Froggie
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I didn’t think too much about the first froggie. The little stuffed animal appeared hanging from the doorknob to my apartment last Halloween. After all, it was Halloween, and the small creature seemed sweet and harmless. When he fell from my doorknob a couple of days later, I brought him inside.

I live on the fourth floor of a condo building near downtown Melrose. It’s a secure building. Visitors have to be buzzed in. And it’s friendly, occupied mostly by older retired folks and single people.

The next day another froggie appeared. This fuzzy toy was bigger than the first, with a crown on his head, velvet lipstick marks on his cheek and a banner that said, “Kiss me” sewn across his chest. This second froggie frightened me a bit.

  
 
A couple of days later, he fell from my doorknob, and I brought him inside, too.

The next evening I found a note that had been slipped under my door. Large letters scrawled on white-lined paper in green magic marker, “MOMMY, DID YOU EAT F1 LEGS? F2”

I was unsettled by this turn of events. This no longer seemed a harmless prank. Whoever this person was, they knew my gender and had a good idea of my schedule.

It had to be either someone that lived in the building or someone that had access. It could have been the creepy guy with the toupee that lives down the hall and around the corner. He keeps plastic dinosaurs on the dashboard of his van and calls me, “lady,” like we’re old pals.

Then I thought about the scary pizza delivery boy. I can always tell when it’s him: one short buzz followed by incessant knocking. When I open the door, he just stands there, holding my pizza with a serial killer style blank stare. I say hi, but he is silent. I act calm, confident and friendly as I try to hand him his money, but he always stands there for a terrible moment, not moving to either take my money or hand me my pizza. He just stares right through me. Then he’ll shake his head. We make our exchange, and he leaves. Instead of turning around, he walks away backwards.

I decided to handle the situation like any normal person would have under the same circumstances. I would send a message. I fashioned a mini-hangman’s noose with a piece of string and tied it around big frog’s hand. I painted a toothpick with red nail polish and stuck it into little froggie’s eye. I then hung little froggie from the noose and displayed the whole ensemble on the outside of my door. Surely this would frighten the culprit.

The following night another note appeared under my door. It read, “MOMMY, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO F1? F2”

It seemed that my foreboding message served only to aggravate the situation. I took the noose from the big frog’s hand, brought the little one inside and freed him of the noose and toothpick.

Things were quiet for a couple of days. Then I found a third note. “MOMMY, WHERE IS F1? A VERY TROBLED F2”

Whoever it was, they couldn’t spell for shit.

I should have ignored it, but my immaturity got the best of me. I would send a more frightening message this time.

I took a small plastic vial with a rubber cap, normally used to keep flowers-in-transit hydrated. I twirled and rolled a piece of masking tape until it was shaped like a tiny, tiny frog and filled the vial with red wine. I held it up to the light. Too dark. I took a small sip, then added some water. Perfect. Bloody, yet with visibility. I dropped the tiny masking tape frog into the vial of fake blood and fastened it to a string, which I tied to the big froggie’s hand. This would surely do the trick, I thought.

I was wrong. The following evening there was another note. It said “MOMMY, WHY DID YOU SHRINK F1? F2.”

That did it. This was out of my hands. I removed the small vial of bloodied baby frog from the big frog’s hand and tossed it. It was unthinkable that such a sinister display of frog abuse could be taken so lightly. Whoever it was, they were far sicker than I. This frightened me terribly.

I called Carolyn at the management company the following day.

“Has anyone else in the building complained about receiving anonymous gifts and notes?” I asked.

“What kind of gifts?”

“Little stuffed animal frogs.”

“Maybe you have a secret admirer,” she said, laughing.

“Well, it’s upsetting because it only happens when I’m at work, and that leads me to think that whoever is doing it, knows when I’m not around.” I explained.

“Okay, honey, fax me the notes, and I’ll see if I can match the handwriting to any paperwork from the other unit owners in the building,” she said.

She called me when she received the fax.

“I’m sorry I laughed. This is really creepy.”

“Don’t worry. I understand. In most instances frogs are amusing.”

“I can’t match this to anything. Call the police. Tell them you talked to me, and I told you to call them. This is really creepy,” she said again.

When I called the police, they told me to call back from home, and they’d send an officer over to take my statement. This didn’t sound like very much fun. I almost didn’t call back, but when I got home, there was another note.

“MOMMY, WHERE IS F1? PLEASE TELL ME. F2.”

So I called the police again. They told me they would send an officer right over. Shortly thereafter a young police officer arrived. He had already seen the big frog on the door. I showed him the notes and the little frog. He asked pointed questions like, “Have you spoken with anyone about frogs?”

I shook my head.

He told me he would look into the matter and asked if he could take the frogs and notes as evidence. I gladly obliged. I no longer liked the frogs.

Ten minutes later, I heard a soft knocking on my door. I opened it a crack and there stood Bert, the 80-year-old man from down the hall. Bert is a tall thin fellow, fond of flannel shirts and baseball caps. In the spring, he dons a great floppy hat and plants flowers on the small island at the nearby intersection of Main and Green Streets. During the winter, Bert walks up and down the hallways to get his exercise. We make small talk occasionally.

“Hey Bert. How are you?” I asked, opening the door and smiling.

“How are F1 and F2?” he asked timidly.

It wasn’t creepy toupee man or scary pizza delivery boy. It was cute little old Bert.

“That was you?!” I felt like the biggest wimp in the world.

He nodded.

“I got scared. I didn’t know it was you.” I said, laughing with relief.

“I’m sorry if I alarmed you. I’m a crazy old man. And I was having such fun with it,” he said chuckling.

I pictured Bert giggling mischievously as he attached the frogs to my door and felt guilty for raining on his little amphibian parade.

“Well, I’m so glad it was you,” I said.

“Who did you think it was?” he asked.

Dear old Bert was from a different time; back when you could leave your doors unlocked and let your kids ride their bikes without helmets. Perhaps he did not order his pizza from the same place I did. I would not shatter his innocence.

“I honestly didn’t know.” I replied.

We chatted for a bit and then said goodnight.

When Bert left, I called the police again and was transferred to the officer who took my statement. I explained to him what happened and asked him to drop the froggie investigation.

“Is he a tall, thin older fellow that wears a baseball cap?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s him.”

“Yup. He saw me in the hall with the frogs.” He said in a dragnet tone of voice.

Grateful that he couldn’t see me smirking, I thanked him and apologized for taking his time.

“It’s okay,” he said kindly. “You did exactly the right thing. The trouble should stop now.”

He asked me if I wanted him to make a report, and I said no. He asked me if I wanted the notes and frogs back, and I said no.

At this point I was hungry, tired and shaken from the whole misadventure. I called Billy’s Roast Beef and ordered a sandwich. When I went out to get it, I forgot my keys and locked myself out.

It was a brisk November evening, and I hadn’t planned to be outside for very long. Clad only in a Monkees T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, I ran across the street to the pay phone at the strip mall. I would simply take a cab to my parents’ house a couple of miles away and get the spare set that they had. And there in front of the pay phone, like a great beacon, was a taxi.

He drove me to my folks’ house, and I asked him to wait outside. My Dad answered the door.

“Come on in, honey. Sit down and have a drink,” he said.

“I’m sorry, Dad. I can’t. I’m locked out, and there’s a cab waiting for me. Can I grab that spare set of keys?”

I could tell by his face that I was in trouble.

“Jeez, what the hell did I do with them?” he asked scratching his head.

We searched in all the regular key places -- the little tin box in the kitchen drawer where the garage keys are kept, the ceramic tray borne by the cherub in the dining room and even my father’s cigar humidor. Our efforts were fruitless.

“Why don’t you sit down and have a drink?” asked my mother.

“I can’t. I’m locked out of my house,” I explained again.

“Well, just stay here then,” she suggested.

“I can’t. I have all my stuff for work tomorrow at home,” I told her.

“Well, then sit down and have a drink,” she said again.

“I can’t. I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t keep the cab waiting much longer. I’ll figure something out,” I said.

My poor father looked at me with concern. “What will you do? Let me at least drive you back.”

It was 10:00 p.m., and he was wearing his blue pajamas.

“It’s okay, the cab driver waited for me. I’ll have the fire department break in or something. Don’t worry. I’ll call you when I get back in,” I said, kissing them goodnight.

My cab driver’s name was Fuji. He was a good-looking, swarthy man from Morocco. I apologized to Fuji for keeping him waiting and shared my tale of woe with him. I explained my plan to call the fire department and asked him to take me back to the pay phone that we left from.

“This is sad story. I want to help you,” said the kind Fuji. He turned off his meter.

“Here, use my cell phone to call fire department,” he said handing me the small black object.

Oh no. A cell phone. This was bound to happen eventually.

Under normal circumstances, I would be proud to demonstrate my ignorance over such frivolous technology, but tonight I felt guilty asking for more help from this generous stranger. I held it in my hand, staring at it with a mixture of fear and confusion.

“How does it work?” I asked timidly.

Fuji did not laugh at me. He simply dialed the fire department and handed me the phone. When I hung up, he drove me back to my place.

“Will you be okay?” he asked.

“Yes, Fuji, thank you so much. You’ve been very kind.” I said, tipping him generously.

I went inside the foyer to get out of the wind and within fifteen minutes, the firemen showed up in their big, shiny red truck. They had a key to the main building and another set of keys that would allow them access to some of the units. Unfortunately, mine was not one. Hence, they would have to position their shiny, red fire truck outside my apartment and send someone up on a ladder to access my unit through the unlocked balcony door.

They told me to wait outside my apartment door. That was when I remembered the candles that I left burning. Surely the firemen would not be pleased. They might even consider me a danger to society. Perhaps I was. I confessed my crime and humbly promised to never leave burning candles unattended again.

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