Tweet There was a small patch of green at the corner of my housing estate called "the log". I'm not sure why. The place was completely non-nondescript and I don't remember there ever being a log there, just long grass and a concrete shed where the man from the Fás scheme kept his equipment. Children from the estate played football and chasing games there, but for me and Ciarán it was just some place we ran through to get to the larger fields beyond.
One March morning the sun split through the clouds after such a length of blustery weather that it felt like a miracle. We put our wellies on and headed out for the fields for the first time since a hard frost in February. By the time we reached "the log" it was mid-morning and so warm that vapour was visibly rising off the grass. Heavy machinery had passed through since we were last there. A digger's treads had left two tracks about half a foot deep and metres long. From a distance the stagnant water in them looked peculiar, dark and viscous.
Frogs had spawned and the pools were alive with tadpoles. There were so many tadpoles that, instead of being flat, the surfaces of the pools bulged in squirming black clots of living material. The edges were a crust of grey death that was only going to grow inwards with the heat of the day.
We were soft children and all we could think about was how to save those creatures. The nearest large pond was a quarter of a mile away. We'd have to shuttle the tadpoles over to it in the best containers we could find, plastic buckets from sets we bought at the Bettystown beach the previous Summer. I remember that weird Sisyphean task so clearly, filling a bucket up to the brim with tadpoles and trudging across a muddy field to release them into a pond as the day drew in. We did this until our mother came looking for us for dinner. We normally wouldn't be allowed out again afterwards but our mother felt so sorry for us that she let us at the tadpoles for another hour. When we finally came home to bed we were distraught at having to leave the job unfinished. Inconsolable. That night was horrible. I couldn't sleep for panicky dreams of evaporating water and crows picking at whatever was left alive on the baking clay.
The next day was fine again. We didn't go to "the log" because we were afraid of what we'd see. We kept away from it for weeks and by the time we next passed through it the nightmare pools were nothing more than a warm breeze blowing through ridges in the thick grass.
MP3: Alexander Tucker-A Dried Seahorse