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A Frog, a Witch and Some Bugs
I don’t understand why people don’t like us. What other creature is such a lovely green color, with fine, large eyes and powerful hind legs as a frog? We can travel easily on land and in water, hopping along on one and swimming quickly in the other. We don’t need much; give us a few flies and a bit of water and we’re fine.
In my thinking, humans are rather full of themselves. They’re distressingly smooth and are so stretched out. Humans have to live inside, can hardly hold their breath, and don’t have anything worth calling a tongue. The only advantage they might have over us is brains. But they don’t seem to use their smarts at all. They build a few gigantic building-things, and leave it at that. I’ve heard them cleverly discuss the meaning of life, which is a dreadful waste of time. Why wonder about that, when there are ponds to splash in, flies to catch and spots of sun to bask in?
I’m rather knowledgeable about humans, because in my time, humans and frogs mixed together quite a bit. Not just, “Oh, horrid! A nasty little frog!” (Which is a terrible thing to say. Just think how it hurts my feelings. How would you like it if I yelled, “Oh, horrid! A nasty giant human!”?), but we had witches and love-struck princesses chasing after us too. Honestly, it was too hurly-burly for us poor frogs. Was it so hard to leave us in peace? A simple visit to the next pond over could turn into a nightmare.
My name is Creeeeek-oribbitglop, but humans can only say Glop. It’s fine with me. Frogs are easy-going creatures. Anyway, I’d been invited to my Auntie’s for dinner. Her pond has the most delicious mosquitoes that a frog could hope for. I started off in a rough nor-easterly direction, using moss on the trees for guidance. Only humans navigate by the sun and the stars. The only reason a frog would look up is to scan for predators.
I hopped happily along for a while, taking long breaks. As a rule, we frogs like to take it slow. I admired a daisy, washed off in some dew, lazily watched a few nervous midges, and generally enjoyed myself.
Then suddenly, when all I was doing was minding my own business, a hand scooped me up! It’s an extremely uncomfortable position, let me tell you. I gave a frightened “gleep!” and hunkered down, certain I was going to fall down to the forest floor, far below. When I opened my eyes, I saw a gigantic, bright red, sunburned nose. There’s nothing uglier to a frog than dryness. The picture of frog health is a glistening wet young frog climbing out of the water. I shivered at that sunburn.
The human- a young female- roared. The wind coming from the dark hole that was its mouth would have made me tear up if I wasn’t so frightened. The best I could hear was this: “HELLO, MISTER FROG PRINCE! MY NAME BE’S CLONTEL T’ GOOSE GIRL! I BE’S YOUR TRUE LOVE!” I went “gleep!” again when the human pursed her lips and banged them on the top of my head. She stared at me, smashing her face almost up to mine. I stared at her and said “gleep”. She sighed and wiped her mouth on a dirty sleeve. “OH WELL. NEXT TIME, MAYBE’S.” The girl carefully lowered me down and then ruined it by shaking me off six inches from the ground. I thumped onto some moss and glared at her. But the human had already turned away to tend to her geese, which had taken advantage of her absence to run every which way.
Trying to pull myself back together, I watched the human and her ill-tempered geese leave from inside a bush. I almost jumped out of my green skin when I heard a noise behind me. I spun around to see a brown squirrel. It wrinkled its nose at me. “A-hem,” the squirrel said again. I deflated.
“What do you want?” I was grumpy with fright. The squirrel didn’t say anything. I took a deep breath and tried to control my temper. “Sorry,” I croaked.
“It’s fine,” the squirrel chattered. “I’m Ch’Eek. I saw what happened to you. That girl comes over here every day. Somehow the goose girl got it into her silly head that all she needs to do is kiss a frog and she’ll get a prince. Some creatures are so silly like that, you know? Of course, some witches turn princes into frogs, but they only go to princesses with golden toys. Which must be awfully heavy, I think. My name’s Ch’Eek. Or did I already say that? Sorry, can’t remember how many ears I have. But to the point. You were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. The goose girl pounces on any frog she sees.” It started muttering. “Ugh. Pounce. What a horrible word. Should be against the rules-“
I cut Ch’Eek off. You have to do that with squirrels. They’re endless chatterers. “I’m traveling to see my aunt. Thanks for the talk, but I must be going.’
“Of course. Oh, now I remember! I have a warning for you. There’s a… a…” It stopped, frowning. “Oh, drat! Um…” I rolled my eyes. Along with the talking, squirrels have no memory. “It couldn’t have been important,” Ch’Eek said after more muttering. “If I remember, I’ll tell you on your way back. We can have a good chat over my acorns. I have a large cache… somewhere… oh, dear.”
“Good-bye!” I croaked. “Places to hop to, bugs to eat! Good-bye!” And I turned around and hopped away. I stopped after a while for a snack of flies, mosquitoes, and midges. There was a bit of excitement when I almost snapped up a bee. I managed to turn at the last moment and got my tongue stuck to a branch instead. The bee buzz/laughed while I shouted “’Tho athway! ‘Tho athway!” That made it buzz/laugh even harder.
“Buzzzzzzz-hah hah! Buzzzzzzz-hah hah!” I finally freed my tongue and hopped grumpily into a small puddle. My lazy day’s travel to Auntie’s was turning rather uncomfortable. I’d almost been squished to death by a goose girl, suffered through a squirrel’s talk, and gotten into a mess with a bee. But the cool water of the puddle soothed me. I dismissed the day’s earlier troubles from my mind and looked forward to a more enjoyable afternoon.
Was I ever wrong.
To get to Auntie’s I traveled through the forest. I’d gone through the forest dozens of times, but that time I got lost. It was strange. Trees and other landmarks seemed to be in different places than I remembered. Once I saw a rock twice… in two different spots. If I’d had my wits around me I would have realized what was going on. But bad magic clouds and confuses the mind.
I began to be frightened. No matter which way I went, I never seemed to go anywhere. Paths trickled into nothingness, flower’s never changed, and the same giant trees loomed over me. And I needed water. There was no dew left, and I couldn’t’ find a single pond. Finally I flung myself to the ground and lay there, trembling.
That was how the witch found me. Through the wheezing of my own breath, I heard a human’s footsteps. Anyone can tell if a human is walking. They crash and bumble along as if they owned the world. As the witch came closer, I caught the stench of bad magic. I wretched and tried to scramble away. But the witch’s magic held me fast. The footsteps stopped, but the magic-smell just got stronger as the witch bent down to examine me. She clucked her tongue and hissed.
“Oh my, now. Look at what we have here, Eldna. Yes, yes. Such a plump little creature. Such a beautiful little frog.” She cackled. “So fit for the pot!” And the witch leapt and had me in her hands. I was lifted higher into the air, so sick and weak, I couldn’t even “gleep”. The witch crooned to me and smashed through the forest. “yes, yes, lovely. Eldna and the little frog will be such good friends, won’t we, green one? Eldna’s frog will be such a good, good friend, I believe, that he will give Eldna the ultimate sacrifice. He will do it gladly, too, hmmm? The little greeny will give his life to Eldna just as his friends, the newts and the other animals, did. And Eldna with have such a beautiful potion…” She smacked her lips.
We arrived at her cave quickly. She ducked to get in through the narrow entryway. The cave itself was large, though. I found myself flung into a small cage on a shelf. The witch busied herself over a bubbling pot. Thankfully, I couldn’t see what was in it from my angle. While the witch wasn’t concentrating on me, I found that I could move again. I looked around. Though other shelves were filled with jars and boxes, I was the only animal. Apparently I was to be the last ingredient. I had to get away. Frogs may be easy-going, but not when it comes to bad magic. I examined the lock; it was too hard for me. My webbed feet were useless. The bars weren’t very good, either. They were too close together. And since there were no other animals, I also had no help. All this time, I kept one eye on the witch. She was humming. I didn’t know if that was part of the spell or if she liked to hum.
In anger, I slammed into my cage. It only wobbled. But I had an idea. I hopped back as far as I could and slammed into the cage again. My head hurt, and I was already dizzy, but I had to continue. I watched the witch. She was standing over a bundle of knives. She picked one up, then another, trying to decide which one to use… on me. I had to do it now. With all my strength, I rushed at the cage. It wobbled, teetered, and then fell.
Smash! The cage was rusty. It broke easily against the witch’s rock floor. She whirled around and gaped at me. I stumbled up, beginning to hop quickly away. She screeched, “No you don’t, green one!” Her hands made complicated gestures while she cast a spell. “Strunk!” she yelled, pointing at me. A miniature bolt of lightning streaked past me and hit the ground. The witch stamped her feet in rage. “Stand still, frog friend! Stay still! I can’t aim!” She began another chant. “Green, hopping, fly catcher, transform one into the other!” I guess it was the first spell that came to mind. Maybe she forgot I was already a frog. But I wasn’t going to wait around. I ducked behind a burnished silver mirror.
Craaack! The spell rebounded and hit another target- the witch herself. She screamed, “This wasn’t supposed to haaaappppeeeennnn! It’s not ribbet! Ribbet!” I hurried out from behind the mirror. The frog-that-used-to-be-a-witch had fallen onto the edge of the cauldron. It wavered… then fell in. The potion let out a great flash of light before smoking gently. I left and didn’t look back.
I arrived at Auntie’s at last, tired and exhausted. But it’s amazing what a few mosquitoes can do. I’ve always remembered that day. Especially the witch. And even though I’m glad it’s all over and done, I keep wondering. What would the potion have done? What would have happened if I had taken a sip? But, in my thinking, some things are definitely best left alone.