My sister and I decided to have a fiftieth anniversary party for our parents at a lodge alongside a lake in central Florida and had a zoom meeting with mom to see if she had any special requests. It was the same night it rained frogs, and people in town talked about the end of time. We didn’t believe that but hoped if it were true that we’d get the fiftieth party completed before the world ended. After all, it had cost us a small fortune, but way less than what our parents had invested in us over our lifetimes. It was the least we could do.“Well, your daddy and I appreciate it. We don’t want you to go to any trouble on our account. Attendance might be low for those who believe the frogs are a sign of the end time.”“No, mom,” Sis said. “We want it to be special. Besides, they say the waterspouts in the gulf sucked those frogs up and the rain deposited them here.”“I hope so. Y’all got the barbecue, potato salad, and slaw ordered?We nodded.“Make sure they bring enough sauce. Regular and Hot. Napkins and plastic cutlery, too.”We nodded, but Sis took notes.“I know you’ve sent out a little over a hundred invitations but send one more to Roy and Melvin. Some folks won’t show because of allergies, hemorrhoids, or what have you, so don’t worry about it.”I saw sis’ eyes roll, but Mama didn’t, or she would have said something. It wasn’t that Sis didn’t like Mama’s gay hairdressers. Sure, she probably didn’t like their drama, their being Pentecostal gospel singers on the side, or their slinging conventional religion to the wind in favor of a make-it-up-as-you-go religion to fit their lifestyle. Truth was, Sis held grudges, and when Melvin put that rinse on her hair that turned it pink like Cyndi Lauper, sis wasn’t interested in fun. She was madder than a hornet, and the bank even advanced her money on her paycheck for a redo because they thought it would be bad for business to have pink hair at the teller drive through window. She refused to ever go back to Melvin, or Roy, and drove to Orlando where a hairdresser dyed it back to brown.“Make sure one of your kids, or someone, is guarding the gift and card table. I just read an article about these party crashers that go around stealing. Everyone thinks they are with someone else until everything of value is gone. Just like people reading the obits and robbing houses when folks are at a funeral.”We nodded.“Oh, and you make sure Shirley don’t put any of that fondant on the cake. You know how that stuff gets stuck in people’s dentures.”On the evening of the party, we were pleased and surprised the crowd was large, and, fortunately, we had enough food and cake for everyone. Mom said a few words and mentioned they’d started out in life so poor, and daddy had worked such long hours, she thought he had a girlfriend on the side and figured he was giving some of his check to raise an illegitimate child. At that point, Melvin stood and yelled, “I’m your child by another mother,” and the crowd laughed. When daddy stood, he didn’t acknowledge Mama or Melvin’s comments and told the crowd how honored they were, how he hoped for another fifty, and how much he appreciated all of them. Everyone clapped, and it occurred to me they wouldn’t have another fifty and the raining frogs, if a sign of anything, was a sign of the forces of nature always winning whether we accept our fates or not.
Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in thirteen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over three hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine,The Boston Literary Magazine, Cheap Pop, Flash Fiction Magazine, With Painted Words, among many others.