Jacob Bern
Published in

Jacob Bern

The King

One summer a rainy afternoon had carried on into a rainy evening.
Traveling home the little wipers smeared their way back and forth across the windshield
Trying to keep up with the downpour.
Driving slowly along Fairlane Ave, just past the pond and a curve in the road
Jacob and Raymond both squinted and leaned forward in their seats.
Something that was not a rock was resting in the road.
The car was slowing further and the headlights were reflecting off the object, and it looked almost white.
"Is it a cat?" he looked at his father then back to the road.
Ray's expression told him he wasn't sure either.
Just then the white-ish thing leaped at least 3 feet.
A bunny. Of course.
Even as Jacob thought it and felt some cognitive relief for identifying the mystery,
something was still unsettled.
Where were the ears?
His forehead wrinkled again.
The car was even closer now and then he heard his father's shocked realization:
"Good Lord it's a frog! Get it! Get! Get it!"
Jacob felt a spiraling electric thrill race through his mind and body.
It was a frog! A massive, cat-size frog!
And his father, the master of animals, had asked him to catch it.

It took a full second for Jacob's body to respond to his enthusiasm
And then he was out the door and into the rain.
Jacob had already seen how far the frog could leap and knew that with only two hops it would be gone into the gurgling ditch and its tall grass.
The frog was clearly not white, he could see that now, but it still seemed to shine in the splattering beam of the headlights.

He approached from behind, arms extended, eyes fixed, rain now dripping down his neck.
At any moment the frog would vault away and he was prepared to leap after it
Wrestling in the muddy gravel if he had to in order to achieve his aim.
He knew from multiple previous frog encounters that he needed to have his grip and pressure just right.
Too loose and it would get away. Too tight and he would hurt it.
The seconds before he pounced, Jacob could see the bulging throat and the bumpy contours of the hulking squish.
To his relief and amazement the frog, giant, wet, and slippery, did not leap
and his hands latched on just behind the mouth and across the back
preventing it from using its powerful legs.
Jacob worked his fingers under the bulge of the bullfrog's belly.
"He's huge!"
The driver side door creaked opened and he heard his father's voice:
"You got 'em?"
They both stood there in the rain staring down at the biggest frog they'd ever seen.

Jacob hoisted the beast up close to his body and walked back to the car.
His father sat down and leaned over to push open the passenger door.
Jacob sat down and beamed at his father.
Ray's smile was the widest Jacob could remember and he let out a laugh.
"Man, he is big! Nice job!"
He put the car into drive.
"Your mother is going to love this!"

The mass of sliming wet skin pulsed in his hands and forearms.
Jacob felt his eyes water with delight.
Driving slowly the rest of the way home, they saw a few regular frogs hop along.
Any other time they might have been more excited to see them,
but having seen and captured a king, pawns were of no consequence.

Back at the house his father rummaged through the barn and eventually settled on a five-gallon bucket.
The frog seemed to ooze over the ends of Jacob's hands as he set him inside
Surprised at how little of the bottom of the bucket was left to see.

Triumphantly entering the kitchen through the back door
Father and son showed their prize to the only woman they cared to impress.
Sarah's wide eyes further confirmed to Jacob that this was the king of all frogs, and he said so.
His father nodded approvingly.
"Well, a group of frogs is called an army."
"How do you know it's a male frog?"
His mother's question caught Jacob off guard, and he soon was following the point of his father's finger.
"You see that big round thing by the eye? That's its ear. Male frogs have big ones and females have smaller ones."
"We should take it to church tomorrow and show my class!"
Jacob regretted saying this, believing that by saying the words aloud he had already secured a rejection.
"He'd need a bow tie." His father chuckled. "Can't go to church naked."
Beaming Jacob swelled in height and darted his eyes from left to right, from his father, to his mother, then back again.
He said a silent little boy prayer with the rapid fervency that only eager children can give.
He couldn't read her.
Raymond broke the silence.
"I can keep him in the bucket. Bring him in at the end of class. Keep the chaos to a minimum."

Whether she consented because she wanted her husband to be inside the church for any reason, or because she wanted to please the two men that meant more to her than anyone else, Jacob never knew.
But he went to bed that night gazing at the ceiling with smiling visions
of his frog in a suit and top hat.

The next morning Jacob prepared for church with an unusual enthusiasm that made his mother laugh. Raymond had the bucket in the back seat,
a small puddle of pond water lapping his chubby legs.
The air outside was cool and moist.

Parking the car at the church house, Raymond patted Sarah's leg twice and she kissed him before exiting.
"I'll keep the frog company."
Before entering the building, Jacob looked back longingly at the yellow Datsun under the gentle shade,
His father's elbow protruding from the open window.

Sitting through church Jacob learned a little something about what eternity might feel like, waiting the nearly three hours for his father to unveil the king.
He of course had repeatedly described to his classmates and Sunday School teacher that his Dad was coming
and that he would show them "the biggest frog you've ever seen in your life."
While many of his peers were certainly interested,
most doubted his description of how big it was.
But Jacob could still feel the cool squishy wetness in his hands as he held them up to show its size.
"He's like, the king of all frogs."
For some, Jacob's typical reticence in class suggested he was telling the truth.
For others, it was evidence his lone witness could not be trusted.

At 11:55, there were two short knocks and the door to his classroom opened.
His father's bearded face leaned in.
"All you can come see the giant bullfrog Jacob caught when your class is over. I have it in my car over by the walnut tree."
He glanced at Jacob, then the teacher, nodded, and was gone.

Any disappointment Jacob felt over being further delayed, was made up for by the testimony of his father that it was he who had made the catch.
Soon seven children were spilling into the hallway,
the one or two more conscientious urgently seeking out their parents for permission,
and the rest running to the tree.
Raymond was there, leaning against the car,
hatchback open and the top of the white bucket signaling.

A chorus of exclamations and chatter surrounded the bearded man in jeans and open collar flannel.
Is that real?
Did you really catch it?
Can I touch it?
It's so big!
Ew! Don't touch it you'll get warts all over!
What does it eat?
My dad says frog legs taste like chicken.
Oh please don't eat it Mr. Bern!

Raymond laughed and responded as best he could to the barrage.
Some children ran off to proselytize their siblings or parents.
Intrigued adults made their way over.
Some mothers came with recoiling shoulders and sideways high-heeled steps to retrieve their uncompliant sons.
And soon the congregation beneath the walnut tree was electric.
Father and son had never been more pleased.
They had facilitated the excitement and interest of others without being the center of attention themselves.

Two days later, Jacob and his father walked to the edge of the pasture
where the irrigation overflow collected into a small pond.
Jacob, being lighter and better able to navigate the mud
carried the king to the edge of the water and set him down.

Jacob crouched and waited.
The frog sat.
Jacob looked back at his father who stood motionless.

Reaching down again Jacob gave the frog one little poke
And startled at his launch of 4-5 feet through the air and into the water.
With two kicks, he was in the center of the pond
Revealing for the first time his full stature.
The king hovered for a moment, then dashed below like a fish.



What if you could see your grandfather as a child? See his enthusiasm and innocence? What if you could be witness to his gradual emotional and spiritual decay? Would you not reach out with earnest hands to help bring him home? This is a story of redemption.

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