I don’t know my father’s name, but I think it’s Gary. Everyone calls him Motivational Drill Sergeant—even me. I don’t know when he got the name, since he’s never been in the Army—actually I’ve never known him to ever have a job. He just sits around the house, brushing his crew cut, playing solitaire, and waiting for someone to come. Then he yells at them for a while, and they give him money and go away.
I was home one afternoon when there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a one-legged frog sitting on the doormat.
“Is this the house of the Motivational Drill Sergeant?” it asked.
“Yes,” I said, quite unfazed. I’ve seen stranger things show up at our door. “How did you knock on the door?”
“I waited until some Girl Scouts came selling cookies. They knocked but then they saw me and ran away. I’m not well-liked, you know.” It lowered its head.
I gave up trying to talk to people—or animals—who come to see my father. “You want me to carry you in?” I asked.
“No, no, I’ve got it,” the frog said and set about trying to struggle over the threshold. After fifteen minutes of waiting, I gave it a boost and it pretended not to notice.
“Motivational Drill Sergeant! Someone here to see you!” I yelled. My father immediately appeared in the door of his office. He had been listening and waiting for me to call him.
“I see, I see!” he said. “Boy, go get my shaving kit.” He always calls me Boy. I don’t mind; it was better than those two weeks last summer when he kept calling me Girl, or those weird three days when I was Puffy McPastry.
I went and got his shaving kit from the bathroom. My father has the words SUCK IT UP tattooed on his upper lip. Whenever someone comes to see him, he shaves off his mustache to make the point. I gave him the shaving kit and he marched back into the bathroom.
“Right!” he said several minutes later, striding out. The words SUCK IT UP stood out clearly. “What’s the matter with you, frog?”
“And how did you lose that leg?” My father was slowly getting his yell up. It took him a few minutes after playing solitaire for several days.
“I went to Paris on vacation,” the frog said. “Somebody ate it.”
“You are the sorriest excuse for a frog I have ever seen!” my father bellowed. “I’ve seen better frogs at the zoo gift shop—those plastic hollow ones with the squeaker in their mouths that you buy your kid, to piss off your wife. If you were in a not-sucking race with one of those, it would beat you hands-down.”
“But I—” the frog began again.
“Shut your fly-hole! You think you’re special? You think that all it’s going to take is for some dame to kiss you and you’ll turn into a prince? You are not a prince! You’re nothing but a measly, one-legged frog who needs to grow up. Now get out there and be the best one-legged frog you can be!”
I thought he had gone too far. The frog was crying now. “Thank you, Motivational Drill Sergeant,” it said at last. “Thank you so much.” It gave my father $500 and then hopped away, falling over the threshold and out onto the front step.
“That’s right,” my father said, pointing to his upper lip. “Suck it up.” Then he went back to playing solitaire.