Thursday, 1 May 2014

A Very Quiet Guest

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014
    
     My first introduction to Mr Frederick Hibernia Wilder was entirely compassed with mystery. He was not apparently as he appeared, but was in fact from a kingdom misrepresented by his lurid aspect. In fact, this luridness led me to assume that he was a figment of my historically schizophrenic imagination.
     It was shortly after the promising spring of this year, 2012, in the great land of Aus, city of splendid Sydney, a vibrant capitol that noteworthy scientists are averring has its twin in a parallel Universe, one morning having chosen to head up to the nearby supermarket for the milk for the morning wake-up coffee instead of emergency black, I noticed upon a bunched towel outside my downstairs’ neighbour's place, wetted with recent rain, a very large, viridescent maple leaf. I stopped and had a good look but the object was still probably an overgrown maple leaf, but like I said I just wasn’t sure. Had we maple trees at my block of flats Mr Wilder may have been more seriously harmed, or worse.
     I promised myself not to further investigate this obvious psychosis, somehow giving it credence thereby. I headed up to the nearby supermarket and bought the milk, studiously avoiding this area of madness upon returning home. I forgot about it over the ecstasies of my awakening coffee.
     Having now showered and lightly breakfasted I prepared the only tea for the day. Thus, soon relaxing upon my balcony with my Irish Breakfast, sipping and vaguely wondering, I noticed my downstairs neighbour, Darden, stalking his wet towel. He stopped in front of it, investigating what could only be a large, green maple leaf.
     ‘Hey, Victor!’ exclaimed Darden whilst turning to look up at me. He had obviously heard me coming out for the morning’s tea.
     ‘Hey, Darden!’
     ‘Have you seen this frog on my towel?’
     ‘I thought it was a maple leaf, a very large maple leaf.’
     ‘Nah, it's definitely a frog. Just resting on my towel.’
      ‘Good thing it rained last night. The wet towel will keep Mr Wilder almost narcotically pleased,’ I said.
     ‘Mr Wilder?’
     ‘I've just now discovered his name: Frederick Hibernia Wilder.’
     ‘How do you know it’s not Mrs Wilder?’
     ‘Ms Wilder, Darden.’
     ‘Yeah, Ms Wilder.’
     ‘His impressive size. Usually it’s the males of a species that have the more imposing physique.’
     ‘Hibernia means cold, doesn't it?’
     ‘It's the Roman for Ireland, and Frederick is as green as all Ireland. From what I've seen of him. Are you sure it's not a leaf?’
     ‘Nah, it's definitely a frog.’
     ‘I'll come down and have a look.’ We don't get much excitement in these flats. Thankfully, I suppose.
     I joined Darden in front of his sodden towel, just in front of his folded banana chair, folded into the shape of a digital ‘2’ but with the bar missing at the top. It was definitely a large frog.
     ‘What do you think he's doing here?’ asked Darden. It was a very good question.
     ‘No idea. He's definitely out of his element, displaced, so that must be from some type of illness.’
     ‘Yeah, the poor lad's ill.’
     ‘Or he could have beached himself, hoping to slowly and quietly pass away.’
     ‘That's still an illness.’ Mr Wilder had perhaps come to us for help. ‘Yeah, may as well make him comfortable.’ We both stared quietly at Mr Wilder for about a further half minute. ‘Yeah, Freddie'll be fine.’
     Darden began making our new guest safe and cosy, covering him with the wet towel to keep him moist, and prepared a bowl of water for him. My contribution would be to check on him every morning. Which I did, heartily, most of the time during his stay with us.

*

     Mr Wilder turned out to be a very quiet guest. I checked on him almost every day but he tended to stay within the middle of his wet, scrunched towel. There wasn’t much else I could do except to keep him moist and his water bowl refreshed. I could have of course taken him along to a local vet but I suspected that Mr Wilder’s sudden appearance was in fact a suicide attempt.
     That Frederick was attempting suicide I am absolutely sure of. When first I gave him a gentle stroke he was not dry or unnaturally parched but still reasonably moist, he had neither skin abrasions nor a skin condition indicating that he was suffering from something a vet could inject him with in order to ease his ailment. Mr Wilder was simply very much an unhappy frog. At least that is my considered opinion.
     Frederick stayed this way, morose and inactive, for about a week. He then decided to come out from his wet towel. I checked on him as usual and he was gracefully perched atop the wet pile sucking on the towel. He had his eyes closed and seemed very content.
     Two days then after Freddie had moved back to the top of his wetted towel he had moved onto the grass of his ‘flat.’ Darden had by this time draped a white towel in front of his new home, shading the exposed base of his digital ‘2’ domicile. When I checked on him on this day he was asleep blissfully upon the cool grass (or had his eyes shut from the world’s trauma) and his skin still remained without blemish, still a vibrant green. I gave him a friendly stroke and his skin was indeed still healthy and moist. I left him alone then and headed off to the pub.
     Mr Wilder now spent the next three days on the grass of his flat apparently content to simply rest there. I checked on him every morning and was beginning to think that we had a new mascot at our flats. He still declined to croak and I never once saw him feeding or the remains of any repasts that he may have indulged in. Mr Wilder may well have stumbled on to the good life and I am sure that he knew that Darden and I, if not the other neighbours, would look after him for life. His food could be brought to him, he had a fine home, and there were none, apparently, of his natural predators around. I also thought it would be terrific if we had an utterly wild animal coming to us instead of accepting Nature’s utter uncertainty. Alas, the good Wilder was not to be with us much longer.
     Coming home one night after Freddie’s third day of recuperating on the grass, very drunk, I almost stepped on the good sir. He was plonked in the middle of the footpath leading up to my place.
      ‘G’day, Freddie!’ I exclaimed. He responded with a little croaking, the very first time that I had heard him talk. The croak sounded throaty and rich. As I was then drunk as a lord, I just headed up to my flat and went straight to bed, vaguely thinking that Mr Frederick Hibernia Wilder had resolved an important crisis in his life.
     Accordingly, expecting his flat to be abandoned, I checked on him as usual on the following morning. Darden was away for the day but the good Mr Wilder remained. He looked in no mood to leave this newfound Paradise. The morning’s duty being done I returned to my flat and thought best how to occupy my copious free time.
     Waking up late the next day I partook of my wake-up coffee and a shower. I was then ready to inspect Freddie’s further progress.
     Frederick was gone. I carefully inspected the wet towel but he was not there. He was nowhere near his flat and there was absolutely no evidence of his being there. Whilst inspecting his cosy domicile Darden came out onto his own veranda.
     ‘Darden, have you seen Mr Wilder?’
     ‘He’s gone, Vic. Checked on him when I got up and he was nowhere in sight. Yeah, I reckon Freddie’s gone on to bigger and better things. Told you he’d be fine.’
     ‘How do you know that some dog or bird, some predator, didn’t get him?’
     ‘There’s neither blood nor any other sign of devilry.’
     ‘He could have been taken in one foul swoop.’
     ‘Nah, his flat is too well covered.’
     So, the unexpected had happened!  Mr Frederick Hibernia Wilder had recovered from his obvious woes and had returned to the wilds to again try to make his mark. Good luck, Freddie! Mr Wilder did not return that day or evening and I myself had a very pleasant day. That night in bed I was listening to the background croakings of my units, the sundry night noises, hoping to hear from him, not so much for a ‘thank you’ but as appreciation that love still abides. I could not distinguish his voice from amongst the other frogs and the other night callings and so went peacefully to sleep.

~~~

     If you've been enjoying Denis' stories on this blog you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me. It tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual manner of making her home a social hub, her life's fundamental aim: sitting at her dressing table mirror and imagining socialising with friends and family. It seems the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her deepest aim. It is available on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1gXGF9h for US $4.01, and via Smashwords, whom cover most of the other ereaders, at http://bit.ly/1k7DEIV for US $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle or other ereader you can download one for free onto your smartphone or tablet.










2 comments:

  1. This is a great story, Denis! I love that Freddie has his own 'flat'. Very enjoyable reading, once again!

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  2. Thanks, Sarah. The story is one of my personal favourites.

    ReplyDelete