CHAPTER 8

UNDER THE BLEACHERS

The wind was still that day, I remember. During the lunch which I always forewent, I made my way to where I could be alone, in this case outdoors, under the bleachers of the football field, where the sun shone through in only the tiniest of bands. Later in the afternoon the field would be a hive of activity but for now it was quiet. I sat in the untrodden dirt adjusting the skirt of my school uniform. I placed my school bag next to me carefully, since through its fabric the oblong board to which the frog was pinned stretched the fibers to near breaking point if one wasn’t careful. I unzipped the bag with no less unconsidered dexterity, and removed the hideous diorama of death. With the wind being still I knew I was alone. My ears told me so.


With the frog prone beside me, I leafed through the manual of Vodou. Say what you may about the perfunctory manner of this book, it was perfectly adequate as an introduction to and a manual of sorts for the arts in question. It covered what it needed to, the African pre-history, the migration to Haiti, the mutations upon this, a survey of the deities both major and lesser, a short history with delineations of the bokor, and, vital to my cause, a simple catalog of rites, in Haitian Creole. I found a passage that I had identified in biology class. It was an incantation. No English translation was provided, not for this nor for any other transcriptions of the rites. The Haitian Creole language though was a transfiguration of the French, and this I recognized, since French was my high school language study of choice. And even though I was a poor student in any class, French seeped into me, and was often the language that I dreamt in, so strangely it came more easily to me than my native tongue, at least to my subconscious. I hunched over to speak to the frog, the book in one hand, and I whispered the Creole words, as if they were French.


“Nou jis... lanmò, manman an jenn fi, sove lavi a nan timoun sa a...”

 

Nothing happened.


Surely this was an issue of pronunciation, so I tried different versions and accents, enough variations of the diction to cover all possibilities. It took several minutes and soon I felt I had exhausted the process, but still there was no sign of anything happening to the frog. Not that I knew what to expect. Would it twitch? Would it hop back to life, smile and kiss my cheek? Yes, even I wasn’t immune to the comic absurdity of it all. Somehow when I was naked and covered with oil in a midnight field trying to turn myself into a she-wolf at age ten, I think then I had more dignity. At least then I was exploring some small compartment of my identity. Whispering gibberish to a dead frog was bordering on the stupidly goofy. And yet, possessing as I was of logic and respecting the scientific process, I labored dutifully until reason dictated that this practice was folly indeed. I sat up and smiled to myself. Sometimes it’s comforting to be a fool. I casually spoke two words of my own invent toward the supine frog, this time in my semi- native French, two small words spoken mockingly to finalize my failure.


“...eveiller... ...zombi...”

The frog moved.


It was ever so subtle, but there it was for me to see, its right front leg straining ever so slightly against the nail holding it firm. I remember distinctly not feeling even a trace of shock or alarm, merely interest, and a resolve to repeat the experiment. I leaned in even more and made my whisper definite.


“...eveiller... ...zombi...”

And with the new clarity of the phrase the body of the frog in its entirety rose up in anger against its constraints, and in the quick it was done, and to the suddenness of this seizure I responded in kind, and flung the unholy corpse, board and all, into a narrow band of darkness and dirt in the tiniest reaches of the dim under the bleachers, before grabbing my bag and leaving that immoral altar in the utmost haste, vowing to forego any further investigations of this ilk forever, convinced of its unnatural essence, a crime against the beauty of what has passed.