Image: Eduardo Soares
Toads in Bermuda
Only one cashier at the Giant Eagle today.
I’m stuck in aisle 7 that begins
with broth, stock, and soup
and ends with canned vegetables.
I stare at a can of Jolly Green Giant green beans
and wonder if, at 72, I’ll live long enough
to get to the beef broth, much less to Amber,
the patient and weary checkout lady.
Everyone fiddles with their phones. I pull
mine out and say to the young couple
behind me that I’m calling my attorney because
I want to make out my will. They egg
me on with laughter. Let’s gather kindling, I say,
make a fire, roast s’mores, sing Kumbaya.
We’re bonding, I say, and they laugh some more—
laugh at the old coot in aisle 7 near the veggies.
Earlier, at the deli, a sign reads, “Everyone’s having
trouble getting workers. Be kind to the ones
that showed up.” A man behind the counter says,
“Can I help you?” “Is that a Boston accent
I hear?” I ask. “Actually,” he says, “I’m English.
Been in Pittsburgh for forty years.” I learn
that if you’re from England and live in Pittsburgh for
forty years, you sound like you’re from Boston.
Later, in the grossly understaffed Post Office where
Janelle, the sweetest and most patient person
on the planet, is, as usual, the sole agent at the window,
a man in line behind me asks where the Express
Mail envelops are. “Is that an Australian accent I hear?”
I ask. “No,” he says, “I’m from Bermuda.”
“We used to vacation there when our son was little,”
I say. I tell him how Ari and I would go on
toad hunts at night, how the toads, of which there were
hundreds, would exude an hallucinogenic spray
when you picked them up. Once, when my wife asked
Ari how the toad hunt went he said, “That un-
conscionable toad peed on my daddy,” which was pretty
sophisticated for a five-year-old. In the morning
we’d find hundreds of toads flattened by mopeds the
locals drove. “There are hardly any toads left,”
the man from Bermuda says. “They’re going extinct
along with bees, bats, and frogs.” We stand
in silence for a few moments. Then he says, “We used
to have a joke about the toads.” “Tell me,”
I say. “Why does a toad in Bermuda cross the road?”
“Why?” I ask.
“To find his flat mate,” he says. We laugh about that.
Janelle laughs too.
Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His sixth full-length poetry collection is Pinnacles of Hope (Impspired Books, 2022). His poetry has been nominated three times for both the Best of Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Atlanta Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Ibbetson Street, The Paterson Literary Review, Impspired Magazine, Salamander Ink Magazine, and elsewhere.