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    Kermit Be Damned

    Laura Bradford Icon

    I love summer. Always have.

    There’s something about sitting in the sun, soaking up the rays, that just makes me happy. The darker I get, the better (Suntan lotion? What’s that?). If I could pick the ideal place to live it would be on a beach with the crashing waves visible from every window. No beach? Then a pool will do. Except, of course, if I have to empty the skimmer basket. Eeeewwwwww.

    My escapades with this round white plastic mesh “basket” have been so memorable, that I actually started filing online “skimmer reports” for a few of my friends last summer. It was intended as a way to work through the willies I’d gotten from whatever critter I’d flung into the yard on that particular day. I had a subject (that was me), victims (those would be the critters) and a rundown of all activity that transpired from the time the two (sometimes more) crossed paths. Surprisingly, it became a favorite daily email among the selected recipients, with more than a few asking for their return this summer. Who knew?

    In a nutshell, nature and I don’t mix very well. We never have. We never will.

    But in order to swim in the pool, one must empty the little basket thingy known in the pool-using world as the skimmer. To me, it’s simply evil incarnate.

    Let me explain.

    By day, the pool is crystal clear. Inviting. Refreshing. The perfect place to cool off a sun-addicted body.

    By night, it turns into a watery grave (if I’m lucky) for just about every creepy, crawly kind of critter you can imagine. Uh huh, that’s right. While I sleep, they float down the current caused by the jets and land themselves into the skimmer basket.

    Where they wait for morning.

    Where they wait… For me.

    The first few times I did this job, I was naïve, innocent in the ways of these evil creatures. Translation? I was completely clueless. C-L-U-E-L-E-S-S.

    I’d unlock the gate around seven a.m. and head straight for the square trap door, ready to vacuum the pool for a new day of fun. I’d pull off the lid, look inside, and…SHRIEK. Or squeal (not in a happy, thanks for the chocolate way either). Or, in some cases, do a little dance step that surely amused any neighbors who happened to be sipping their coffee at the window.

    On a good day, there were water bugs and a few spiders.

    On a bad day, there were little frogs, a tiny field mouse or two, a turtle, and yes, even a bird (no wonder bird baths are so shallow). Most of the time, they were dead by the time I got to them. Sucked into the basket where they bloated to twice their normal size. But sometimes, if I was really lucky, one–or four–of the frogs would be happily swimming in the water above the basket.

    Here’s where it gets tricky. You have to reach inside the water to lift the basket out of the trap. Which means coming within inches of carcasses and swimming frogs (eeewwwww). Most of the time, I’d simply shut the lid and walk away, confident that they, too, would grow weary and expand their waistlines like their kinfolk.

    Sometimes they did. Sometimes they didn’t.

    When they did, I just crinkled my nose and lifted the basket of bodies from the basin, my mouth forming a continuous “Eeewwwwww (which, of course, was followed soon after, by a full body shudder).”

    When they didn’t, I had to try other tactics. Like spraying a hose in the basket, hoping the added water would weaken their motivation to keep swimming (not highly successful). Or like telling them it was okay to give up…that they’d fought a good fight and it was time to go home (they didn’t listen). Or, if I timed the whole process right, like releasing a shriek just as my next door neighbor came outside to do whatever it is he does (works like magic every time—men love to be the white knight coming to rescue the fair maiden). God, I hope he’s not reading this blog. But, just in case: Hi, Jason. You’re the best!

    What is it with frogs and chlorinated water? And field mice? Shouldn’t they be in, um, fields? Is it too much to ask that nature’s creatures stay where they’re intended to be? Frogs in the swamp. Field mice in the fields. Turtles in the pond. Me in my pool.

    If I had my druthers, I’d still be in that delusional world where things with bugged-out eyes, crooked legs and pointy noses stared back at me from glass cases in the children’s zoo. But noooooo. That would be too easy. Too civilized. Instead, these vicious creatures stare back at me from a white basket with a look of mocking defiance—as if they know they stand swim between me and a clean pool.

    I guess the question then becomes: Who wants it more? The frog or me?

    And is this something I could take care of by, say, finding myself a massage-giving, chocolate-feeding, Cabana Boy?


    ***A quick side note for any fellow mystery writers reading this post. A bloated frog body does NOT pop when you pull it from the water.

    9 Responses to “Kermit Be Damned”

    1. My kinder, more helpful side suggests we take up a collection and send Laura a Summer Pool Survival Kit. Contents: One minnow net (for catching corpses), one set of sturdy rubber gloves (both psychological and physical barrier), and one jauntily decorated diaper pail for body storage (no cop would ever look there) — extra body bags included.

      The more mischievous (read more dominant) side of me says we take up a collection, visit an exotic pet store, put a video camera in place, then recover our expenses by submitting a tape to “America’s Funniest Home videos.”

      “Yes, Officer, I realize Marine Toads aren’t indigenous to St. Louis…No, no I’m not sure how the guppies made it into the pool…4,230 of them –really? Yes, that is quite a lot. I suppose you’re right, there probably were a lot more before the Chilean Sea Bass got hungry…I agree, the iguana is very colorful…”

      by Joe on August 29th, 2006 at 6:18 am

    2. I miss the hysterical skimmer reports (where, if memory serves, one creepy crawly was compared to Phyllis Diller)! I hosey you bring them back next summer.

      And as someone who’s seen the critter-in-the-skimmer dance, I second Joe’s America’s Funniest Home Video suggestion. This would have been great a couple of weeks ago when Laura looked into the skimmer, screeched, and then sheepishly pulled out a floating pool toy. She’s a woman on the edge, people.

      But let me just say–ahem, again–that I’m all for freeing the frogs while they’re still alive… (Easy for me to say since I’m not the one sticking my hand in the basket!)

      by Heather Webber on August 29th, 2006 at 6:37 am

    3. Our hot tub has been broken for a year and the cover is not entirely water-proof, we found out the hard way. We came back from vacation and found a hot tub half full of water from a tremendous rain, and populated with about a zillion tadpoles.

      See, I believe in reincarnation. Being the yin to Laura’s yang, I have a thing for frogs. I’ve had a lovely terrarium/aquarium for half a dozen years and just a few months ago, the last of my fire-bellied toads crawled behind his rock for the last time. Only to be reborn, in great numbers apparently, in my hot tub.

      So, sucker that I am, we incubated them a bit, and have only just now drained the tub, netting out all the frogs and tadpoles. Most have gone to the pond down the street, a neighbor just picked up two dozen for her kids (since my daughter put up a Free Frogs sign at the neighborhood cafe) and we may even keep two or three to repopulate the vacant aquarium/terrarium.

      So, next time something still wiggles in the skimmer basket, Laura, give me a call. I can always give it a temporary home in my hot tub.

      by Heidi Vornbrock Roosa on August 29th, 2006 at 7:38 am

    4. As one who has attended Girl Scout leader camp procedure training with her in a cabin infested with cockroaches, the video setup would be amusing. (Not that I didn’t have my share of the heebie jeebies throughout the night.)

      Could this be where her oldest daughter gets her less than affectionate tolerance for all creatures great and especially those of the smaller variety?

      But what I really want to know is, where do you sign up to be on the list of selected recipients of that daily skimmer report via e-mail?

      by Beth on August 29th, 2006 at 8:29 am

    5. I am reading these comments while sitting at my hotel’s complimentary lobby computer. And I’m giggling and shaking my head at the same time. I am being mocked…on my own blog!

      Joe–If I see any exotic animals (or multitude of guppies) in my pool, I will find you.

      Heather–Nice resurrection of the pool toy screech. That screech MAY, MAY have been a bit premature. May.

      Heidi–You can have ALL my frogs. Anytime. But what a waste of a hot tub!!

      Beth, Beth, Beth–ah yes, camp training. I slept all of about 15 minutes that night. Mainly because of the sound of shoes slamming against the wall of the lodge all night long as one person after the other smacked a roach (and not just any roach, mind you, FLYING camp roaches)where they landed. But hey, we were unbeatable in fire building. But that’s because fire building is a useful skill.

      And hey, people, what about my Cabana Boy idea? Do you think I could find one who would take care of that sort of thing AND give a massage and feed me chocolate all day?

      The guy standing about 10 feet from me is getting that “got to get on the computer NOW” look so I bettter sign off and head back to my room.

      Thanks, guys, for the amusing comments.

      by Laura on August 29th, 2006 at 8:47 am

    6. See, I knew I didn’t want a pool in our backyard. I’ll take the lovely neighborhood pool, which is maintained by someone else!

      by Sara Rosett on August 29th, 2006 at 10:16 am

    7. Laura, the Cabana Boy is definitely the way to go. I’m sure you can find one who could multi-task…

      I couldn’t have a pool in my yard. Way too much work. I’m with Sara–the neighborhood one rocks!

      by Tasha Alexander on August 29th, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    8. I love my hot tub, particularly at night. It’s relaxing after a long day at work and the kids have headed to bed. This past spring, I took a plunge late at night when it was cool outside and it melted the stress away. It was a rude awakening the next day when I discovered I had been relaxing with a swollen frog bouncing in the bubbles. It had obviously been in there for quite some time. Needless to say, I now use the hot tub light and do a quick scan before getting in. The thought still makes me shiver.

      by Terri on August 29th, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    9. Joe, the plastic gloves are such a good idea! And one of those little face mask thingies! Maybe even a raincoat–they make cute clear plastic ones with little lime green frogs and lady bugs and stuff.

      Laura, you CANNOT confess to turning the hose on soggy half-dead little critters in the hopes of finishing them off–not if you ever want to work in this small town with the horrendous crime rate ever again! Sheesh. (Pretty funny, though.)

      by Diana Killian on August 30th, 2006 at 3:27 pm

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