Chimera Song Mosaic
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
The Ballad of the Ranacuata

There must be at least a million tadpoles in my pond. They are fascinating to watch. I could watch them all day, except that it is devilishly hot outside. I know they are actually toad-poles because I caught her one night climbing out of the pond after just depositing her eggs (she froze in the beam of my flashlight). Well, winding her eggs is a better way to describe it. Or perhaps unraveling. Her eggs were fixed in a clear tape—almost exactly like that stuff you tear off the edges of old-timey printouts (you know, with the holes in it. I forgot what it is called). This tape was tightly wound around and through some underwater plants. Crisscrossing, binding, synthetic looking. It looked almost exactly like the printer stuff except that it was clear—and instead of the little perforations along the tape, it had little, evenly spaced and perfectly round black dots. The future toads locked into the commitment of being born & of becoming.

The next day, the tape had obscured, gone all fuzzy. It continued to dissolve, and I felt lucky to have witnessed its first occurrence as the perfect film. Like a film, it had some kind of reaction with the water, or perhaps was set on its own chemical vocation. It kept fading and blurring for about three days. I did not see the mother toad anymore, although I must have heard her mates—they honk and bellow outside my window at night and make the most inexcusable racket.

Then my pond was swimming with millions of tadpoles (ranacuatas in Spanish—which literary means frog-twins).

They boil the water with their constant flagellations. They look like mouse turds with a single flagellum. They practice random, ritualistic behavior. My three small koi ignore them and don’t try to eat them (I think koi are vegetarian). Who is going to eat them? Is my small pond going to bear the burden of so many toads?

The last time my pond was so taxed, it was with bullfrog and pond frog tadpoles from my mother’s pond in Houston (where bullfrogs are native). These tadpoles had heads the size of gumballs before they began their metamorphosis. At one point, I had about 30 of these tadpoles, which resulted in about 14 small baby frogs, which, unfortunately, only grew to 5 medium sized frogs, then at last to 1 preteen bullfrog (the size of my palm) & 1 adult pond frog (smaller). I used to worry about my bullfrog finding a mate since he is not native to South Texas. I used to worry about how I would catch my frogs and transport them if I moved away. But I haven’t seen my adult frogs in weeks since I cleaned my pond. Where would they have gone? There is no water nearby. The loss of them is inexplicable and makes me lonely.

But now I have all of these native South Texan toad-poles, and they make pleasurable water ballet before shuttling off to a deeper part of the pond. I throw in some koi pellets, which my new koi skittishly and nervously peck off the surface (all my old fish died because I didn’t clean my pond properly in the fall, and these are new fish, unused to me). My last survivors, the two gargantuan plecostoma that I have had all along are not shy as they prehistorically gum the pellets floating on the surface with their fleshy gray mouths open like orchids. The toad-poles have found the pellets, which are larger than their own bodies, and six have formed a symmetrical cluster around one, star anise-like. These toad-poles have a strong, individual impetus to survive, and I wonder what and when and how many and why.

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