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Barren Soil MAG
I stumbled upon God the summer I was five. My father had finally grown too sick to get out of bed, so the heat and nervous tension that permeated the air inside the house made it impossible to breathe. I would escape by squeezing under the front porch and curling up in the cool, forgiving darkness where no one would think to look for me. All manner of creatures lived there, but I mostly ignored them, with one exception - a little frog who, every time I crawled under the porch, ceased movement and stared at me with great, golden eyes.
In late June, the frog finally moved. He hopped toward my arm and stared at me, demanding eye contact. Once he had my attention, he opened his wide mouth and said, “Hello, Sophie.”
I should have been shocked, but for some reason, I wasn’t. Perhaps at five years old, I was more receptive to something that defied the laws of nature. Perhaps something in those golden eyes had already told me that this frog was unique. At any rate, I was not startled that a frog could speak. I had a more pressing question.
“How do you know my name?”
The frog blinked slowly. “I know everything. I am God.”
Silence. The slants of light where the sun shone through the strips of porch shifted positions. Finally, I spoke.
“You can’t be God. You’re too small.”
His eyes sparkled, and then he chuckled with his head thrown back, and I could see his white underbelly shaking in small ripples.
When his laughter finally subsided, he extended a long, webbed finger. He was pointing to the edge of the porch’s shadow - to the spot where the rich soil became dust in the sun. My mother had tried to grow flowers there for years. She had stopped trying when my father’s condition worsened.
“Look there,” commanded the frog, and I stared as an exquisite white flower unfurled its petals as if stretching its limbs after a long sleep. In my five years, I had never seen anything so magnificent. Its scent was as sweet as honey, and I wanted to bury my nose in a field of these creations too delicate and extraordinary to be called flowers.
“You see?” God asked, and I nodded.
God and I became good friends that summer. I spent every day under the porch, talking to him. He never wanted to leave the shade, though, even when I offered to carry him in my pocket where he would be safe from careless feet.
Sometimes I asked God questions. Sometimes he answered. Once, I asked him where Heaven was.
“Heaven,” he said, “is where I live.”
“But you live under my porch!”
God just smiled.
In August, my father’s illness had progressed to the point that I was sent to my aunt’s house in Virginia so I wouldn’t be underfoot. I told God I would be back soon, and then waited in Virginia for my father to get better.
Six months later, I came back home for my father’s funeral.
Death is very confusing for a child. I didn’t understand what it meant to die; all I knew was that my father had been lying in his bed when I left, and now when I came back, he was nowhere to be found. He must be hiding somewhere, I was sure; people couldn’t just disappear, especially without saying good-bye. My mother told me he had “passed on,” but I thought she meant he’d traveled to another town. When I continued to press her for a literal meaning of her euphemism, she told me he was in Heaven.
Suddenly everything became clear; I knew exactly how to find my father. I ran on chubby legs to the front porch, my heart sounding loudly in my throat. I bent down to shimmy under the porch - but I had grown during those six months in Virginia, and I could no longer squeeze into the shadows. I sat in front of the porch all afternoon, calling for someone to answer me. No voice came. No father returned from the dead. No frog peeked out of its hiding spot. I was too big to talk to God, so I started to cry.
My husband is sure I imagined speaking to God. He says my loneliness as a child manifested into my belief that a frog could talk to me: a solution for my need for company. You may agree with him. I don’t. I believe that if I look hard enough, I will meet God again. I have to believe that. He wouldn’t have left me without saying good-bye. Sometimes I even catch glimpses of him out of the corner of my eye: in the sun sparkling on the water, in the breezes rippling through the grass, in the white flowers - delicate as clouds - guarding my front porch where no other flowers dare to grow.