Monday, September 17, 2007

The Frog in My Apartment: A Fairy Tale




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A small frog managed to make it's way into my house the other night.

I'd just gotten home, fresh from a night out after doing a bit of work that really needed seeing to, lest I get fired, and I wouldn't want that, no I wouldn't. I switched the dim lights on, and woke up my computer from hibernation. There were still some documents left to finish, but I didn't feel like doing them at the time.

Instead, I felt like cooking. I had some rather tasty, zeppelin-shaped sardines waiting in my larder, and the local variation of the monay, which had a glazed crust that tasted so much like honey, it was a crime to toast it for fear of divine retribution. These two foodstuffs went really well together, and it didn't take too much prodding from my inner self to get moving.

That was when I saw the frog.

It was sitting on the sink, right beside my dishrack, looking rather innocently at some ants that were crawling up the wall. It was probably hungry too, but it was so small, hardly the size of my fingernail, that it didn't look like it was capable of feeding itself. I went closer to give the creature a more thorough inspection.

When my shadow blocked the little light emanating from my low-watt lamp and loomed over the ittle froggy, it turned to me and said,"Hey mack, get out of my light. I'm trying to catch my dinner."

I stopped in midstep, taken aback at the fact that a frog that probably wasn't even in puberty was talking to me. "I'm blocking your light?" I asked.

"Yeah. Hey. Move it. I'm hungry here," it replied.

Well, the nerve of the amphibian. I said, "Well you're on my sink. This is my house. You're trespassing here." I reached for the light switch that operated the sink's overhead bulb, and in a second, my shadow had shifted to my back. The froggy jumped at the sudden deluge of radiant energy.

"There. Better?" I asked. "I figure I'd let you stick around, despite your attitude earlier, since hey, I rarely get visitors. And you're doing me a favor, getting rid of the ants. Just, y'know, don't mind me while I prepare some food for myself. I'm hungry too."

It looked at me with it's beady eyes for a second, then ballooned what little chin it had - which I decided was the frog's version of a shrug. "Suit yerself, mack. And thanks."

"No worries." I was already reaching into my overhead cupboard - making sure I wasn't blocking the froggy's light - and took out the jar of Zaragoza and a small plate. Using a pair of tongs, I removed three of the delectable sardines from the jar, and one of the pickled carrots the manufacturers placed in the jar. It improved the sardines' flavor, or so they said. I just liked them because they were pickled in Spanish oil.

While I was digging around for the loaf of monay, the froggy was busy lunging - with its tongue, naturally - for the ants that, attracted by the scent of the sardines, were braving the path where the amphibian was, making his job easier. It was interesting, watching a small frog eat. There was a silky, swift movement in every lunge; first, the frog sat, stock-still, waiting for an insect to get within the range of it's heat-seeking tongue. Then there was the slightest of jerks at the frog's rump-end, which rippled up its back muscles right before the froggy opened its mouth to lunge with it's elastic tongue, legs leaning forward like a runner just before the first gunshot.

"That's quite a tongue you have there," I said. "And looks like you're plenty hungry, too. That's what? Your twentieth ant?"

"Charmed, I'm sure," he said, which was, I think, in response to my compliment. "And I'm not really that hungry. But I'm in a hurry, see?"

"In a hurry?"

There was a silent snap! as the froggy captured yet another ant. "In a hurry, yeah," it said while swallowing the insect. "A frog'll stay a runt for most of his life if he don't chow on as much grub as he can find. Ever hear the expression eat worth your weight? Well, yer average fully-grown toad's around ten pounds, tops. An ant don't even measure up to an ounce. You do the math."

"So," I said, going back to my bread hunt, "technically you're stuffing yourself just so that you can grow bigger?"

"Spot-on, mack," it replied. It was watching another ant, a crawler, try to figure out if there was a way past the blockade that was the froggy. "You're a real Einstein. IQ of 200 and all that."

I ignored the sarcasm since I had finally found the bread. "Why're you in a hurry to grow up?" I asked. "Don't you think it's great to stay a kid? You don't have to worry too much about so many things. You'll start out a tadpole, and you just have to swim about and open your mouth for whatever feed you can get. When you're all old and spotted, you can't afford to let your back dry for too long, or else you'll overheat. Plus there's the problem of having kids. And avoiding the assholes that like making a wallet out of your hide. I mean, you're a kid. Nobody wants finger-sized frog wallets. Or boiled frogs, since you won't make much of a meal. You're considered cute. Kids will want to play with you, rather than trap you in glass jars for biology class. You've got it made."

It took a break from catching the ants, long enough to give me a piercing, searching look. After a moment, it turned away and said, "Like I said, a real Einstein."

"Excuse me?" I shot back, a bit irked by the little toad's cheekiness.

It emitted a sigh. "Okay. It's like this. Ever heard the story of the Frog Prince?"

"Yeah," I said. I'd finished fixing my night's meal, and was putting away the knife, the sardine jar, and the bread bag. "That's the story about the frog who gets kissed by this really pretty girl, and becomes the prince who'll make her drop her panties in three seconds flat, and live with her happily ever after, right?"

"That's the one," it replied. "Well, I'm aiming to be one of them frog princes. Problem is, I'm a young-un, and you've never heard of a frog prince baby, have ya?"

A frog prince baby? No, there was no such thing. The frog prince was a fully grown prince, ugly as sin and possibly hallucinogenic - it was a wonder the princess didn't die after kissing that frog, but then again, love was one of the strangest things in the world. But then, here I was talking to a frog who was in a hurry to meet the love of his life.

What was that euphemism again? Now I've seen everything.

"So," it continued, hopping about and facing me, "that's the masterplan. I'm chowing on as much grub as my stomach can handle, so that I get bigger faster. So that I can meet up with my chick and have my own fairy tale ending."

"Oh. Well, good luck with that." I said. I took my plate to the table, sat down, and began prying the sardines open with a fork. "But I doubt that you'd find somebody willing to kiss you in this reality. I mean, you're a frog. There's no denying that. Go look for a hippie settlement, and try to pass yourself as one of them hallucinogenic toads, and you might get somebody to kiss you just to get high."

The froggy, apparently, was finished eating, and was now watching me eat my own dinner. It's doe-eyes had drooped somewhat, after hearing what I just said. I guess, after some deliberation, that I'd dampened its spirit, and this was confirmed when it muttered that I was 'one helluva human, to go and walk all over the dreams of an innocent baby frog like that.' It hopped onto my dishrack, regarded the open window, and with one giant jump, leaped onto the sill.

"Wait," I said, and I stood up abruptly from the table.

The frog stoppd where he was, between the salt and pepper shakers, and turned its face around to look at me. It's eyes were a bit more dewy than usual - it looked like it was just about ready to cry.

"Um. I'm sorry." I began, then walked slowly to the sink. I crushed a couple of ants with myfinger, and dropped them beside the pepper shaker, prying them from my pointing finger with my thumb. "Here. So that you'll grow bigger faster. Sorry if they're a bit crushed."

It looked at the remains, and with a single swoop of the eagle-eyed tongue, swallowed the whole bunch. It emitted a small croak, which was probably it's way of saying thanks, and hopped away before I could say anything else.

I wanted to give it a bit of advice, actually. I wanted to tell the froggy to talk to his princess first. Conversation was one of the fastest ways to a woman's heart, and even if you were a frog, you could get anybody to love you if you just showed her that you were an understanding, sweet old toad. Maybe even get them to kiss you. Live with them happily ever after. And all that jazz.

But the frog was gone, it had hopped back into the night, nursing it's wounded ego with the remnants of a couple of crushed ants, and, hopefully, the determination of a rock rolling downhill. I sure hope I didn't hurt its feelings. It was a nice frog, a frog with a dream. How many frogs did you meet everyday? How many frogs dreaming of one day kissing a princess and living the goodly, charmed life of a prince, did you meet everyday? It was beyond me, this kind of thinking, and I went back to my dinner, which was, ironically, starting to attract a new horde of ants.

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