“The Loveland Frog,” by M.C. Schmidt

Aug 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

The West Haven Rest Home smells like horehound candy and VapoRub, but its residents don’t seem to mind. Judging from the seat fillers in the community room, I doubt they’d mind much of anything. Over-medicated, I assume, or maybe just worn down by life.

“You on the hunt for a date, pal?” my companion asks, and I realize my eyes are wandering. My companion’s name is Oscar. I’ve known him for five minutes.

“Sorry,” I say.

“Don’t be rude.”

“I won’t be. I’m not.”

He performs a bout of throat clearing, a wet reminder that he’s the main show here. “So,” he says, moping his nostril rims with a tissue, “what’s your interest in the frog?”

“Well, I was born and raised in Loveland,” I explain, “before college—go Bucks—but I’m back now. I’ve been fascinated by the frogman story since I was little.”

“And now you want to hear it from the source while I’m still around to tell it.” There are silver fillings in his smile. The gesture is both an endearing and alarming contrast to his flattop, a hairstyle I’ve always associated with bikers and marines and men of other scary ilks with knowledge of pressure points and light weaponry. It’s a fitting look for the police Sargent he used to be. “So, what’s the deal, are you writing a movie?” he asks.

“Oh, no, nothing like that,” I say. “I’m not a filmmaker. I’m a writer. Or, hoping to be.” The self-conscious titter that punctuates my explanation causes me to feel especially unmanly in present company. Across our community room table, present company is unamused. “I’m compiling an oral history of Loveland, actually” I say, straightening in my chair.

“Oral history?” He puckers as if from the bitter taste of these words. “You should make a movie. That’s where the money is.”

“It isn’t about,” I begin.

“I tried to write a movie about it, back in the day,” he says, “but it turns out I’m not the creative type. Never could write anything longer than a ticket.” He blinks at me twice then asks, “Are you going to write that down?”

I finger the phone on our table. “I’m recording everything,” I remind him.

“Then why’d you bring the notepad? Just wanted to feel like a real writer?”

I don’t confirm that this is exactly why I brought a pen and paper. Rather, I open my steno pad and scribble his joke about writing tickets. He restates it to me in digestible chunks to make sure I get it right. When I’m done, I look up at him, my pen at the ready.

“Is it all right with you if I just get into it?” he asks.

I nod for him to proceed.

Oscar maneuvers his mobility scooter incrementally closer to the table and leans forward, toward my phone. “All right,” he says, “opening scene: a Midwestern street, 1972. Yards. Picket fences. Men washing cars in their driveways. Children hula-hooping. Women glimpsed through windows, setting pies to cool. 70’s music in the background. And I don’t mean that disco crap. The good stuff. Merle Haggard. Imagine Merle crooning in the background.”

I stop him there: “You don’t have to do that.”

“Do what?” he snaps, clearly vexed by my interruption.

“The scene setting. The screenplay stuff. You can just tell it in your own words.”

“Who else’s words do you think I’m telling it in?”

“Fair point,” I allow, caving under the weight of his authoritarian stare. “Sorry, go on.”

He sighs heavily enough that I feel the warmth of his breath on my face. In bygone days, I imagine that breath smelled regularly of cigarettes and beer, but today, in his retirement community, it smells of nothing. “Anyway,” he says, “onto this street appears me in uniform, six-foot, fit, handsome. Think James Caan from that era, but without the fuzzy hair. James Caan, but with a close-cropped hairpiece. Hairpiece James Caan, high and tight.”

“I can see it,” I say, drawing square hair on the steno pad. “How does this street fit into the frogman story?”

Oscar drops his head in frustration. “I’m setting the mood, boy. I’m getting your mind right. Now, do you want to come along with me, or are you going to keep behaving like you’ve never heard a story before?”

“I—want to come with you,” I say. “I’m right behind you. Let’s go.”

“Fine. Let’s cut to a different scene. Cut to me back at the station, standing in the locker room. You know what a locker room is, don’t you? It’s a place where grown men with jobs dress to do their work. Lockers, benches, petrified sweat, get it?”

“Got it.”

“So, I’m standing there in the locker room, getting ready for my day, both barrels of my hairy James Caan chest on full display, when in walks some newbie coming off third shift. Let’s call him Shultz. That’s not his real name, but I don’t want to slander the man.”

“His name’s part of the public reporting,” I say.

“I’m calling him Shultz, and Shultz is in a hell of a state, whimpering and trembling his lips and all that. So, I grasp him high up on his arm, tender but manly, you know, big brother-like, and I go, ‘Pull yourself together Shultzy; what the hell happened to you out there?’ It takes a few minutes for me to make sense of what he’s mumbling, but I get it out of him that he was out there around Riverside Drive, and he saw a child-sized frog cross the bridge over the Little Miami, says it strolled right across it on two legs. Four feet tall if it was inch, he says.”

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this story, and I get a stoned feeling hearing it told first-hand. “And what did you think?”

“Well, all the guys were standing around listening, of course, and most of them had a reaction like, ‘Screw off, geek, you sound like a psychopath.’ Me, though, I was a seasoned officer, and kind of a role model to the entire force, so I played it cool. Do you know Steve McQueen?”


“Ever see Bullitt?”


“Goddamn, that’s good flick. But, anyway, I play it cool like Steve McQueen in Bullitt, even though I was privately thinking that Shultzy might be off his nut. That is, until two weeks later when a different officer, a more seasoned man I’d known for years, strolls up to me looking all smug. So, I’m like, ‘What’s that grin about, numb nuts,’ which was the tone of the relationship I had with this guy, and he goes, ‘Guess what I got in the trunk?’ I’m sure I responded with some crack about his mother or his wife, but finally, he tells me, ‘I shot Shultz’s frogman.'”

“You had to think he was pulling your leg,” I say.

“No way, I knew this man was dead serious. Those little barbs and jokes didn’t go both ways; that wasn’t the relationship we had. So, now we can cut to one of those trunk-opening shots with me staring down into it, trying to make sense of what looked an awful lot like a dead frogman. Do you know what it ended up being, though?”

“I do,” I say, and smile like the cleverest child.

“Ever hear of an iguana?”

“Yes!” I giggle despite myself.

“Well, you wouldn’t have heard of one back in those days. I mean, maybe people had them in San Francisco or New York City, but an iguana’s the kind of pet you think to buy when you’ve got the reefer madness, and that wouldn’t be a problem in Loveland Ohio for a few years yet, so we had to take it to a university professor to find out what the hell it was.”

“And that’s where the official story ends,” I say.

Oscar stabs a finger toward me and says, “That’s where the whole damn story starts, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Tell me,” I encourage him. I’m all in now, leaning toward him across the table. It’s the posture an inferior man, but I no longer care.

He sniffs and studies the ceiling, drawing his story out, making me wait for it. “Well, I didn’t rise to the rank of Sargent by making mistakes,” he says, finally, “but what you have to understand is that I’d been primed to believe a pretty simple and understandable story: Shultz saw a frogman, another officer shot that frogman, which on closer inspection turned out to be some doper’s escaped pet lizard, ergo, there was never a frogman. The world was recognizable, right?”

“Right,” I say.

“So, one final cut. Last scene. Third act. It’s three months later, and I’m doing my third-shift rotation, cruising and humming something new off Cash’s A Thing Called Love. Do you know that record?”

“Um, no,” I admit, “I don’t think so.”

“Not one of his better ones, honestly. Still, he had that voice, and I sounded just like him at the time. Picture my James Caan profile and my Johnny Cash baritone and a sleeping city safe in my hands.”

“I’m with you.”

“So, I’m cruising, like I said. I turn down Riverside drive, over there by the Totes boot factory, and I get to that bridge that crosses the Little Miami, which was right where Shultz said he saw the thing. I think I even registered that fact, thinking, naively, ‘What a dumb twat,’ or some-such-like in reference to Shultz being a dumb twat. But then, right into my headlights, something jumps—and I mean jumps, like it was in one place where I couldn’t see it and then it arced across the sky to end up in my direct line of sight—right over the guardrail and onto the bridge.”

“The frogman,” I say.

“The frogman,” Oscar confirms.

“What did you do?”

“I didn’t shit myself, if that’s what you heard; that was just a rumor that over the years got out of hand. What I did do, though, was crawl my cruiser to a stop. The frogman stopped too, and he turned to look at me—not a neck turn, but a pivot at the shoulder. That’s an important detail to get right if this becomes a creature feature. Frogs don’t have necks.”

I scrawl, “NO NECK!!!’ in my steno pad and underline it for emphasis.

“His eyes glowed, did I mention that? Shultz included that in his original report, but we didn’t pay attention, or I didn’t, anyway. The eyes glowed, though, like a deer or a cat. It stared right at me with those glowing eyes, and then one eye slowly went dim.”

“The frogman winked at you?”

“The frogman winked at me. Then that closed eye opened again, and he crouched and hopped off that bridge into the dark. I never saw him again.”

“Then what,” I ask, nearly breathless.

“Then what?” Oscar repeats. “Then, I was too embarrassed to report it, so I kept it to myself. Then, I spent every off-duty day looking for proof of it. Then, according to my wife, I became obsessed, and she divorced me. Then, my kids were fathered by Roger, the random sloppy-second she remarried. Then, I got kicked off the force for psychological instability. Then, I got old and ended up here. Then, you asked me that question. Does that bring you up to speed?”

“Yeah,” I confirm, “I’d say it does.” I close my steno pad and smile across the table. Drained of his legend, his story now in my hands, I’m surprised to see that Oscar is something less than that earlier inflated prevaricator, just a fallen-apart man in a falling-apart home. He doesn’t smile back at me.


Outside, I lean against the bricks of West Haven and have a cigarette. I’m on the side of the building under a portico that houses a rusted ambulance and a million pavement cracks.

Fancifully, or perhaps not, I think of Oscar’s advice to tell this tale as a movie. Horror would be the obvious genre for a cryptid story, but I’m thinking sci-fi: the frog, in reality, is one of an amphibious alien species somehow trapped on Earth, or maybe he’s the result of government experiments with gene splicing, escaped from the lab and on the run. Why would either creature choose to hide in Loveland Ohio? Exactly. That’s why.

The story I’m seeing begins with Oscar, an old, deflated balloon of a man—think later-life Ed Asner, only balder and less witty—confiding his encounter with the monster to the handsome, young writer. Timothée Chalamet would be perfect here, or maybe that one twin from The Suite Life of Zach and Cody who grew up to be hot. I’ll need a propulsive third act, of course, which means a direct encounter between the writer and the frogman. Leading up the that point, the townies all roll their eyes at that hot young man for being too refined to go alone into nature on a mission to capture the beast. It will be his brains, though, that make him successful in that endeavor, and which ultimately allow him to understand the plight of the creature. Maybe the writer helps him escape Earth or at least his government pursuers (see E.T., Mac and Me, Short Circuit), or maybe they fall in love (à la The Shape of Water), contingent, of course, on how sexy we can get the frog suit. Maybe I’ll rework “The Frog Prince,” and have the writer kiss the monster who turns into Selena Gomez (Whoa! Twist! The frogman’s been a girl this whole time!) or even some up-and-coming male actor. There different directions I can take it, a world of choices I can make. There are purists around here who’ll be livid, Oscar first amongst them, for any changes I make to the familiar story. They’ll be wrong, though, because I’ll only be adding to the frogman’s legend, and legend, in the case of the Loveland Frog, is the entire point.


M.C. Schmidt’s fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in EVENT Fiction, X-R-A-Y, New World Writing, BULL, Litro, and elsewhere. His darkly comedic novel, The Decadents, was released in 2022 from Library Tales Publishing.

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