Come sit beside me, I’ll tell you a tale
Of loving and longing and terrible betrayal;
A story quite sad, but wonderful, too.
Here, have a seat; come and listen, won’t you?
Our story begins with a maiden so fair,
With sparkling eyes, and long flowing hair.
Her heart glowed as pure as the light of a star,
And men came to court her from near and afar.
She saw many suitors, but none she desired,
And as the years passed she grew ever tired.
Was there really no man for whom she could fall?
She couldn’t believe there was no one at all.
The thought made her sad, so one sunny day
She paused at a well that she passed on her way.
She extracted a coin and she tossed it inside.
“I just want true love, nothing more!” so she cried.
Of course, nothing happened, it was just a well –
What did she expect, a genie, a spell?
She turned to the road from the well with a sigh
And carefully wiped a small tear from her eye.
Three months had gone by and she’d all but forgot
Her wishing-well plea and the help that she’d sought.
But when she came home one warm summer night
There waiting for her was a frog, on the light.
It clung to the chime in a warm rosy glow
And turned its small head to say brightly, “Hello!
I’m quite glad you’re home, I’ve been waiting awhile.
May I come in?” and it gave her a smile.
Well, what would you do, were you in her shoes?
You’d be qutie surprised, and likely confused.
She stared at the frog, her mouth hanging wide
But gathered herself and gestured inside.
It followed her in and took one of the seats
While she busied herself getting tea and some treats
She sat down beside it and cautiously said,
“How may I help? Need you food or a bed?”
“I have need of neither, for I am a frog;
I’ll have crickets for lunch, and I’ll sleep in a log.
What I must ask is a great deal more:
I have a small house and can’t open the door.”
She scratched her fair head. “I’m not sure I see…
Is the door stuck? Or lost you the key?”
“The door opens fine,” it said, batting a hand.
“The problem is that I’m no longer a man.
An old evil witch whom I passed on the road
I offered no smile, so she made me a toad.”
“But you’re a frog,” the girl pointed out.
“Frog didn’t rhyme. Besides, there’s no doubt
Either amphibian would be too short.
So now to get in I will need your support.”
“It would give you trouble, I have to agree.
But might I ask why it is you chose me?”
“Are you surprised that I came to you?
In all the land no one’s heart is as true.
And also I hope if the spell is undone,
How lucky would I be if you were the one?”
“The one to do what?” she asked with a frown.
“To open the door,” he said, and hopped down.
“Now will you, or won’t you, help a poor man
Who’s in a small bind and could use a good hand?”
Whether man or a frog – not sure which you are –
I can’t refuse help if the place is not far.”
“I’m incredibly grateful,” said the frog with a grin.
“Shall we go now? I’m keen to begin.”
And so they stepped out to head to his home.
She took nothing with her save toothbrush and comb.
(He’d promised the journey would not take too long,
But better to be safe should something go wrong.)
She thought that he’d lead her along into town,
But rather than uphill they turned and went down.
He moved along quickly – though small for a frog;
Just to keep up she broke into a jog.
It didn’t take long till she ran out of breath.
“I need to pause here, or you’ll run me to death.
I won’t be long, I just need a short sit.
Go on ahead, I’ll catch up in a bit.”
“Quite fine by me,” he said with a wink.
“I’ll stop at that pond up ahead for a drink.”
As the frog hopped away she lay back in the grass
And stared up at the sky to watch the clouds pass.
Ten minutes later she was startled awake
By the sudden appearance on her lap of a snake.
A small narrow green thing with little black eyes;
From its expression it shared her surprise.
“My goodnesss! I’m sssorry, don’t mean to intrude,”
The snake said, “I ssslipped as I grabbed at sssome food.
I fell from the tree, but I’ll be on my way.”
She waved after him. “Hope you have a nice day!”
She hadn’t been meaning to fall in a doze,
And with thoughts of the frog, so now quickly she rose.
She hurried to catch up the frog at the pond,
Hoping he hadn’t gave up and gone on.
She reached the pond edge but no one was there.
“Mr Frog?” she called out to the warm summer air.
“He is down here with me,” said a low rumbly voice.
“I didn’t expect I’d be offered a choice.”
“What choice would that be?” she nervously said –
A deep voice like that surely meant he was dead.
She peered in the water and gulped back a scream,
For there was a ‘gator, its eyes all a-gleam.
“Why, what’s up for lunch. Such options there are!
Should it be frog legs? Or maiden tar-tar?”
The beast licked its lips and gave a broad smile.
“I think I’ll have maiden, it has been a while…”
“My vote’s for neither,” she said, grabbing a stick.
“For one thing, I’m sure I would make you be sick.
I’m on the rag, it’d ruin the flavour.
And as for the frog legs, they’ve gone out of favour.”
“I don’t believe you.” It gave her the eye.
“You smell clean to me, it’s clearly a lie.”
Then it leapt from the water and snapped at her arm.
She jabbed with her stick and fell back in alarm.
The ‘gator’s bite missed and she chose not to linger
In case it decided to try for a finger.
She dashed down the road, her head in a fog
Of guilt-stricken grief for the fate of the frog.
When finally her tears dried enough she could see,
She paused a the base of a giant oak tree.
Nothing there looked like the places she knew.
It seemed she was lost; she knew not what to do.
As she stood there with her hands intertwined,
She heard a soft sound of the rustling kind.
It came from the leaves underneath a small shrub,
And as she stood watching there out popped a grub.
Well, out popped a lizard, the grub in its jaws,
But one so enormous it gave her a pause.
When it saw her staring the lizard did say,
“Kint top a tock, ut ahg uh gud ay.”
“But wait!” she called out. “Which way to the town?”
“Mrmph it phway!” it it said, without slowing down.
She looked where it pointed – nothing but bush –
But gave a small shrug and walked in with a push.
The forest was dark and without much around.
She went quite a way without hearing a sound.
But then from some rocks she heard a dry rattle,
A sound that tells instincts, “you’d better scadaddle!”
She froze in her tracks and tried not to move.
“Well, what have we here?” said a voice, low and smooth.
“A lovely losst maiden, it sssure looksss to me,
How lucky I’m hungry; my dinner you’ll be.”
The serpent then slithered out into her view:
A monstrous snake – she guessed seven-foot-two.
A size that could easily swallow her whole,
And go for a week feeling comfortably full.
Before she could move, the rattlesnake struck,
But grabbed just her dress by some stroke of luck.
She didn’t allow it the time to retry,
Or even a chance to wish her goodbye.
Blindly she ran, off into the trees,
Crashing through stumps and bruising her knees.
Finally she reached a small sandy glade.
She stopped for a rest, at the edge in the shade.
Hands on her knees, she stared at the dirt,
And spotted some tracks that made her alert:
A long narrow trail, and there, just beyond,
A snakeskin! Still fresh, the snake not long gone.
Surprise turned to dread as she heard a soft sound,
And she quietly grabbed a thick stick from the ground.
It’d followed her here! Well, she’d let it see
A dinner for snake she wasn’t to be.
She didn’t look twice when it stuck its head out.
She crashed the stick down in a great forceful clout.
The snake gave a cry of alarm and surprise –
She could nearly see all the stars in its eyes.
“The heck was that for? I coulda been dead!
Thank goodness your stick was just wood and not lead!”
“I’m dreadfully sorry!” she truthfully said.
“Afraid I mistook you for another instead.
Please do forgive me, I’ll be on my way.
You wouldn’t believe, it’s not been my day.”
She trudged along, weary, longing for home
(And wishing she wasn’t so scared when alone).
She wasn’t too certain she’d gone the right way;
It felt like she’d walked in large circles all day.
Just when she felt about ready to crack,
She popped out of the trees onto a dirt track.
Delighted, she pondered which way she should go,
With nothing to guide her, and no way to know.
But then she caught sight of some blue in the green:
The small little pond where the ‘gator had been?
Slowly (in case the great beast was still there)
She crept to the pond and peered round with care.
She quickly could see it was not the same one:
The other’d had branches concealing the sun.
Here, silver birds called and screamed from the sky,
While many small turtles sunbathed waterside.
They seemed unconcerned by the things in the air,
Soaking the sun up without any care.
As she stood wondering what to do now –
Maybe try asking directions to town –
A large painted turtle paused by her side
And watching the others it casually sighed.
“It seems that each summer flies faster than last.
I’ve seen twenty-six and as each one has passed,
I’ve looked forward to taking my long winter sleep,
Holding my breath, and buried down deep.
Now, I’m an old turtle but many new born
Face many perils and might not make it till morn’.
For instance, some turtlets that hatched just today
Can’t make it to water, a log in their way.
Perhaps you could help? They’re not too far back –
Just near that tree at the side of the track.”
“I’ll do what I can,” she said looking ’round,
“But before you go, could you point me to town?”
She found the small hatchlings just where she’d been told,
And fashioned her dress skirt in to a thick fold.
She placed them inside, lifting one at a time,
Then walked through the mud to the low waterline.
As she set the last free and sat watching it go,
She heard a small voice call out to her: “So!
Finally made it, I see! Is your normal style
Keeping frog princes waiting awhile?”
She turned and looked down, and there the frog sat,
Smiling bemusedly (and seeming intact).
“You didn’t get eaten!” she exclaimed in delight.
“Oh, that darn ‘gator – you gave me a fright!”
So pleased was she feeling she stretched her arms out,
Collected him up and kissed his small snout.
There was a bright flash that blinded her eyes,
And she let go of the frog with a start of surprise.
Then standing before her was a tall handsome man
Who smiled and reached down to offer a hand.
“You wouldn’t believe just how awkward it’s been
To be a large man stuffed in a frog skin!
I’m eternally grateful! How can I repay?
If it’s in my means, then whatever you say.”
She took his hand shyly and rose from the ground.
Feeling quite speechless, she brushed dirt from her gown.
It’s not every day that a frog, understand,
Suddenly up and turns into a man.
It took her a moment to come to her senses
(Attractive young men just disarm her defenses).
He’d offered her anything within his means,
And his eyes were quite honest, whatever he’d been.
She considered the risks of (stranger or not)
Inviting him home (he was pretty hot).
“I guess you don’t need me to help with your home…
So maybe for starters, lead me to my own?
And if you had time, if you’ve nowhere to be…
You’re perfectly welcome to stay for a tea…”
Of course you must know how the story then ends:
Happy together, a great tale for friends.
Still to this day she firmly ascribes
Her happiness to a wish made well-side.
(And okay, there was no betrayal, really,
But loving and longing – I got two out of three.)
Cast of characters, in order of appearance:
Frog on a Doorbell by Cascade View Photography
7/23/10–86°F–73%H–TFI by Science & Soul
What’s a Golf Ball Worth? by Living Alongside Wildlife
Eastern Fence Lizard: The Next Generation by Anybody Seen My Focus?
7-foot Diamondback Rattlers in Poulan, Georgia? by Living Alongside Wildlife
Snaky Days by Birder’s Lounge
Mambas on the Loose in Minnesota by Living Alongside Wildlife
Saturday, September 4, 2010 by Philly Herping
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge by Kind of Curious
Turtlets by The Marvelous in Nature
The October edition of House of Herps is currently looking for a host! Contact Amber and Jason (hosting [at] houseofherps [dot] com) if you’re interested in hosting next month. If you can’t host but would still like to participate, send your submissions to submissions [at] houseofherps [dot] com