Toads are unlovely: plump, bumpy, gawkward. But I’ve been fond of them since I was young. Their inoffensive, comical dignity amused me. Gaze into a toad’s lovely golden eyes and you quickly become its friend. Why, then, did I shoot a toad in my backyard when, age twelve, I had invented a slingshot that propelled the sharp-ended rib of a broken umbrella like an arrow? What ancient hunter-killers abide within our genes, eager to emerge, to erase our innocence? Poor, dumb creature, belly-skewered by the tine, but, no blood, no writhing, no squeal of pain. Its golden eyes gazed into mine and slowly blinked, as if unbelieving. I eased the rod from its body, placed the stoic toad near a fence corner, and slunk away. Next day, its golden eyes were gone to empty sockets, stiff corpse grotesque with dying agonies, stolid toadish dignity ravaged by red ants. I broke the slingshot and buried it with my friend. Nowadays, there are fewer toads than in my youth, decimated by pesticides, environmental degradation, casual cruelty. I did not tell my mother of the killing. She might have said its golden eyes were God’s.
Michael Baldwin, is a native of Fort Worth, TX. A retired library administrator and professor of American Government, his poetry was featured on the national radio program The Romantic Hours, and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He won the Violet Newton Single Poem Prize, 2000, the Eakin Award, 2011 for Scapes, and the Morris Chapbook Award, 2012, for Counting Backward From Infinity. His book of Texas poetry, Lone Star Heart (Lamar University Press, 2016), vied for the Texas Institute of Letters Poetry Book Award. His third poetry book, The Quantum Uncertainty of Love (Shanti Arts Press, 2019) received a Readers Favorite 5-Star Award. Mr. Baldwin resides in Benbrook, TX.