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Nothing But a Humble Frog
Jason hated being called a frog. He was an amphibian, for Pete's sake. And for his own sake too, he thought. It was useful, being able to keep your offspring quite secure in the watery depths of a park, and then go hopping off to take care of all the other errands of urban life. He remembered the frustration of being a tadpole only too clearly: the desperate struggle up onto the bank, the graceless flop back into the muddy confines of the pond; the chastisement from his family for his misbehavior. His uncle had been particularly adamant that he remain safely in the water; he pointed out the herons soaring close above, and described their voracious appetites to the impressionable tadpole.
Jason had never really been very intimidated by these cautionary tales. Having been a perspicacious little tadpole almost from birth, he saw that his uncle was quite a daring old frog himself, and he had survived just fine. While the hypocritical toad lectured him, Jason breathed heavily through his gills in frustration. When he went off to sulk in the pebbles, his more sympathetic mother pointed out the encouraging emergence of his legs, and on bad days, even demonstrated to Jason how much shorter his tail had become.
He grimaced at the memory. What a relief it was to bound about freely on land, even the rather rough surface of cement, dodging the whips of shoelaces and fleeing the roaring tires that menaced the pavement.
Jason had been babysitting for some friends, which was an exhausting business: The Joneses had some two thousand children this year. He was waiting on the pleasantly warm sidewalk just outside the park, about to return to the little jelly creatures, when heard a voice.
"Hello," said the voice, as if from far above. Jason was guessing it was the Amphibious God. His uncle had mentioned Him, as well.
"Hello?" croaked back Jason, nervously wondering what the proper etiquette was for addressing a deity.
"Look, it's a frog," said the voice.
Jason croaked repeatedly in indignation.
"Amphibian," he muttered, glaring viciously at this condescending being. "Amphibian. Got it?"
"It probably lives in that puddle over there, darling," said another voice.
Jason was hopelessly confused now. This couldn't be the omniscient Amphibian – certainly He would know he lived in a pond. It was the largest body of water in the region; only a wealthy bunch of frogs like his family could afford such vast territory.
He croaked again, threateningly.
He saw a large half-pink limb, as if from a diseased tree, reach down before him.
Then, suddenly, he was swept up, up into the air. Air was an element than his uncle hadn't really talked about much. There was Water, which was the Source of Things, and then there was Earth, which had Food, sometimes, but Air was what Herons came from, and, apparently Herons had this tall tree-like relative.
All his life, Jason had prided himself on his altruistic nature, but now he longed to be like PoisonDart, the deadly superhero in his childhood comic books, who could always escape from the mouths of his predators once they touched his toxic skin. Jason was undeniably green in these matters of survival. He wished, foolishly, that he could also have been born in a tropical rainforest. He wished he had just told the Joneses to take care of their own tadpoles and joined the juvenile chorus instead, the one that croaked through the night at the edge of the pond. He even wished his uncle was there.
Jason nervously gripped the soft pink surface beneath him, trying to count each of his eight front toes, and feeling as if he were missing something. Then, he fell. He tumbled hopelessly through the air, simultaneously experiencing the smell of hot dogs, wet dachshund, and, then suddenly, the pink thing again.
"Got you," it said.
He looked up. It had a pair of deep blue ponds that seemed to be staring at him. Jason decided it was the Amphibious God.
He tried to pray, but discovered it was difficult with webbed feet. He had heard some of the pink beings in the park lived in wooden structures around it. He promised himself he would follow this one home and sing piously outside its window every night for the rest of the summer.
Forgive me, he thought. I am nothing but a humble frog.