Horny Toad

Chad fed him flies, and Horny liked that. Didn’t matter to either that the horned toad might some day be on a endangered species list. People had enough on their minds back then, rather than worrying about some creature they couldn’t eat or sell for profit.

Chad and Horny were buds. Well, buds in the only way a desert lizard and a human boy could be—Chad fed Horny, kept him safe, stroked his head and belly, kept him in his terrarium and occasionally slept with him.

They had a bit of a symbiotic relationship, but it could be said that Horny needed Chad a bit more than Chad needed Horny, but left to his own devices and released into a dry, arid Texas or New Mexico semi-desert area, Horny would have managed quite nicely. Chad wasn’t aware that Horny could shoot blood from his eyes or mouth as far as five feet away, so one could say he’d also been treated fairly well by the Texas horned lizard.

The same couldn’t be said for Chad’s mom. Changing sheets was a weekly routine for Mom—though sometimes Chad’s sheets needed changing twice in a week, but we won’t go there—so when that day came, she was introduced to the more belligerent side of Horny. He shot blood at her, and met his mark. Mom ran screaming from the room.

“There’s a demon in Chad’s room! A demon in Chad’s room,” she screamed, tearing through the house and out the front door. Chad was pretty sure he saw blood on the upper portion of his mom’s blouse, but had no earthly idea how anything in his room could have caused such an injury. He dashed outside and joined his hyperventilating mother.

“Mom, what is it? You hurt?”

Mom looked at her son. She was wild-eyed, her hair in disarray. She suddenly threw her hands up to her face, then started making strange noises—like eerie moans—as she attempted to brush stuff away, off her top.

“Something lives in your bed, Chad. What HAVE you been doing in there son, late at night, when nobody’s awake?” She grabs her son and turns him around, pulling up his t-shirt, checking his spindly legs that extend past his shorts.

“Mom!” Chad starts pushing her hands away. “What are you doing? Nothing! I’m not doing nothing! Just sleeping, and sometimes I’ll play with Horny.”

“HORNY! Oh. My. God!” His mom turns, stalks away shaking her head, repeatedly throwing her hands up into the air. Then, she stops, turns and gives him a look.

“You playing with yourself at night?”

Chad’s jaw drops. “Mom! Jeeze, NO!” But he knew he’d been caught. She must have found the old t-shirt, the one he used…

“Mom, Horny is my pet frog. The one I found when we went to visit Aunt Myrtle in New Mexico. They’re all over the place and you and Pa said I could keep him. I named him Horny. He’s harmless, eats dead flies off my fingers, snoozes when I rub his head or tummy.”

“THAT THING IS A DEMON! It spat blood at me, shooting out of its eyes! I want it out of my house—now!”

“You must have startled him, Mom, Horny wouldn’t attack you for no reason. He’s never shot blood out of his eyes at me. I didn’t know he could do such a thing.”

Horny was pretty distressed when Chad went to his room to check it out. Sure enough, there were specs of dried stuff on his sheets that looked a lot like blood. As Chad approached the bed, he stepped on that wadded-up t-shirt and stumbled, catching himself on the edge of the mattress. Horny let loose with another shot of blood.

Chad saw it with his own eyes, red stuff coming out of Horny’s eyes. He couldn’t wait to take Horny to the old school house. Even the bigger kids would be surprised, he thought, if he could make Horny do his trick in front of everybody.

By this time Pa had come home and heard Chad’s mom’s version of the demon in their son’s bedroom. No matter how much the boy begged and pleaded, his folks demanded that Horny be released back into the wild. So, Chad did what he was told. It had been a long time since Pa’s razor strop had found Chad’s backside, but the memory was vivid. He didn’t want things to go THAT far.

He fed Horny a few flies, then carried his pet’s travel box—the one with New Mexico sand in it—to the far side of the dirt road, where sand, sod and a sparse speckle of ugly grass mixed together. Horny was given his freedom.

The next time Chad and the folks took the wagon and rode out toward New Mexico, Chad spent a lot of time looking for another one. He couldn’t understand it. That first time, they were all over the place. Now, he found nary a one.

Sadly, to Chad, nobody at school believed the boy whenever he’d tell them he used to have a frog with horns named Horny, and it could spit blood out of its eyes.