The next morning before sunrise, it returned to the shed and hid in the same place it had occupied the night before. I keep the door of that particular shed open year-round, and the toad had figured out that it could come and go as it pleased without much interference from me.
I caught sight of the toad throughout the summer months, always leaving the shed at twilight and returning just before dawn. Thankfully, my cat has not found the toad’s comings and goings as interesting as the comings and goings of the mice and voles that live in the yard, the sheds, and the henhouse. Like me, she sometimes spots it exiting the shed in the evening or entering in the morning, but the most she has ever done is give it a playful swat or nudge.
As for me, I have fallen into the habit of wishing the toad a good morning or evening when I encounter it and have been extra careful whenever I step into the shed or move anything inside, at least until yesterday morning, when I entered before daybreak and experienced the awkward sensation of having stepped on something soft and squishy.
I lifted my foot immediately and, wincing, clicked on the light. It had been the toad alright. It writhed on the floor for a few seconds and then, to my unmitigated surprise and relief, hopped off and concealed itself in the pile of odds and ends it called home. I examined where my foot had fallen but noticed no blood or other fluid staining the floor, which struck me as odd since I had inadvertently pressed about half of my body weight down upon the toad.
Palming the flashlight on the nearby shelf, I knelt and illuminated the toad’s little lair. Half-expecting something gruesome, I was cheered to see the toad simply staring out at me from the circle of blinding light. I clicked the flashlight off and left the shed feeling somewhat comforted. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I must have injured the toad, and quite seriously, too, if nowhere else, then internally, by crushing some vital organ.
The ambivalence plagued me for the better part of the day. At times, I wondered why I was even worrying about the well-being of a toad, but the creature had become a part of my summer landscape, and I had grown fond of it. Its comings and goings had been as reliable and faithful as the sun's movements. I arrived home late that evening and, still fearing the worst, could not find it within myself to visit the shed.
The next morning before sunrise, I stepped outside with a mug of coffee and looked toward the shed. In the dawn’s dull light, I made out the toad’s form hopping through the grass toward the building. I stepped closer and leaned forward. There was no doubt about it; it was the same toad. It paid me no attention as it entered the shed and took its usual place beneath the pile of clutter.
The force I had pressed down upon that unsuspecting toad had been enough to crack a walnut, but it is carrying on as if the accident had never happened.
Not only is it intact, but it appears completely unscathed. I don’t know what to say other than that is one tough toad, and I would consider it a tremendous honor if it chose to overwinter in that shed of mine.