Horror logo

Ch5: Frog Wellies

It is a slightly sad sight. She is the only child left.

By L.C. SchäferPublished 3 years ago 11 min read
Ch5: Frog Wellies
Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

Chapter Five: Frog Wellies

It is a slightly sad sight. She is the only child left. She is sitting on the bottom stair of the old rambling Georgian house, already bundled up in a warm coat with the hood up. Attached to its sleeves there are matching mittens hobbling her hands, and her cheap looking green and white wellies are decorated with cartoonish frogs. All the lights are off, blinds pulled down, chairs put up on tables. The staff are extremely ready to go home for the day. They all have their coats on, too.

I think they would have pushed me out of the door, if it weren't for their naked curiosity about my death. I am informed politely that there would normally be a surcharge for picking up this late, but under the circumstances, they have waived it. I think I am expected to be flushed pink and sweaty from rushing here so late - I am supposed to be flustered, tripping over myself to gush apologies and gratitude. But it seems that my guilt gland is under developed, or maybe it died when I did but never got the same reprieve I enjoyed. I can tell from the change in her demeanour that the manager is beginning to regret her display of spontaneous generosity, and is wishing she had charged me - especially since I am not even going to spill any juicy details about the last few days.

The child - Isla, I remembered - has moved from the step and is hiding behind the plump bejegginged legs of a woman with a very short bob and a pale purple sweater who is excitedly telling me about what the child ate for tea, as well as details about subsequent bowel movements. I feel a little repulsed, but do my best not to show it. I don't even know when my own last bowel movement was.

"What time was tea?" I ask. How often do children this size need to eat? Is it the same as adults, or more often, because their gut is smaller and they are growing?

The woman, whose name is Kelly, or Kerry, or Kerrie-Anne or something (they all seem to have names beginning with a K, which are probably interchangeable), shoots me a strange look but supplies the information in a level tone.

I watch her mouth move, but I am not really listening. It can't be that hard, I am telling myself. I will just offer it food often, and keep feeding it until it stops. Her. Not it. Her.

Kelly's hand rests easily on the child's head, and when she speaks to her, the name falls easily from her lips. She seems much more comfortable with this child than I am, and the child seems content to stay with her and not come with me. It seems that is something we have in common, this mutual discomfort with each other. Does she just not like me? Was I an unnatural mother? I do not want a scene with crying and wailing, peeling a reluctant little sprite away from this capable woman - especially when I am just as reluctant, and not at all capable. I am relieved when the child moves towards me, uncertainly, and with wide owlish eyes, but without making a fuss.

Perhaps they already told her I was dead, and here I am picking her up and taking her home. That would be confusing, I imagine, even for a child as small as this who probably doesn't know what "dead" means.

Or do they take many weeks and three different counsellors to break that sort of news to a child?

"See you tomorrow!" they all chirp. As I walk away I can hear them talking about me, and I feel quite insulted, until I remember that I don't care, and I turn my attention to not letting my brand new toddler get squashed by one of the many motor vehicles speeding along this road.

It is not a five minute walk home.

Children walk abominably slowly.

It is probably better not to have children at all, but if you do, make sure that you have a car and you drive everywhere - even if your destination is a mere three streets away from your front door.

Progress was slow because the child kept stopping to look at leaves, or pick up twigs. It seemed to take an age to travel ten yards, and then, to my anguish, the girl would catch sight of something behind us that she wanted to look at again and sprint a hundred yards in the wrong direction at top speed.

Progress felt even slower because I felt like I had abducted someone's child and was taking it home with me. The entire excercise felt completely wrong on all levels.

It was also frightening, because for at least half of the journey we were walking beside a busy road, and it was rush hour. I didn't especially want to be a parent, but I wanted even less for my child to die on my very first day of trying to be one. I could say with confidence that I could not recall experiencing sheer terror like that ever before. It quickly cured me of my awkwardness around holding her small mittened hand - not that she allowed that for long before she pulled away and took off again, with uncharacteristic speed, into the deepening twilight.

I was exhausted when we walked in through the front door, ready to flop down on the sofa and not move an inch for at least a week. Perhaps, at last, I was tired enough to sleep.

"Don't touch that!" My voice was sharp when little hands went poking in my box of treasure.

"Take your coat off."

Damp wellies left little prints on the carpet and I winced.

"Take your wellies off, as well, please." Oh god, how do you talk to these people? Everything I say to her is either an instruction or an admonition. She is going to hate me, if she doesn't already.

The only response was a pause, a long considered stare and then more wet frogheads imprinted on the carpet. Anger flared, but more at myself than the little urchin. I had the vague sense that if I had used the right words in the right tone, they might have been more effective. Brisk, like Kellie-Ann, or Kayleigh. Perhaps I should scoop her up, put her on the step and remove the hideous frog-festooned footwear myself. But that would mean picking it - her - up, and I did not particularly want to do that. I followed her into the kitchen, a vague plan forming in my mind. I would make sure it was tired and clean with a full belly and wait for it to fall asleep. Then I could continue snooping around my own home.


The child is sitting at the kitchen counter eating a biscuit. I watch her warily in case it looks like she will fall, but she doesn't. She is beginning to look tired. She looks muddy from exploring the long narrow strip of grass at the back of this little house.

How old are you? I wonder. I hope your birthday is not coming up soon, because I feel wildly unqualified to organise a party.

She is becoming more at ease with me, which puts me at a distinct disadvantage, because I feel no easier around her.

There is a yellow beaker in a cupboard beside a collection of glasses. I pour milk into it and set it down in front of her, observing with fascination how competently she manages it without spilling. Babies drink from breasts or bottles, I knew - but I wasn't sure at what age that stopped happening.

She is here because of a mistake. There had been some kind of emergency order obtained, and the child placed with a foster family. They lived across on the other side of town, but had seen fit to continue sending Isla to the nursery she was used to, for some semblance of normality. Today, the foster-mother had got stuck in traffic. The staff at the child-zoo still had my details on file. So I got the faux-chirpy call informing me it was past time she went home. The foster mother had arrived moments after I left, to find the place shuttered and dark. Several phone calls later, they discovered that the child had been collected by her actual mother, who, by some colossal beaurocratic error, was not gently decomposing in the morgue just outside town, but was very much alive and well and recovering from "mild" amnesia.

I wanted to tell the social worker who called me that the foster mother was very welcome to come and fetch Isla if she wanted to, but my stunted guilt gland made a heroic effort, waxed the fattest it had for two days and stopped my mouth.

So we are stuck with one another, it seems. At least, for now. Maybe for the better part of a couple of decades. Perhaps beaurocracy will win - possibly the state still technically has parental responsibility, my own not being reinstated when my heart beat again, meaning Isla will be removed from my care. I am not sure how I feel about that. I scrutinise the thought from all angles.

Isla has stopped eating biscuits from the packet, and has started crumbling them into what is left of the milk. I decide to try a Kay-voice. After all, no one is going to see me making a fool out of myself, imitating a parent (or babysitter) are they?

"That's enough of that," I say briskly, moving the soggy mess to the sideboard out of her reach. "It's time for a bath. Come on."


As nervous as I was about the water being too cold, it seemed worse to run it too hot. When I wondered aloud, "Where are the towels?" Isla had run to the airing cupboard, which was located in the spare room. I made a game of it, "Where is your soap?" "Where are your pyjamas?" I wanted to encourage this skill, this helpful streak - it might come in useful at some point. Perhaps this is how it feels to train a puppy, except a puppy doesn't burst into giggles when they scamper off to fetch something for you.

She was wearing a nappy, like a baby, which I found revolting, but I covered my reaction and pulled it down like knickers, averting my eyes slightly until she was nestled in amongst a generous amount of bubbles. I pledged silently that she will have to stop wearing those horrible things as soon as possible. Afterwards, figuring out how to put a clean one on only hardened my resolve.

The girl balked at using her own bed, and climbed into mine. I shrugged. I was unlikely to use it, so why not? She starts to cry when I leave her, and the sound is like fingernails on a chalkboard, rasping over raw exposed nerve endings I didn't even know I had.

I lie down beside her, and she has no compunctions at all about burrowing close to me. I don't have a book to hand, and I have an awareness that children have stories at bedtime. So I tell her a story about an elephant that wakes up in a very strange place and can't remember his name. He has a rabbit friend who tries to help him, but he can't remember anything about the rabbit either, so the rabbit leaves.

It feels good to tell someone, and I talk for a long time - about how the elephant's burrow is unfamiliar and full of frogs, about a baby elephant who floats down on a cloud of interesting leaves and needs looking after with a diet of milk and biscuits. My voice grows monotonous in the gentle glow from the nightlight, until, after a long time, impossibly long lashes flutter closed and her breathing softens. I marvel at the relative ease at which she achieves sleep, with no training whatsoever.

I get a sniff, among the almost overpowering smell of soap and talcum powder, of why people did this job on purpose, how they took joy in it. I am looking forward to returning her to the child-zoo in the morning, but i suppose I could grow fond of this child, if I can keep it alive long enough. I try to edge away and she stirs, so I lie still and watch the night crawl by in near silence.

Her sleep deepens. I slide my phone out of my pocket and spend the hours this way, my face bathed in its glow, methodically scrolling through Beth's social media accounts and various messaging services. When the battery threatens to give out, I plug it in on the bedside table one-handed and keep scrolling.

The internet, I discover, is a rabbit hole of parenting advice, most of it conflicting. I navigate away from those pages and decide to stick to my original plan - keep feeding it, and, for good measure, periodically put it - her - in the bath.

I think she might be on to me, somehow - she knows that something is not quite right - but she is not able to articulate whatever misgivings she might have.

I feel quite sure I am not her mother.


1. A New Home

2. Dead Man's Flip Flops

3. Sleep is for the Weak

4. Careful What I Wish For


About the Creator

L.C. Schäfer

Book-baby is available on Kindle Unlimited

Flexing the writing muscle

Never so naked as I am on a page. Subscribe for nudes.

Here be micros

Twitter, Insta Facey

Sometimes writes under S.E.Holz

"I've read books. Well. Chewed books."

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.