“Wow! You gettin’ this Danny Blue?”
“What?” The mention of frogs had made him think about the one in his back pack, about what would happen if he ate it.
“The old man. Talkin’ bout how Froggtown got named Froggtown.”
“Valerie told me.”
“Valerie? Oh, yeah, I’m sor–– Oh! Oh! Dude! Check this out, that guy who used to work at the store in the book department was out here looking for you awhile ago. What’s his name, Duke Ellington or something like that?”
“Ellison. His brother’s name was Ellington.”
“No shit!? His brother was Duke Ellington?”
“No. One is Ellington and one is Ellison.”
“Oh yeah? Ellison and Ellington. They twins or somethin’?”
“Used to be.”
“This old man’s really gettin’ off talkin’ bout the South way back when.”
“The Union soldiers that lived turned back and joined up with some’a General Sherman’s boys when they went to Savannah and found the women and the men with their clothes on, standin’ outside the city like lost pilgrims and saints, swearin’ bout how they always treated their niggers good and please don’t burn down their pretty little city. So they left it standin’ just like Bubbaville was left standin’ on account’a the frogs that saved it.”
“You really believe all that?”
“No I don’t believe it. I know it for a fact. Just like I know the people in Bubbaville failed to appreciate the fact that their lives, and their homes, and their women’s virtue had been spared. You think they said thank you to them frogs? They got torches and kerosene and set a fire that burned for days to drive the frogs back into the swamp. Strange thing was, all those burnin’ frog bodies should’a smelled horrible but they didn’t. Made Bubbaville smell like one’a dem French cities where they got the perfume factories. That was their sign right there that Gawd had sent them frogs to save this town. But they ignored it. Yes they did. That was why they suffered so bad a couple decades later when the flies and mosquitoes brought the killer fever out from the old rice fields. And that’s when we come to the second story of the second time the frogs come and save Bubbaville.”
“Old man please, that’s a ton of––”
“Shut up and let him talk!”
“Yeah, we wanna know happened! What happened old dude? I mean sir. Please.”
“What happened was what I just said. Flies and mosquitoes brought a fever out from the old rice fields where they used to work the Africans brought in from that country with that pretty name: Sierra Leone. You hear that name? Sierra Leone. Sound like a bride waitin’ for her groom on their marriage night, don’t it? Sierra Leone.
“The fever killed twice as many white folks as it did black folks. But fact is back then you couldn’t walk down a single street without hearin’ somebody moanin’ out they sufferin’. Couldn’t go to bed at night without wonderin’ if you was gon wake up the next morning and have the fever yourself. And couldn’t sleep anyway cause everytime somebody died you’d hear screamin’ and your nerves got so bad couldn’t do nothin’ but get drunk and pray. The government put a quarantine on the city and wouldn’t let nobody out. The only one’s they let in was family people who had been away and doctors who tried to help. Once they entered they couldn’t leave neither.
“My granddaddy was the one who had the dream that told them what they had to do. He went and told it to the mayor hisself. Granddaddy said he dreamed the angel come to him with a frog on each one’a his shoulders. The angel told him that the arrogance and hypocritical ways of the people in Bubbaville had done offended Gawd’s nostrils with a powerful stench. It would behoove them, said the angel, for them to correct themselves immediately. Granddaddy was so scared standin’ in front’a that angel his mouth dropped right open. When it did, both those frogs jumped off the angel’s shoulder and went straight down my granddaddy’s mouth until he woke up chokin’. Granddaddy knew just what that dream meant when he woke up, only he was too scared to say at first. He didn’t go to the mayor until the fever took his own wife, my grandmamma––God bless her soul I never knew her––just two days later. Then he knew he couldn’t wait. So he told the mayor.
“Well the mayor had done already lost his mama and his daddy to the fever and now his wife was sick with it. And it was his wife, layin’ there in her sick bed, who told the mayor what the dream meant before he could even try to tell it. She said they had to change the name of the town to Frogtown, and that if he did, Gawd would take the fever away. With people dyin’ left and right and day and night like they was, he ain’t had nothin’ to lose so he called an emergency meetin’ of the city council and they voted unanimously to change the name of Bubbaville to Frogtown.
"As soon as they passed that vote and announced the new name of the town in the newsaper the next day, you could see and hear frogs some’a everywhere. Just’a croakin’ and slurpin’, croakin’ and slurpin’ all over the city, eatin’ up flies and mosquitoes. It was a mighty and fearful thing to live through. In about a week, the frogs ate up all the flies and mosquitoes. One night the croakin’ just stopped and the next day all the frogs was gone. Another week after that, the fever was all gone too. People came outside their houses for the first time in months, crying about who all had died and testifyin’ to the miracle of the frogs saving their town for the second time in its history. It was because the frogs had saved them twice that they spelled the new name with two g’s: Froggtown.”
“I never heard nothin’ like that in my life.”
“Well just let your young ass keep on livin’ boy and you might hear a whole lot more you ain’t never heard. Shit, if you think you heard somethin’ today, you need to be around some years from now when people gonna be talkin’ about the Great Worker that came among them without them even knowin’ it.”
“The Great Worker? What––
“Alright, alright, you folks need to get back to your cars,” said a policeman. “The traffic is startin’ to move again and you’re holdin’ it up. Come on now. That was a nice story sir, helped pass some time. You need any help?”
PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR UNCUT GOODIES Part 4, notes from the editorial conference on Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World
© November 2007