Written January 2004
Listen to What You are Toad
Beetlebug Swamp wasn’t an awful place most of the time, but lately most of the time had become hardly any time at all, and conditions were becoming uncomfortable. The arrival of summer typically brought an abundance of mosquitoes, which was a good thing for Flathead and Dinky, the swamp’s two resident frogs. However, this summer had been so hot that it eventually evaporated their private swamp, leaving the brothers high and dry. In their distress, Flathead and Dinky had resorted to arguing and smacking each other with their parched tongues.
“Gyah!” Flathead cried, recoiling in pain. “This isn’t getting us anywhere!” He shot his own tongue in retaliation and hit Dinky squarely in the eye. The smaller of the two yelped, dropping from his perch on a shriveled lily pad and bouncing onto the cracked earth below.
“Oof,” Dinky muttered. Flathead gingerly leapt off a splintered log and landed next to Dinky’s sprawled-out carcass. “I have decided,” he announced, “that we must look for a new home. If we stay here, we’ll end up like shriveled grapes.”
“Don’t you mean prunes?”
“No, be quiet. I think I know a place we can go.”
Thus, with little fanfare to their old abode, the two frogs hopped away from Beetlebug Swamp in search of better lodgings.
It wasn’t long before Dinky grew weary and started to complain. This was only partially due to the fact that he had a black eye. For the most part, he was a bona fide whiner. Flathead flatly ignored him, or tried to anyway, for every now and then he would whip out his tongue and drag his brother along. The frogs passed through a tall, grassy field before reaching a stretch of pebbly dirt with patches of dandelions.
“Hey, look,” Dinky squealed, spotting a huge pile of precariously placed boulders. They were stacked atop one another and separated by a thin gray crust. “It’s a well, Flathead! There’s plenty of water in there. Wouldn’t that make a swell place?”
Flathead regarded the well with a bit of disdain and snorted.
“That’s no place for a frog,” he grumbled, then resumed hopping. “You’d drown in a matter of minutes. Besides, there’s nothing to eat in a well.”
“You’d do well enough to keep your thoughts to yourself,” retorted Dinky, quite pleased with his clever pun. “I’m staying.”
“Suit yourself. Just don’t come running down the river to find me when you’re in hot water.” With that, Flathead hopped around a few blades of grass and disappeared.
Dinky made it to the top of the well in three well-placed hops: one, two, three—splash! He broke the water with an impressive belly-flop. As he surfaced, Dinky noticed a flurry of bubbles all around him. He wasn’t worried. It was probably gas. But then, the water sloshed violently side to side! Fear was upon him as he felt himself heaved into the air, still bobbing in the water. An enormous wall of wooden planks broke through the waves on all sides, cutting off his escape.
“Oh no!” Dinky thought. “I’m in a bucket!” He quickly dove underwater and swam to the bottom, searching for a groove that he could grab with his rubbery fingers. Another jolt sloshed him against the wall—bonk!—and the water carried him up and out into the air. What followed next was a blur of motion, as strange and wonderful things spiraled past. Dinky spun like a pinwheel before plopping back in the water. Then, before he could reorient himself, Dinky and the water were dumped into a cooking pot.
“Jiminy Cricket!” exclaimed a wrinkled old man. He peered inside the pot, just as a tiny, terrified frog sprang out and bounced off his nose. “Gah!” the man yelped.
Dinky landed on the kitchen counter, heart racing. “Good ‘eavens, Bertha! A frog! There’s a bloomin’ frog ‘ere!”
Sitting at the kitchen table on a visually distressed chair, Bertha was a rather large woman. She dropped her crossword puzzle as though stung by a bee and leaped to her feet.
“Get it, Charlie! Don’t let ‘im get away! We’ll have us some frog legs for dinner tonight!” With that, she swiped a butter knife from the table and lunged for Dinky with all her might. She missed, falling short by a foot and bouncing off the floor face-first.
“Ooooeee-arrblbb,” was all Bertha could say. Her body wobbled not unlike a mountain of Jell-O. With a gasp, she added, “Your shotgun, Charlie! Your shotgun!”
Dinky, wasting no time, hopped over Bertha in three graceful leaps, eliciting a holler, a scream, and a short burst of giggles as he rebounded from her backside. Like a frying pan full of eggs, he scrambled for the nearest exit. To Dinky’s dismay, the frog found the front door bolted shut and guarded by a razor-toothed Shi’tzu-poodle. The fluffy fur ball growled and snapped.
“Get out of the way, Spitpot!” old man Charlie hollered, cocking his shotgun with a heave of the wrist. He twirled around with the grace of a ballerina to take aim at the minuscule green spot in the adjoining hallway.
The front door was blown off its hinges, along with Spitpot and a good deal of hardwood flooring. Dinky careened through the debris with a rush of adrenaline, entirely unscathed. He landed perfectly on the front porch with a newfound sense of heroism. With two hops, Dinky escaped into the safety of the grass.
“Charlie!” Bertha screamed, still stranded on the floor. “You missed!”
Later that day, Dinky found himself wandering near the edge of a small stream. He was feeling exhausted now, so he took a quick splash. Then he resumed hopping and found his brother Flathead further upstream.
“Oh man!” he began. “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me! First I was yanked out of the well by a huge bucket, then I was dumped into a boiling pot of water, a monstrous crazy woman came flying at me with a butter knife, a mangy dog tried to eat me, and a leathery old man tried to blow my warts off!” He finished with a breathless pant, his eyeballs glued to his brother. “Well? What to you think?”
“Well indeed,” replied Flathead. He sensed an opportune moment. “Sounds like you should have listened to what you were toad!”
Dinky blinked. “Huh?”
Flathead shook his head. “Frog-ette about it.”