Lost At Sea: Contact with toad water

Words by Sophie Blackshaw

Pictures by Mitch Gee

Published on August 6, 2014

It’s a peculiar thing to know exactly where you are all the time, but not to know if you like or dislike it, and to be without any knowledge of where you’d rather be or, perhaps unknowingly, should be.

There are rivers of sweat running down my sternum and they remind me of the streams I saw, I don’t know where, wherever — they’re indicative of recent rains and, usually, of a warm clime. I like a warm environment. But I like a cold one too. I liked kicking my way through roadside sludge in the sub-zero temperatures of far North America. It destroyed more than a handful of good suede shoes, but it was always a journey I enjoyed. There were streams there too, just bigger — well, they’re rivers, year-round rivers with strong currents and logs the size of houses careening down them towards some falls, probably Niagara. Imagine clinging to one of the logs like you’re the video game hero, or a wrongly-convicted criminal. Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy, in constant fear of Tommy Lee Jones’ weird face.

In the sub-tropics, however, there aren’t many trees that fall into gushing rivers. We’re back to little streams with smooth rocks and perfectly formed holes stuffed with toad spawn, recognised nationally as the bad kind of tadpole. The tadpole nobody loves. I drop large pebbles into these hot leaf-stained holes in an effort to explode said tadpoles into the surrounding air, to see their bodies flop on the hot stone and squirm to a toasty death, but all this results in is the saturation of my shins with stagnant water and toad juice and decaying matter. I did not anticipate this result, and so I am forced out my fun and into my reality: when, I ask myself, is the anticipated outcome ever the same as it is imagined?

I’m afraid now. Not of the small things like contact with toad water, but of eagerness misspent, of misleading expectations, and then, finally, of my dreams going awry. If I can’t fully foresee the result of dropping a pebble in a puddle then, I suppose, there is no possibility of my understanding what will happen if I’m dropped in a place by forces largely out my control. How will I operate at a desk; can I really perform what I’ve studied for; what if the boss is a toad; is this where I should be; am I in the wrong place, the wrong country; will someone drop a pebble on me if I don’t belong here?

It’s a perpetual state of indecision, of unknowing, of unpredictability and no, don’t mistake me — it’s not predictability I want. It’s the simple assurance that I will find the place(s) I need to be, across oceans or seas, or states. Places without pebble-droppers. I’m still sweating.

Sophie Blackshaw is a writer living in Brisbane but actually from the Sunshine Coast. She likes banjos and Lindt chocolate.

Mitch Gee is a Brisbane-based freelance illustrator. Find more of his work on his website.