“Harold! Harold!” Her screeching voice produced an involuntary shudder. Giving a quick parting glance towards the huge concrete tank that held the triumph of his last two years’ work, Harold made his way towards the house. She can’t possibly get any bigger, he thought, opening the back door and glancing over towards his wife, whose immense bulk almost concealed the chair in which she sprawled. If she gets much heavier, he winced, the success of the project may be at risk. But he managed a weak smile as he said, “What is it, my love?” “Coffee,” whined Moira. “You’re late with my four o’clock snack. I really don’t see why you should spend so much time away; those stupid fish can’t possibly be all that interesting.” “You’d be surprised,” said Harold. He made himself a coffee too - strong and black - and sat opposite his wife as she dunked first one and then another, and then more chocolate biscuits into the mug of sweet, milky coffee he had poured for her. When had things changed? Harold wondered to himself. She wasn’t always this awful, this demanding, this (he shuddered as the words came unbidden to his mind) this………repulsive. And helpless! Moira didn’t have to be helpless. It was just how she had arranged her life. Quite some time ago, Harold had begun doing a few extra things for Moira as she did less and less for herself. Then she started ordering him around to such an extent that, in the end, if Harold did all she asked, she had no need to ever leave the armchair in which she sat all day. Of course (and fortunately!), she managed to shuffle to the lavatory a couple of times a day, groaning and complaining all the way. But, as Harold reminded her, “As much as I’d love to, my sweetheart, I can’t do everything for you!” Harold had trouble remembering when exactly it was that he had taken over the responsibility of all meal preparations. And, try as he might, he could not deny Moira’s insistence on bigger and extra helpings of all he cooked. The manner of her refusal to accept healthier alternatives to her sweet and creamy favourites made life too difficult to not comply with her requests. Ah, well, he thought, as he finished his coffee. Not long now. His thoughts turned to his almost completed project. These so recently produced creatures were better than he had even dared to dream. Mind you, it had taken some considerable time and effort to find the perfect combination of water, fortified food and tadpole. But, he was convinced that he’d finally achieved it! The first few batches of frogs’ spawn had produced wimpy little creatures that quite preferred pond-weed to meat, or even each other, for a feed. He’d had to travel much further afield to find the vastly larger spawn and had gathered perhaps a thousand times more than he had first imagined he would need. Time and again Harold had found newer breeds and used different techniques. He had watched in awe and pleasure as some hatchlings had taken merely a cursory look for other food before they had begun to nibble at their nearest close relative. Harold’s vegetable plot was thriving as a result of the fertilising done with the remains of the many rejected crops of prospective little carnivores. But, “That’s my boys!” Harold had muttered triumphantly as he fed pieces of raw rabbit meat to his latest ravenous millions. “Harold!” His reverie was shattered. “Yes, my love?” “What’s for dinner?”(Demanding, more than inquiring), “I feel like something special.” “I’ll see what I can do,” said Harold, “If it’s something special you want, then that’s what you’ll get - something special.” Something special is certainly how to describe another meal I’m planning. Harold grinned at the thought. That night Harold couldn’t sleep. After he had helped Moira heave her flab into bed, he had lain awake in the next room carefully reviewing his plans. Stupid fish, indeed! Well, let her think that. If she’d been even the least bit interested in his earlier hobby of fish breeding, perhaps things might have turned out differently. As well as his love of fish, Harold had always held a fascination for tadpoles. He remembers the tadpoles in his Grade Two classroom. He remembers the girl with the yellow plaits who had screamed and turned pale when one tadpole began to systematically eat another. Yes, that’s when his fascination had begun. And now, here he was, proud possessor of a gigantic tank full of the biggest and most aggressive tadpoles ever imaginable - quite unimaginable, in fact! The tank writhed and bubbled continuously, and the frantic scenes that ensued each time Harold dropped in a freshly caught rabbit, made the hairs on his neck stand to attention. Last week he had lowered in a sheep’s carcass. Twenty-four hours is all it took for it to disappear. It would have to be tomorrow. No more waiting. Tomorrow, and then what? Maybe thirty-six hours - Moira was certainly larger than a sheep - then freedom. The day dawned sunny, but cool. “Perfect!” thought Harold as he dosed his wife’s syrupy morning coffee with the morphia. “Perfect!” he thought again later, as he watched Moira’s huge bulk slump into the bedclothes. “Perfect!” he gasped when he had finally piled his comatose beloved into the wheelbarrow. “Dinner’s coming, my little beauties,” he called as, summoning up all his strength, Harold struggled along the pathway to the back paddock with the loaded wheelbarrow.
* * * * * Harold lounged back in his favourite chair, watching the peaceful darkness descend. How long had it been now? He wondered. He no longer cared. He had no idea even what day it was. All he knew was that he was alone and free. He poured himself another glass of wine and popped an olive into his mouth. Harold leisurely rose from his chair, opened the door and strolled out into the cool, damp evening air. 'This is the life', he thought to himself, as he took a long relaxed breath. It had been raining a little and the air was pure and sweet in his nostrils. Harold heard a strange noise. He wandered down the path to investigate. Calmly walking along, he pricked his ears as he tried to discern the source of the sound. It was coming closer. Louder and louder. Nearer and nearer. “What………..?” Harold’s heart froze as the feet belonging to the first of the monstrous frogs landed heavily on the pathway in front of him.