Dissecting Candice

Candice was 6 years old and on June 14th her small suburban town was hit with a very intense thunderstorm. The sky looked like Independence Day with thousands upon thousands of thunderous cracks and illuminating lightning bolts. It took precisely 4 and ˝ hours for the entire storm to calm, during which, lightning narrowly missed the family’s home several times. Candice’s mother had been caught in the storm somewhere along the interstate and had called Candice to make sure she was ok. Candice was fine, but her mother hated driving in the rain.

When the storm had tired and was only something of a drizzle, Candice stepped out into her front yard to feel the rain patter on her arms and legs. Her mother had told her not to “slip slide in the front yard” because her “new shorts” would get “grass stains”. Candice didn’t care one bit about grass stains or her new shorts, so she slip slided across her parent’s front lawn smearing grass and mud all over her and her new shorts.

When the young girl’s butt had seemed to come to a complete stop near the sidewalk, Candice picked herself up and tried as best she could to pat the mud and grass clippings off of her new shorts. She was hardly successful, but during the process she noticed a small shadow hopping along the ground. The shadow darted past her feet catching Candice’s left eye. “OH! A FROG,” Candice shouted with delight.

The bright-eyed little girl, as her grandmother used to say, went chasing after the frog, Ked’s and all. Candice pursued the frog through the gutter, past the mailbox, between the houses and up to the fence where she finally cornered the bouncing shadow and was ready to pounce. Hopping in much the same way as her prey, Candice leapt at the frog and caught him with both of her hands. She picked him up, looked him straight in the eye and called him Franklin.

Franklin disappeared a few months later. “I’m sorry honey but Franklin must have run away,” her father told her one Saturday afternoon. Candice never found out that her father, not wanting to upset his now 7-year-old girl, had lied to her. What had really transpired was that Candice’s parents, who had grown tired of the smell and constant upkeep of a wild frog, had “accidentally” let Franklin go from his plush shoebox. “It won’t really be a lie,” said Candice’s mother. “He really did run away.”

****

Six years later Candice began paling around with Danny Tarlson, a seventh grade boy who lived down the street from her parent’s house. Candice had a blooming crush on Danny, but she would have never admitted it to Danny’s face. The two spent large amounts of time together and on this particular after school day in April, the rain was pouring rather hard on the little suburban town. There was no lightning, no hail, no tornado warnings or even thunder. Just a strong steady rain that kept the two friends inside during the better half of the afternoon. 5 O’clock rolled by and finally the rain seemed to die down enough for the couple to go outside. “Look,” said Danny as soon as his feet touched the wet concrete. “A Frog!”

This brought several memories back for Candice, but she didn’t feel like repeating them to Danny, who was running as fast as he could after the little green shadow. “If you’re fast enough you can kick their heads clear across the street!”

“NO!” screamed Candice, but she was too late. Danny had been fast enough and had booted the frog with his pair of Nike’s. “Whoo hoo!” yelled Danny, “Now it’s your turn.”

Danny pointed at another frog that was hopping across the pavement and Candice, who didn’t really want to kick the frog, hesitated at the encouragement. “Hurry or you’ll miss ‘em!” shouted Danny. So Candice, wanting to impress Danny Tarlson, who would later cheat on her when they dated during their sophomore year of high school, sped after the frog and firmly kicked the poor thing halfway across the street. “Hahaha! That was great Candy,” said Danny. Candice, disgusted with herself, frowned and slumped down on the wet porch bench.

****

“He’s not worth your fucking time Candice,” said Jamie, Candice’s best friend and lab partner in Biology. “Sarah is such a little tramp and Danny’s dick is probably infested with something awful. Let the two of them live in skanky matrimony for the rest of their pathetic lives. He’s just not worth it.”

“Easy for you to say, you haven’t known him for four years,” sighed Candice as the bell signifying the beginning of the tardy period rang throughout the halls. Even though she had taken two Midol, the bells still felt like mallets on her eardrums. “I don’t know if I can take Mrs. Barnes today J.”

Mrs. Barnes was your typical Biology teacher. Manish and ready to dissect any living thing that wouldn’t dissect her first. Unfortunately for Candice and her now weakened stomach, this was a dissection day, and Mrs. Barnes came in fatigued for battle. Her smock was pulled taught enough that her oversized nipples were easily spotted underneath the three layers of clothing she normally wore and her rubber gloves were double layered. Today they would be getting extraordinarily messy. Today they would be dissecting…

“…FROGS. Now take out your textbook and turn to the laminates in the middle. You’ll see several screens that will show you the different layouts of a frogs insides. First, you’ll pierce through the skin and remove the outermost layer. Next, you’ll cut through the tissue and the muscles, exposing the organs that lie within the chest cavity. As you remove each of the organs, please label them correctly with your numbered pins and I will be around periodically to check your progress. Now remember, in two weeks you’ll have to regurgitate what you’ve learned here today on your midterm, so please pay attention, and although I shouldn’t have to warn you, do not throw any portion of the frog. Doing so will result in a severe loss of points. Now, begin.”

“I can’t do this J…” Candice whispered. “I’m starting to feel sick.”

“Just pretend like it’s Danny,” Jamie whispered back. “Just be especially brutal to the crotch region…like this.” Jamie took a pair of scissors and plunged them into the dead frog’s lap.

Candice turned a pale shade of white and tossed both of her utensils into her black rubber tray. She sat there staring at the frog that oddly resembled a war torn soldier. “Please just get this over with and toss me into the garbage,” the frog told Candice. “And tell my wife and kids I love them.”

“Oh my God. I can’t do this…Mrs. Barnes…may I?” Candice’s request was stopped short when a piece of Frog landed in her hair. Her face went from white to red to blue to green and she turned and vomited in the nearest trashcan. The last thing she heard as she was running out of the door to the bathroom was Mrs. Barnes horrible cackle of, “DANNY TARLSON…”

****

Rice wasn’t a decent school by any stretch of the imagination. Rice was an excellent school, and Candice had spent her junior and senior years working her ass off to get accepted. She had even received a full scholarship based on her SAT scores (1573 to be exact). Candice didn’t have to have the usual college waitress or retail store clerk job. Her parents were paying her rent and the school was paying tuition so Candice had more time on her hands than she knew what to do with. Even with constant studying toward her Marine Biology degree, she still found time to get bored. So, in March of her junior year, she joined a group of liberal environmentalists who opposed the ongoing animal research at the University. Everything from rats to pigs to monkeys and humans were being researched in the highest levels of the university system and it was pissing her and her friends off.

She had met a boy named Theo shortly after joining the group and the two clicked right from the start. Theo was a philosophy major who did the bulk of his philosophizing into a red journal that he kept with him at all times. He was an avid backpacker, reader, and intellect who stimulated Candice’s mind as well as her body. The two spent hours upon hours together where they would dream up elaborate schemes to overthrow world bureaucracy. They would right the wrongs of the establishment together or die trying. It was sometime in mid July that the two came up with the scheme that would have a drastic impact on their life together.

Candice, Theo, and a group of 4 others would sneak into the animal research facility on campus during the evening of July 26th. They had obtained several key cards from one of Theo’s friends who had just begun working as the building’s overnight security guard. Theo’s friend would make sure the group stayed well aware of security cameras and alarm systems. The group, who called themselves Redfield, would sneak in, liberate any animals that they could, and get out in a matter of minutes. Then plan seemed fool proof and actually worked like clockwork.

During the emancipation, Candice stumbled upon a cage that housed a solitary frog. Hours later Candice would find out that the frog was a Californian Red-Legged frog, being housed by Rice University to research various recovery efforts for the endangered species. Candice just thought it was a great looking frog, so she picked him up, named him Liberty, and took off out the door.

This would be added to her list of charges: Possession of an endangered species.

After the preverbal shit hit the fan after the July 26th incident, Theo’s security guard gave up each and every one of the Redfield names in order to lower his sentence to mere aiding and abetting. Theo would go away for 7 years and Candice would be paroled in 6 months. The two wondered if they would ever see each other again.

****

Candice was now in between jobs, having just lost her bank teller position due to a drastic cut back in personnel. She was pounding the pavement, but she wasn’t necessarily seeking employment. Candice was shopping for her son’s fourth birthday, which would be coming up the a little under two weeks. The August heat pushed upon her skin like a thousand pins and needles and made her steady climb up the parking lot nearly unbearable. Candice was feeling a hell of a lot older than she actually was; 35.

She had married in December at the age of 26. After her jail time and subsequent expulsion, she began working a series of dead end jobs, eagerly waiting for Theo’s release from prison. She had met Thomas while working as a checker for the corner grocery store and her future husband took to Candice, who was still very attractive, instantly. He suddenly became a regular customer and the two would find themselves talking nightly outside the store during her various cigarette breaks. Over time, the memory of Theo began to fade into her subconscious and would reappear only in her most violent of nightmares.

Just before her 30th birthday Candice received a letter in the mail. When she opened it she found an article from the Houston Chronicle reporting on the release of a Theodore Granville. Candice had no idea that Theo’s last name was Granville. She spent the rest of the day next to a bottle of Gin. There was no return address on the letter.

Today however, she had found the perfect present for her son, Elijah. It was the most brilliant blue and green kite she had ever seen in her life. It reminded her of her son’s eyes so she bought it for $14.95. Her son would love the kite and fly it every weekend for close to four months.

On her way out of the store Candice caught something out of the corner of her eye. She turned a full 90 degrees to notice a small and frail looking frog hop across the parking lot. She stopped and watched as the little frog leapt across the gravel and a smile arose upon her face. She remembered Danny for the first time since college. She remembered throwing up in Mrs. Barnes’ class. She remembered Jamie who was now an advertising executive in Chicago. She remembered Theo and Liberty and the rest of the Redfields. She remembered the security guard, and laughed out loud.

****

Thomas had passed away 3 months, 14 days and 5 hours ago. She stopped keeping track of the minutes after her stroke. It was just to damned much to keep up with if you included the minutes too.

Every thought, waking and sleeping, was of Thomas who had died of lung cancer. “He didn’t even smoke,” Candice said to her television set.

Her children’s children had all grown up, and Candice and Thomas had become Great Grandparents a little under a year ago. There was really nothing left for her to do anymore. She seemed to enjoy watching the soaps…but only because the characters were young. The mailman would come daily, between 3:32 and 3:35. He would knock on the door and slip the mail through the brass slot that Thomas had installed some time ago. Candice wouldn’t recognize the mailman’s face in a lineup. She had never seen him before.

The telephone hadn’t rung in three days. Stephanie, her youngest child, had called on Tuesday to see how her mother was feeling. “Fine,” Candice told her, “Just a little tired.”

“Well I think we’ll bring the kids down this weekend Mom,” Stephanie told her.

“Really? That would be very nice.” Candice replied and then set the receiver down.

It had started to rain on the little house. Candice, over time, had grown less and less fond of the rain and more and more appreciative of the sunshine. “The rain makes my knees ache,” Candice had told Thomas once.

As Candice made her way to the living room window to draw the blinds, she took a quick peek out into the gray world that was hovering above her tiny home. She focused on the dark and listened as best she could to the thunder as it cracked overhead. Growing weak, she drew the curtains and returned to the warmth. She didn’t notice the mud that was collecting in her front yard, or the stream that was filling her gutter. She didn’t notice the two kids across the street that were getting their new clothes dirty. And as she exhaled and sat down in her recliner, she didn’t notice the tiny frog jumping quietly through the rain.

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