real lj idol | week 27 | 1376 words
Once upon a time…
Once upon a time, there was a frog with an excess of ambition.
The frog lived in a small pond at the edge of a field. There were flies and mosquitoes and butterflies to eat, and the occasional minnow. There was a stand of trees where the frog liked to take shade, and a cluster of boulders near the trees that offered cool crevices for the frog to lurk.
It was a very satisfactory pond, from a frog's perspective, and the frog had no intention of leaving it to find better. At heart, he was a lazy creature, and who knew how far away a creek or river or another pond might prove to be? However, it had occurred to the frog that this pond could be bigger. A larger pond would attract more insects and other delicious food. It would offer more room for the minnows to increase their number, and perhaps entice a female frog to take up residence.
The frog was not entirely sure how either he or the minnows had come to be there, but while it could simply have been a lucky accident, he was certain that a larger pond would have a better chance of creating the sort of magic needed to make that happen.
It seemed to the frog that if the edges of the pond could somehow be stretched or pushed back, the pond would grow bigger. He tried moving some of the muck himself now and again, between eating dragonflies and slipping through the shallows. It was hard work—much more effort than he was prepared to exert. Still, he wanted that larger pond. So the question was, who could he get to do the work for him?
From time-to-time, other creatures came to the pond to drink: foxes, field mice, horses, birds, and badgers. Birds ate the same things frogs did, and they had sharp, evil feet and dangerous, pointy noses. Clearly, they were not to be trusted. The frog had also narrowly escaped being eaten by foxes and badgers, and so he now avoided both. But how might he enlist the aid of the others?
He thought and thought through an entire afternoon of excellent floating and an evening filled with soft, glorious rain. He thought clear through to the next morning, and by the time a few field mice showed up to drink, he'd formulated something of a plan.
Mice, he felt, wanted peace. They wanted quiet places to hide and good food and cool water, and they wanted to go about their business without being noticed by predators or anyone else.
"Friend mice," the frog said, "please hear me: there is a better way. I have seen you hurry and scurry along in your attempts to drink quickly and return to shelter, but consider this: rather than having to go all the way down to the pond, why not bring pond closer to you?"
The frog paused, pretending to catch his breath, but really listening to the excited stirrings among the mice instead. "Dig with your paws, from the water back toward the grass. Dig and take the dirt with you, and in time the pond will follow."
The mice began digging, and soon uneven streaks stretched outward from the pond toward the grass. That was not quite the result the frog had intended, but other mice showed up as the morning went on, and joined the effort. Before long, one end of the pond was much farther away than when the day began. Mice came and went, stopping for darkness and then starting up again the next morning. The frog lazed in the shady shallows, eating damselflies and croaking occasional encouragement. When night came again, that end of the pond reached clear to the taller grass. The mice seemed quite proud of themselves, and the frog was just as pleased. The work was certainly taking shape.
The next day, the frog inspected the new area of the pond. It wasn't very deep, which was no surprise, as both mice and their thinking tended to be small. What it needed was some tamping down, the frog thought.
For that, one required horses.
After many days, during which the mice were happy and the frog was grumpy, a horse finally wandered to the pond to drink. The frog hopped up onto a boulder to address it from a safe distance where he could be sure of avoiding the horse's enormous hooves.
Horses, he had decided, wanted to be admired. They were proud creatures, enamored of their fine forms and their firm, glossy skins. The frog felt a stab of envy, no doubt shared by many other small and perhaps gelatinous beings, at the horse's good fortune in being large, swift, strong, and hard to trample. This made him all the more determined to use the horse to his advantage.
"Friend horse," he began, "you are the most magnificent being I have ever seen."
The horse lifted its head from drinking and swiveled its ears in the frog's direction.
"It is a shame that such a well-turned leg as yours should be marred by mud."
The horse looked down at its forelegs, which had entered the edge of the pond.
"No, I'm afraid it's around the back of your nearest hind leg," the frog said. "Perhaps a stroll through the water would remove it?"
The horse stepped farther into the pond, and marched slowly near the perimeter.
"Your strides are most impressive," the frog said. "Just imagine how you would look running along the edge of the water, with the spray kicking up around your heels!"
That was all the encouragement the horse needed. It pranced back and forth around the pond, lifting its legs high. The frog only hoped that most of the displaced water would eventually find its way back.
"Such a marvel!" the frog said, when the horse paused. He gestured with his forelegs in feigned enthusiasm. "I am very glad of the demonstration."
Satisfied with the salve to its ego, the horse nodded and drank once more before stepping delicately out of the pond. It walked off into the grass (with a great deal of show, the frog thought), and soon disappeared.
It stormed that afternoon. The rain poured down and the winds flattened the meadow surrounding the water. The frog stayed hidden beneath the shelter of a boulder, watching as the pond slowly grew. The storm finally stopped just after dark. The frog climbed up on top of the boulder into the damp, warm air, and sang with happiness for the day ahead.
The next morning was beautiful and sunny, and the meadow hummed with insects the frog hoped might come his way. He ate a butterfly and a large beetle and several inconsequential flies, and swam around the new shallows at the far end of his pond.
All that extra space was wonderful, he thought. What lovely she-frog could resist his pond now?
A minnow happened by, the biggest the frog had ever seen. Had it grown because of his improvements? He chased it through the water, keeping after it as it zigged and zagged until he finally overtook it and swallowed it in a single gulp.
Delicious. The frog floated languidly, giving the occasional, leisurely kick. This was the life. He hadn't felt such freedom since he'd been a tadpole, so many ages ago.
A shadow formed overhead, but it couldn't begin to detract from the perfection of the day. The frog swam and kicked in a stupor of satisfaction.
The shadow grew larger and larger, until it suddenly crashed through the surface of the pond. The frog found itself being lifted up and gobbled down by something strange and disastrously huge. His last thoughts were of surprise and dismay as he slid into darkness forevermore.
The Great Blue Heron stalked through the water, glad to have found such a tasty meal.
What a marvelous little pond, it thought. I wonder why I've never noticed it before?
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