Florida Frogs

(just kidding)


The frog plague:
The inside story

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published on Nov. 7, 1999.)


I'm wondering if any of you readers out there have noticed any suspicious behavior on the part of frogs. I ask because the ones at my house are definitely up to something.

I live in South Florida, which has a hot, moist, armpit-like climate that is very favorable for life in general. Everything down here is either already alive or about to be. You could leave your toaster out on your lawn overnight, and by morning it would have developed legs, a tail, a mouth, tentacles, etc., and it would be prowling around looking for slower, weaker appliances to prey on.

So I am used to wildlife. I am used to the fact that, as I walk from my car to the front door -- striding briskly to prevent fungus from growing on my body -- I will routinely pass lizards, snakes, spiders, snails and mutant prehistoric grasshoppers large enough for the Lone Ranger to saddle up and ride into the sunset on (''Hi-ho, Silver, AWAYYYEEEEEIIIKES!'').

My yard has also always had plenty of frogs. Until recently, these were plump, non-aggressive frogs who just sat there, looking pensively off into the distance, thinking frog thoughts (''How am I supposed to reproduce? I appear to lack organs!'')

But lately my yard has become infested with a whole new brand of frogs -- smaller, quicker, junior -- welterweight frogs that are extremely jittery, as though they spent their tadpole phase swimming around in really strong espresso. And for some reason these frogs desperately want to GET INSIDE MY HOUSE. They hide in crannies on my front stoop, waiting, and when I open the front door they suddenly HOP HOP HOP HOP HOP, and the stoop turns into the Oklahoma Land Rush, except that instead of hardy pioneers racing to claim homesteads, there are hordes of small, caffeine-crazed frogs bounding into my living room, moving far too fast for the human foot to stomp on.

The eerie thing is, within seconds, the invading frogs have ALL DISAPPEARED. Some go under the sofa, but many seem simply to vanish. I think maybe they've developed some kind of camouflage, so they can blend into the living-room environment by taking on the appearance of a carpet stain or (if they are really organized) a piano.

All I know is, the frogs go into my house, and they do not come out, which means that there are now, by conservative estimate, thousands of frogs hiding somewhere in my living room. This makes me nervous. I'm wondering if maybe it could be a plague.

I say this because my wife is Jewish, and each year her family comes to our house to celebrate Passover with a traditional Seder feast. I am not Jewish, but I always join in, on the theory that you should embrace as many religions as possible, because you never know. You could die and find yourself in an afterlife facing the eternal judgment of, for example, L. Ron Hubbard. So I participate in the Seder; in fact, at our house I always make the traditional matzo balls, using an ancient Presbyterian recipe. (The matzo balls symbolize the Old Testament story about how the Israelites, after following Moses all over the desert, finally came to a place where there was chicken soup.)

Anyway, there's this one point in the Seder ceremony when we all dip our fingers into our glasses of ancient traditional Manischewitz wine, and then we drop 10 wine droplets onto our plates while we say, out loud, the names of the 10 Plagues of Egypt, which are: blood, darkness, blight, slaying of the first born, wild beasts, lice, boils, locusts, hail and -- you guessed it --Leonardo DiCaprio.

No, seriously, one of the plagues is frogs. So I'm thinking that maybe, during the most recent Seder, when we were saying the plague names, we failed to make adequate wine droplets for the frogs. My concern is that this might have violated some clause in the Old Testament, such as the Book of Effusions, Chapter 4, Verse 7, Line 6, which states: ''And yea thou shalt BE sureth to maketh a GOOD frog droplet, for if thou shalt NOT, forsooth thou SHALT getteth a BIG plague of frogs, and they SHALT be of the JUNIOR-welterweight division, and they WILL hideth UNDER thine sofa.'' Or maybe there's some other cause. Maybe it's a Y2K issue, and these are non-compliant frogs. Whatever it is, I don't like it. I don't like sitting in my living room at night, watching the TV, knowing that all around me, hidden in the dark, thousands of beady little eyes are also watching the TV ... and maybe waiting for some secret signal. Perhaps you think I am crazy. Fine. Then perhaps you can explain to me why, when the frogs croak in the Budweiser commercial, my piano croaks back.