1. Dissecting a frog in middle school, the scalpel too close to the liver, my face too close to the scalpel. Intestines and egg sacs were mistaken for fat and duly discarded. ‘Our frog can’t digest anything,’ we told the teacher. We said, ‘Our frog can’t have any babies. We have been given an empty frog.’ Hearing it said out loud made Megan Rowland start crying. The teacher looked down at the body for a long, long time. She sighed, more air in her lungs than any of us could hold.
2. Dissecting a frog in middle school, the scalpel too close to the liver, Sarah’s face too close to the scalpel. I remember placing a hand just above the back of her head. I could feel the heat radiating from the crown of her skull. The crown of her skull. It sounded so royal. I pictured a skeleton dripping with gold. ‘We have been given an empty frog,’ Michael said. Megan Rowland started to cry.
3. He could have pushed down. I thought he was going to push down. I remember him pushing down. Next it was so quiet that I could smell everything: formaldehyde, drugstore perfume, stale coffee, eraser shavings. I could smell myself: sweet like a body, granola and salt. The frog was ruined, Sarah’s nose planted in its cavernous belly, the scalpel buried somewhere in between. She was wearing those earrings that looked like dolphins, the ones I had wanted so badly. Each one a tiny, glinting replica of the body of a living thing.
4. Ryan, go to the office. Sarah – oh, sweetie, it’s okay, it’s just a little cut. Megan, help cleanup, please. Ryan, go to the office now, and meet with me after school. That was not okay. Actually, Megan, take Sarah to the nurse. No, Sarah, it’s fine, it’s just a little cut. Emily, can you clean up, please? Michael, you help. Everyone back to work! everyone –
5. ‘We have been given an empty frog,’ I said, and Megan Rowland started to cry. The teacher sighed, more air in her lungs than any of us could hold. ‘It only looks that way,’ she said, ‘because of what you’ve done to it.’ And we all sat there looking down at it, wondering what we had done.