Fourteen Frogs

by Bill McCormick


1:00 pm on a chilly Sunday afternoon in Chicago.

Cutler steps back, looks for his receiver and OOOOOOOHHH he’s sacked!

Scoots Bar and Grill. Home of the Best Damn Catfish Yo Mama Never Made!

With the penalty that makes it 2nd and 36 with 4 minutes left to play.

Tyrell and Josh were keeping their weekly tradition of watching the game. It really didn’t matter who won or lost, it was their chance to sit, kick back, and enjoy a few beers in peace and quiet. For Tyrell, it was a brief respite from family life. For Josh it was a chance to be with another human being. One who didn’t judge him. They’d been friends since God lost his sneaks back in Englewood. And, for this little sliver of time, that was all that really mattered.

Tyrell waved the bartender over for another round and smiled at his friend. “Dude, you’ve been awful quiet. Problems at home?”

Josh laughed. “Got 99 problems but a home ain’t one.”

“99’s still a heck of a lot of problems.”

They both laughed at the old joke. Josh darkened. “Nah, man, Lat tossed me out Tuesday. Said I need to be more like you.”

Tyrell took a sip of his beer and turned to his friend. “Dude, I’m sorry. Latisha was a good woman. Wanna talk about it?”

Josh sipped his beer and shook his head. “Nothing to talk about. Can’t get no job, can’t keep no woman. No matter what I do, how hard I try, that never changes.”

4th and 48 and the Bears are set to punt. O’Donnell gets the snap, AND IT’S BLOCKED! Minnesota recovers! They’ll have the ball on their own 11 with 3:17 left to play, up by 36. It looks like this game is, pretty much, in the books.

Tyrell ordered a couple of shots for them. He’d never asked Josh to pay, since Josh never had any money anyway. Not that he cared. “Bros and blood before everything” was the way he’d been raised, and Josh was his bro. May as well be blood. Finally, after a few minutes of painful football, the game was mercifully finished.

The bartender, a fierce-looking woman called “Mom,” served them their drinks and snagged the money. In all the years they’d been coming here, neither could remember her smiling or saying much beyond the occasional grunt. But she was fast, and your change was always right. That’s all that mattered to anyone who knew what was what.

Stay tuned. Tonight, right after the JoAnne Worley comedy special featuring Beyoncé, Donald Trump and the gang square off in another exciting Republican debate.

Josh huffed. “When I was at the library, I read on the Internet that Beyoncé was in the Illuminati or some crap like that.”

Tyrell smiled. “Nah, not her. The frogs won’t let her in.”

“Da heck you say?”

“The frogs. The ones that rule the world. They won’t let her in.”

“Frogs rule the world?” Josh looked as confused as he felt. It wouldn’t do him any good if his only friend was having a breakdown.

Tyrell seemed to sense what he was thinking and turned to face him. “C’mon, man, you’re a smart brother. You mean to tell me you ain’t figgered it out?”

“Figgered what out? What the bejeezus are you talking about?”

Tyrell sighed. “This stuff,” he said waving at the TV, “these debates, this never-ending Beyoncé, all this stuff is tied together. The reason you can’t get up on anything is ’cuz the frogs need to keep some folks down. But if you figure it out, then the frogs have to give you a slice to keep you quiet.”

Josh was more baffled than he’d ever been in his life. Even more than when Tanya Johnson had told him she wanted him to go all R. Kelly on her.

“Look,” continued Tyrell, “here’s how it is. Hundreds of years ago the world was going to hell.”

“Still is,” snarked Josh.

“Yeah and no. See, the frogs won’t let it. Not all the way, anyway.”

“The frogs won’t let it. Got it. Brother, I’ve known you since we were shorties, you never seemed like you was crazy.”

Tyrell laughed. “I’m not. You see, back in high school, while you were shooting hoops and chasing tail, I figured it out. There’s no Democrat, no Republican, no talent, no nothing, just the frogs.”

“Frogs. Sure. You gonna get me another before they take you away?”

Tyrell laughed again and nodded. Frogs or no, he still seemed outwardly sane as he waved for one more round.

“Think for a minute,” said Tyrell as he sipped his shot, “the whole New World Order thing, for example. In the 30’s it was a left-wing thing. It led to the United Nations and organizations like that. By the 80’s it was a right-wing thing. TV preachers were going ape-shit over it.”

Josh was trying to figure out what any of this had to do with frogs and was failing badly.

“Then you got allies and enemies,” he continued, continuing to sound as sane as what he was saying sounded crazy. “One year we’re bombing the hell out of Japan; the next, we’re in line for everything they make. Radios, TVs, cars, all of it. Or Germany. One day we’re walking hand in hand with the Russkies kicking down concentration camps, and the next we’re buying Volkswagens and Russia’s got the bomb.”

Josh blanched, a little. “And that’s cuz of the frogs?”

“Right.”

That really didn’t help at all. Josh slammed down his shot and tried again. “So the frogs are the Illuminati?”

“No,” smiled Tyrell, “the Illuminati owns the frogs. Cares for them. Does their bidding.”

“What?” asked Josh, more befuddled than before. “Are these some sci-fi, super-intelligent frogs or something like that?”

“Nope. Just frogs.”

“Frogs that rule the world.”

“Now you’re getting it.”

No. He wasn’t. Not at all.

Tyrell brightened. “You hungry?”

Josh nodded absently. “Hey, Mom, a couple of catfish dinners and don’t spare the hot sauce.”

Mom grunted something resembling an assent and went to place the order.

They drank in silence for a bit. Josh was trying to make sense of anything, and Tyrell was looking forward to Mom’s catfish.

Finally Josh spoke. “So how does it work? How do regular frogs rule the world?”

Tyrell smiled. “Good question. And the answer’s pretty simple. You see there’s this underground villa in Greenland, heated by a dormant volcano. Really nice place actually. Best of everything and all that.”

“The frogs own a villa?”

“No,” laughed Tyrell, “that would be stupid. The Illuminati owns the villa to house the frogs.”

“Oh, sure, I guess that makes sense.”

It didn’t. Not even a little bit.

“Anyway, in the basement of the villa is a huge atrium. And, in it, there’s a pool surrounded by a map of the world. Around that map there’s little pieces of paper with the names of every politician and celebrity in each country. That gets updated daily. Only the fourteen members of the Illuminati know exactly what’s on those pieces of paper.”

“Like Obama?”

Tyrell laughed so hard he spit beer out of his nose. After he calmed down, and wiped his face with a napkin, he continued.

“No, O-Dog’s just a pawn. See, we got him, riding his unicorn that farts rainbows being all hopey, truthy, and then we get Trump, leading the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse wearing white hoods. You see? It’s all about balance.”

“And the frogs keep the balance?”

“Now you’re getting it!”

Truth be told, Josh was most certainly not getting it. He decided to soldier on. If nothing else, the beer was cold, booze was good, and dinner was on its way.

“Okay, so who’s the Illuminati then? The pope and other leaders?”

Tyrell shook his head. “Nah, pope’s too public. These cats are dark. Old, old money. Ancient money. From Africa, China, Europe, and India. America’s too young to have anyone in the circle. It’s just a piece in the game for them.”

“And, these cats” — Josh was slowly starting to see some sort of logic in this, not a lot, but some — “these cats, with all this money, do what the frogs tell them?”

Tyrell nodded. “Yeah, pretty much. Look, it’s not as nuts as it sounds. Hear me out. They have seven red frogs and seven blue ones.”

Josh exploded in laughter. “Tain’t no such thing as blue frogs. Man, you had me going.”

Then he noticed his friend wasn’t laughing. Contrariwise, he was looking at him sternly. “The frogs are fed special food that causes their skin to change color, but it doesn’t harm them.”

“Well, that’s good I guess, we wouldn’t want the world run by sick frogs.”

“Was that sarcasm?”

Josh nodded as he sipped his beer. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was.”

He was taken aback when he realized his friend was looking at him with raw anger in his eyes. He had never, in all their years together, ever seen him angry. Not like this. This was ‘Shut the hell up before I kill you’ kind of anger.

Josh wisely shut the hell up and motioned for him to continue.

Tyrell took a sip of his beer, visibly calmed down, and continued. “Anyway, like I said, it’s about balance. The frogs stay in that special pool. It’s got everything they need. But every now and then they jump out and land on the map.

“For example, a while back a red frog jumped out and landed on Israel so they got a nut job, right-wing, leader. So, for balance, they enticed a blue frog to jump on the map and Iran got a leader who, if not liberal, was, at least, willing to listen to reason. Balance maintained.”

“All because of frogs?”

“Yep. Look, it makes the most sense when you think about it. Humans are too stupid, follow in packs too much, for any progress to be made. This way they get goaded in the direction the world needs, and balance is maintained.”

“And they do this for everything?”

“Yeah, that’s the basic idea. Oh, sure, sometimes something unexpected happens. A leader gets assassinated, or some pop star blows their brains out, or what have you. Then they just let the frogs pick a replacement.”

“I guess that explains Eminem and Tiger Woods.”

Tyrell’s laugh was genuine and warm. “Among many others.”

“So how do the frogs know who needs to be where?”

“They don’t. That’s how Germany ended up with David Hasselhoff and America ended up dancing Gangnam Style.”

It was Josh’s turn to smile. “Damn! I even learned that stupid dance.”

Mom brought their dinner; catfish, slaw, tater tots, mashed potatoes with gravy, along with a cup of red beans, and then refilled their beers. They ate in silence as the TV whined in the background.

In a shocking development, the every American gets a pony presidential candidate, Vermin Supreme, has been appointed to the Massachusetts’ senate to fill the vacancy caused by the impending imprisonment of Viriato “Vinny” de Macedo. Senator Supreme will be sworn in today at noon. We’ll be carrying the coverage live here on...

“Okay,” said Josh as he swallowed another delicious bite of catfish, “this makes as much sense as anything else I’ve heard. Let’s say I believe you. Now what?”

Tyrell wiped the hot sauce off his chin and smiled. “Well, that’s the easy part. You see, once in your life, if you’re getting a slice, someone will contact you and tell you to tell this to one other person. Until then you have to keep it a secret. Then that person will either get a slice or be killed. Either way, balance will be maintained.”

Josh was horrified. “They gonna kill me?!?!?”

Tyrell shrugged. “Or hook you up. It’s out of my hands now, but it was the best I could do for you. After all, you’re still my Bro.”

Tyrell didn’t see his friend for six months. He knew better than to ask too many questions. Besides, he had a baby on the way, a promotion at work, and life in general to keep him occupied.

But, one day, about six months later, he saw Josh walking down the street. He was wearing a nice suit and tie, and looked better than Tyrell could ever remember. They hugged and then Josh opened his suit jacket revealing a pin of a blue frog. Tyrell laughed, opened his jacket, and revealed a red frog.

Balance had been maintained.

*
* *

[Author’s note] The author gratefully acknowledges the inspiration of David L. Russell of Black Books Publishing.


Copyright © 2016 by Bill McCormick

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