should be woven as a test of femininity, in which it took a toad to show me the error of my selfish ways. Or, is it simply that if you can’t reliably see that toad you are probably stuck with him?
The toad has moved in. I’m thinking of naming him Roger or Trevor. That’s another story.