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
Venturing fingers among the tangle of blackberry thorn canes, questing their dark elusive prize, plucking each plump bundle, then easing it from the labyrinth of defending claws, I discover one gleaming berry ridden by a petite beetle, her flat, yellow shield an extravagant contrast against the obsidian fruit’s glistening bulb.