A frog discovered in a bag of fresh mint in a fruit and veg shop in the north of England had survived a 6,000 km shipment from Ethiopia (Irish Times 09/04/22)…
The fly hovered, buzzing gently, on the warm air above the Rift Valley.
Then suddenly it was gone, winked from existence like a snuffed candle by the lash-like flick of a long tongue.
Tadele lapped the fly into his mouth in a manoeuvre that involved curling his tongue like a party horn, closed his eyes and sat back contentedly on his tree branch, enjoying the warmth of the sun, the sigh of the gentle breeze and the low buzz of the fly.
Hang on, he thought, the fly is gone.
His eyes snapped open. The buzz wasn’t a buzz, it was a hiss. An Ethiopian Mountain Snake was slithering along the branch toward him. Tadele looked into its yellow eyes. Circle of life, they seemed to say and, though it had no shoulders, the snake seemed to shrug.
No way, though Tadele. Today is not my day to croak. He crouched back onto his hind legs, then leapt.
He landed in the soft undergrowth. He could hear the snake sliding swiftly down the tree like a slinky on a bat-pole and looked around for cover. He saw a bed of mint beside him, hopped to it, then turned himself green. Well, more green.
He held his breath as the snake searched for him. Eventually he heard it slither away. Tadele let out his breath.
Then his world turned upside down.
The whole clump of mint was wrenched from the soil and tossed onto the back of a truck. Tadele hit his head against the side wall, and fell unconscious. This was fortunate, as he was spared the terrors of the bumpy journey to a large factory, the ear-shattering flight in the cargo-hold of a plane, the soul-destroying atmosphere of a huge distribution warehouse.
It was unfortunate too, of course, as it meant that he missed several opportunities to escape.
He woke in confusion, in darkness, and in a plastic bag. He gasped in horror, and in that gasp inhaled the air of a tiny world that now contained nothing but mint.
The sharp freshness filled his lungs, his belly, the backs of his eyeballs. He felt as if he had been waterboarded with mouthwash.
The low rumbling and the constant bouncing told him that he was in some sort of vehicle. Eventually this slowed to a stop. A rectangle of light appeared above him, and his bag and several others were brought into a small shop. They were placed on a shelf, and he found himself alone. Now, he thought, to get out of –
His home was picked up and tossed into a small wire basket, which contained a bunch of bananas, a cucumber, a stick of celery and what appeared to be a grenade, but was in fact an avocado. The basket was carried to a counter, where his plastic bag was passed across a scanner, a process like being put through a body-scanner at an airport. In spite of himself, Tadele flinched.
“Hang on,” said a booming female voice. “Something moved in that bag.”
“No way,” said a man. “I keep this shop spotless.”
The bag was lifted. Tadele could see two huge faces peering in. He burrowed as deeply as he could into the mint.
“There,” said the woman. “It’s a frog!. It’s buried up to its thighs in the mint.”
Knee-deep, actually, thought Tadele, before he could stop himself.
“Oh,” said the man. “Er, will I take it out for you?”
“I’m not buying that,” snapped the woman, “but I recommend you take it out anyway. You’re not going to sell mint-and-a-frog in a bag, unless you can market it as a hipster ready-meal.”
The bag was pressed against the man’s brown shop-coat, and huge fingers tugged at the seal along the top. The bag opened, a great waft of mint escaped, and fresh air poured in.
Well, the fresh air of a fruit and vegetable shop, anyway.
Tadele’s lungs, now truly in mint condition, were assailed by the damp-earth smell of potatoes, the cat-pee odour of garlic, the yellow zing of lemons.
Tadele’s huge eyes filled with water, but they were not the stinging tears of onion inhalation, but the joyous tears of delight. Never before had he known such sensation.
He leapt from the bag, hopped – no, practically bounced – across the shop, and out into the street.
He gleefully took in great gulps of town-life. He, who had known only the sweet aromas of trees and grasses, was enthralled by the gritty smells of diesel, of tarmac, even of last night’s drunken vomit.
He passed a chip-shop and deeply inhaled the glorious smell of batter and vinegar.
Then he arrived outside a coffee shop, and was filled with awe by the scent of the world’s most bitter-tasting yet best-smelling beverage.
He paused beside a wall, out of danger from incautious human feet, and looked around him. He felt truly alive. A new world had been opened to him.
Then a fly buzzed past. Tadele’s tongue whipped out, the fly was whipped in. Tadele smiled, though this made little difference to his facial expression.
I’m going to like it here, he thought.