a sample from Frog Poet


A frog or, perhaps (Buck-Teeth wasn’t sure) a toad, crept out of a clump of weeds and squatted, facing, as Buck-Teeth did, the lowering sun that was just now starting to bloody the clouds.

“Welcome, Lucky!” Buck-Teeth said softly, not wanting to scare him away.

Lucky (or, in Buck-Teeth’s Japanese, “Fuku”), fat and ponderous, grimaced at the great, lowering star—not that he or even Buck-Teeth realized, as we do today in our modern, scientific age, that the sun is a star.

The first time he had caught sight of Lucky creeping out of those same weeds, one hundred sunsets ago, he had instantly named him such to honor his haiku master Cup-of-Tea—who more than once had immortalized in verse his own “Lucky the Frog.” Buck-Teeth’s Lucky reminded him of Cup-of-Tea’s Lucky, which in turn called to mind Cup-of-Tea himself, whose earthly remains had passed into smoke and ashes five years before. This is why Buck-Teeth smiled.

He spoke now, keeping his tone soft and frog-friendly. “My master Cup-of-Tea wrote about many of your honorable ancestors, Lucky. He had a soft spot in his heart for you frogs.”

Lucky said nothing, his huge gullet expanding and contracting slowly. The red, lowering star now touched, or seemed to touch, a distant hill. Buck-Teeth and Lucky and the entire mountainside were awash in a magical, pink light. Lucky’s eyes, Buck-Teeth saw, looked shiny-wet.

Those eyes inspired a memory. Buck-Teeth, excited, dared to speak louder: “My master Cup-of-Tea once wrote of a moment like this!

tears shine in a frog’s eyes

When the last word of his recitation had passed his lips, Buck-Teeth realized something: his own eyes were filled with tears—human tears—blurring and warping the world of pink sunset light.

He was weeping so softly, he only now noticed it.

Lucky the Frog was, maybe—maybe not—weeping too. But, definitely, his eyes shone and glittered wetly, just as Cup-of-Tea’s long-ago frog’s eyes had done, according to the haiku.

To regain his composure, Buck-Teeth covered his face with his hands and counted to seventeen. When he reached seventeen, the auspicious number of language sounds in a proper Japanese haiku, he removed his hands from his face and discovered that Lucky the Frog had changed positions, had boldly approached him for the first time in a hundred sunsets, and now sat squat and fat directly in front of Buck-Teeth, staring up at him with implacable, brilliantly wet eyes.

Buck-Teeth didn’t know whence the realization—the absolute certainty!—came, but when it came, it hit him with the brutal clarity of a thunderbolt.

“Master?” he whispered to the wide-eyed, weeping frog.