by Dave Barry

What with the recent unsettling developments on the world political scene, particularly in the Middle East, I imagine that most of you are eager for a report on our yard.

We've moved to a new yard, which contains an alarming amount of nature. And I'm not talking about the friendly kind of yard nature that you get in, for example, Ohio ("The Buckeye State"), such as shrubbery and cute little furry baby buckeyes scampering around. I'm talking about the kind of mutant terroristic nature we get here in Florida ("The Assault Roach State"). For example, we have a kind of toad down here that, if you lick it, can kill you.

Now you're saying to yourself, "Yes, but who, aside from Geraldo Rivera, seeking improved ratings, would lick a toad?" The answer is: More and more people. According to news articles that alert readers keep sending me, there's a brand of toad (not the kind here in Florida) that secretes a hallucinogenic substance when it gets excited, and licking this toad has become a fad in certain circles.

Which raises a couple of questions in my mind, such as: Does this occur in social settings? Do you have a group of sophisticated people sitting around a dinner table, finishing their coffee, and one of them reaches suavely into his jacket pocket, pulls out this thing that looks like a giant wart with eyeballs, and then, lowering his voice suggestively, says, "Anybody want to do some *toad*?" Also, how do they get the toad excited?  Show it movies?  Give it a tiny marital aid? Also, will Free Enterprise try to cash in on this? Will Anheuser-Busch come out with a TV commercial wherein some rugged looking workmen, exhausted from  a hard day of not showing up at people's houses, relax by taking some man-sized slurps off a Toad Lite?

Unfortunately, I can't answer these questions, because I'm busy worrying about being killed by our mango tree. Our new yard has a mango tree, which I bet sounds like exotic fun to those of you who live in normal climates, right?  Just think of it! All the mangoes you need, right in your own yard!

The problem is that, mangowise, you don't need a whole lot. You take one bite, and that takes care of your mango needs until at least the next presidential administration. But the mangoes keep coming. They're a lot like zucchini, which erupts out of the ground far faster than you could eat it, even if you liked it, which nobody does, so you start lugging hundreds of pounds of zucchini to your office in steel-reinforced shopping bags, except, of course, they're
lugging in their zucchini, all summer long, tons of it coming in, until the entire office building collapses in a twisted tangle of girders, and telephone message slips, and zucchini pulp, out of which new vines start to spring immediately.

Mangoes are even worse, because (a) they grow in trees and (b) they're about the size of a ladies' bowling ball, only denser. They're the kind of fruit that would be designed by the Defense Department. They  hang way up in our tree, monitoring the yard and communicating with each other via photosynthesis and whenever they see me approaching, they fire off a Warning Mango, sending one of their number thundering to Earth, cratering our lawn and alarming seismologists as far away as Texas ("The Silly Hat State") Even on the ground, the mango remains deadly, because it immediately rots, and becomes infested with evil little flies, and if you try to kick it off the lawn, it explodes, a mango grenade, covering your body with a repulsive substance known to botanists as "mango poop" that stays on your sneakers forever, so that when you go out in public, your feet are obscured by a cloud of flies, and the Florida natives snicker and say to each other, "Look! That idiot kicked a mango!"

So I keep a wary eye on the mango tree at all times, which means I am in constant danger of falling into the Scum Vat. This was originally intended to be a small decorative pool with maybe a couple of cute little goldfish in it, but at some point a gang of aggressive meat-eating algae took over. If you tried to put some goldfish in there, you'd never get close. A tentacle of algae would come swooping up and grab them out of your hand, and then you'd hear an algae burp. The only thing that can survive in there, is the Giant Arguing Frogs. We've never actually seen them, but we hear them at night, when we're trying to sleep. They have a microphone hooked up to a 50,000-watt amplifier, and all night long they broadcast the following conversation:

FROG ONE:  Bwaaarrrrpppp.
FROG TWO (disagreeing):  Bwaaarrrrpppp.

You can tell they're never going to work it out. Some nights, lying in bed and listening to them, I've thought about going out there to mediate, but of course the algae would get me. You'd have to be some kind of dumb mango-kicker to pull a stunt like that. Better safe than sorry, that's my motto, which is why I'd like to remind all my readers, especially you impressionable young people, that if you *must* lick a toad, it should *not* be on the first date.

Dave *  Barry 1994


  Dave Barry 1994  - courtesy Miami Herald