The Bullfrog’s Vision
by Jewel Beth Davis
“Where are we?” Sarah asked.
“Just keep walking,” Jade told her.
The two sisters moved along the path blanketed in darkness. For Sarah, it didn’t matter, since she was blind. The twins had left hours earlier for a walk in the woods near their home. The sun had already started to set when they began.
“Is that a frog I hear?” Sarah said. Throaty rhythmic tones reverberated through the trees, and Sarah felt them vibrating in her bones and muscles. She held on to Jade’s forearm as they walked. She liked going into unfamiliar surroundings with her sister. It made her footing more stable wherever she went.
“Hey, what was that song we used to sing about a frog when we were younger?”
“Jeremiah was a bullfrog. Was a good friend of mine...” Jade belted the song, partially to scare away any wild animals that might be lurking or perhaps to hoodwink her own fear.
They both sang, “Joy to the world, all the boys and girls...”
Joy to you and me, Jade thought. After that, the silence was overpowering in contrast.
Sarah stopped walking and listened, feeling the cool air blow around her face and hair.
“So, we’re lost?”
“We’re fine.” Jade was aware that she couldn’t see any more than Sarah could. Maybe now she’d empathize more with her sister. “We’re not lost. Exactly. We’ve temporarily lost our bearings.”
Sarah’s laugh tinkled like glass bells in response to Jade’s bravado. Jade reached into the pocket of her windbreaker and then remembered they’d left their cell phones at home “to experience nature without distractions.” Her shoulders climbed up to her ears. Her breath rate quickened. There was a ringing inside her head. She looked at Sarah whose face was serene and relaxed. She wondered what it was about being blind that allowed Sarah to remain calm in stressful situations. She’d been like this since they were kids.
“You feel worried to me,” Sarah said.
“Feel worried?” Jade sensed movement from Sarah, like a nod, but the darkness was so pervasive she wasn’t sure.
“I feel crackly energy all around you. Afraid we won’t find our way out?”
Jade ignored the question. “You seem fine,” she said.
“Being blind is like being perpetually lost in the woods. This is no different than my usual state, except I’m not as familiar with the environment. Do you remember the day I dropped Mommy’s necklace, the one with the multiple strands of real pearls?”
“They broke and rolled into a hundred directions, hiding under things and in crevices. I had to find every single pearl so I could get the necklace fixed. I was frantic. I needed help but you were out somewhere. Mommy wasn’t home either, thank God.”
“You never said anything.”
The wind picked up as it brushed through the branches of surrounding trees and bushes.
“I spent hours alone on the floor, searching out small balls. They were everywhere. They were smooth and slippery and kept rolling away from my hands. The task seemed impossible, and even when I thought I’d found every one, I knew I’d never know for sure. That was so much harder for me than being lost in the woods. It’s the not knowing that can drive you crazy.”
Jade had never thought about it this way. They’d stopped walking, but now they started again.
“Let me take your elbow,” Sarah said. They moved, feeling trees and bushes with their hands and using their feet to sense obstacles in the path.
“Ow,” Jade said. “Something just pricked my finger. A thorn or something.” She shook her hand hard to fling the pain away. “This is hopeless. If we keep walking in the dark, we’re just going to get hurt.”
“What’s our other option? We have to keep going.” Sarah stopped again to listen, to smell the air. “I can hear water near us. A stream. If we can find it, it will eventually lead us out.”
“How do you know that? You were never a Girl Scout.”
“No, but my camp offered Outdoors Skills.”
Jade remembered that Sarah had attended a special camp for blind kids for a number of years. She’d been upset that she wasn’t allowed to go with Sarah.
They moved toward the direction of what Sarah was hearing. Jade tripped over a tree stump and went down with a cry. She banged her knees and both of her hands stung. She felt miserable and just wanted to stay where she was, but Sarah depended on her.
She pulled herself up from the ground, wiping away small pebbles and needles that dug into her hands. She too heard the moving water. Eventually they stumbled down an embankment into a stream. They both gasped from the shock. The water came only to their ankles and was frigid, but in a way, felt good. They helped each other back to the bank.
“I hear cars,” Sarah said.
“I don’t hear anything. You’re sure you’re not just imagining what you want to hear?” Jade was dizzy from hyperventilating. If only she had a paper bag.
Light reached them from the road, followed by car sounds. Jade felt her anxiety break like a storm. Her breathing gushed from her lungs and slowed.
“Thank God,” she said. “I have to confess I’ve been panicking this whole time.”
“I know,” Sarah said. Jade could see the corners of her mouth twitch.
They walked the road, hugging the shoulder for safety. Jade recognized homes and street signs and the way the road curved. Finally, in the distance, she could see the dark outlines of their home and the winding driveway leading up to it. Light poured from one of the windows. The house was in shadows and looked both familiar and unknown at once. Familiar, Jade thought, and yet... Now that she’d heard the story about the pearls, nothing seemed quite the same.
“We’re home, aren’t we?” Sarah said.
“Yes,” Jade said. “We are, but it just seems... different.”
Sarah nodded. “It’s the not knowing, like with the pearls.”
Jade wound her arm around Sarah’s thin shoulder and they made their way up the winding road to the familiar unknown.
Copyright © 2013 by Jewel Beth Davis