Ribbit

Ribbit

by “pastamanvibration” (Ao)

(Copyright 2008)

“Rocket. Rabbit. Rodent,” croaked Abbott the frog.

“No. No. No!” cried his father. “It’s ribbit. Not rocket! Not rabbit. And certainly not rodent! Ribbit. R-I-B-B-I-T. Ribbit! No other croak will do!”

“But I can’t croak r-r-readit,” Abbott said meekly, his head bent down.

“Practice. Practice. Practice!” his father advised. “Practice until you cannot croak anything but ribbit. It is very strange for a frog to croak anything but ribbit.”

All night long Abbott croaked. He croaked, “Midget.” He croaked, “Widget.” He croaked, “Fidget”. And he croaked “ Fixit” and “Mixit”. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not croak ribbit.

Abbott’s croaks annoyed the frogs tremendously. The next morning not one frog mouth smiled. They gathered together, each sitting comfortably on their own lily pad. Frankie the big bullfrog pointed his fat frog finger at Abbott and yelped, “Who can sleep with HIM croaking nonsense all night? It hurts my frog ears. I say Abbott must go!” At once all the frogs but Abbott’s best friends and family croaked, “Ribbit!” But this ribbit was not a friendly ribbit. It was grunt. And it made Abbott shiver.

The frog king of the pond flung out his sticky tongue to catch a fly. The fly disappeared into his mouth as though being flushed down a toilet. Then the king cleared his frog throat and said, “Only the hiss of a snake sounds worse than Abbott’s croaks.” Then he turned to Abbott and barked, “Croak ribbit this instant or leave this pond.”

Abbott the frog jumped on center stage, a lily pad in the middle of the pond. His skinny frog legs trembled. His small frog heart beat as fast as a hummingbird’s. He took a deep breath to calm down. Air swelled his throat in the shape of a ball. His eyes bulged and gazed at the crowd. Then in the loudest croak he could muster he croaked, “Racket!”

Now tears began to fall from his eyes, like leaves falling off a tree in a rushing wind. He murmured, “As you wish, I will leave.” And his mother wiped his tears with her frog belly.

Before he could say, “Farewell, my fellow frogs,” his mother tied a sack with all his belongings to the end of a twig. She handed it to him and said, “Go west young frog! Hop west until you come upon a dragonfly. When you see the dragonfly, follow it wherever she leads. Do not fear. You are a big frog who can go off on his own. Someday you will become known as a great frog, Abbott. In every pond frog folk will tell your story for a thousand moons to come.”

But Abbott did not feel like a great frog. Instead, he felt like a forsaken frog from his first long leap away from the home pond. He leaped westward over grass and weeds and dirt and rocks. For seven days he leaped westward. His limbs grew weary, and his frog feet blistered. He felt he could not leap another inch even if chased by an alligator. He rested under the shade of a weeping willow tree. It was there he saw a dragonfly circle above his frog head. Suddenly, Abbott forgot about his weary legs and blistered feet and sad frog heart. He jumped blissfully over bushes to follow the dragonfly. And the dragonfly led him to a shimmering waterfall cascading into a pond.

“Home!” he said with much relief.

Night after night, Abbott croaked alone all sorts of sounds. He croaked joyfully new sounds like “exhibit” and “inhibit”. No frog was there to complain – that is until one night a young frog lady from some unknown place introduced herself with a toothless smile, “Hello. I’m Bridget.”

Abbott the frog’s face blushed. A frog’s face could blush no more, which – by the way – isn’t very much. He stared at his frog knees and introduced himself. Then in a low voice he said, “I cannot croak r-r-rip-it.”

Bridget laughed, but not at him. She replied, “That’s okay. I can’t say r-r-rip-it, either!”

In that very moment Abbott and Bridget became frog soul mates. Abbott had not been this happy since he was a tadpole. And it was not long before he himself became a father of dozens of tadpoles.

However, during this happy and hot summertime, not a drop of rain fell from the clouds. By the last days of summer the pond shrunk to half its size, while Abbott ballooned into a giant bullfrog, even bigger than Frankie the bullfrog. So loud was Abbott’s croak, little frog ears could hear it hundreds of frog leaps away.

One night as Abbott and Bridget were croaking “inhabit”, familiar frog faces appeared. Among these frog faces were those of Abbott’s mother and father, which glowed in seeing their beloved son. Other frog faces were the king’s and Frankie the bullfrog’s, which showed shame.

Now Abbott was very happy to see his family and old friends. He was even happy to see Frankie and the king. He jumped high off his lily pad and splashed into the water in a belly flop. This hurt his belly, but he did not care. He said, “What brings you here?”

Abbott’s father replied, “Our pond has become dry as a dead bone. First we dug burrows with our webbed feet and hid in the mud from the hot sun. But no rain ever poured and the mud turned hard as a turtle shell. We have been leaping for days to search for a new home pond. But everywhere we leaped was on dry land.

His mother finished the story, “Last night from a great distance, we heard a frog croak loudly, ‘Drink-it’. I shouted, ‘Abbott! Only my boy Abbott croaks ‘drink-it’! Follow his sweet sound!’ And so here we are.”

The frogs bowed to Francis and Bridget and pleaded, “May we live in your pond?”

Now Abbott and Bridget took a giant leap toward them. The frogs flinched, afraid Abbott’s heavy belly might land on them.

Bridget said with open frog arms, “Welcome!”

Abbott added, “Here you are free to croak anyway you please.”

From then on, frogs throughout the world croak many sounds besides ribbit. Some even croak “Abbott” and “Bridget”.

(While rewriting the story I was listening to Ziggy Marley’s “Dragonfly”, which you can hear by clicking below.)

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