"My name is Shannon", the girl started sadly. "I am asking you these questions because I care for you and I'm bothering you because I really like you and why do I care why you drink that cranberry tea? I can tell you but it would take me all day and until tomorrow, until a quarter past three".
Something about this girl struck the toad in a very peculiar way. It's a way that he had felt before long ago. How long he could not quite remember. But, the feeling was warm and the feeling was close. As far as he could remember, it was a type of closeness that he remembered feeling with his son's, a long time ago.
"I live in the hollow of an old oak tree", Shannon started. "I live in an old Oak hollow tree just above Danbury swamp. If you look above me and turn your hands at five past three you will see that I live in an old hollow oak tree. As for my parents, I can only tell you that my mother was lost to the plague in 1903, which just happened right before I turned three. Since then, my dad took care of me. That was until he fell in love with cranberry tea".
Something suddenly hit the toad, what it was at the time he really could not say. Some part of him said to just keep quiet for the rest of the day. But, somehow, he wanted to know more about Shannon. She seemed quite sincere and not one you would call a loose cannon. So he braved his own thoughts and challenged the unknown and said.
"Shannon, I really want to know how is it that you have come to be on your own."
"Well", started Shannon really quite slowly. "It's been quite a while now, I really don't know how to start, but, maybe if I sing you a song you may understand my part".
So she started to sing and sing she could do.
I remember when I was just a very teeny little girl
My father would take my feet as if I were a squirrel
He'd tickle me. He'd cuddle me. He called me his little pearl
I'll never forget how fun it was to be his little girl
When I got older, my dad brought me down to the river
There I learned to catch some cats with a hook and raw liver
We danced to the songs that sang all about the seasons
He read me books each night that had more rhyme than reason
We used to take trips down into the deep south
My dad was so silly he could never keep his mouth
There we used to dance quite silly between the pine trees
My dad always told me no one was as important as me
But then my dad ran across a jug of cranberry tea
For the first time in my life I realized it was no longer me
For the love of a jug my dad acted quite ridiculously
He sold off the house and on a boat we went sadly, just him and me
That's the way we had lived for three long years
Going shore to shore without much of any tears
For all of the things my daddy loved went to cranberry tea
He learned to lie and to steel to get money for a spree
Then one day while we were sailing at a quarter past three
My dad drank a jug or two of cranberry tea
We crashed on a rock, my dad fell in and he drowned
I swam myself ashore and onto the dry ground
It's been two years since that dark day of sorrow
Now I live by myself in an old oak tree that is hollow
I think every day of the horrors which I did see
When my dad lost his life to a jug of cranberry tea
She finished her song and stared solemnly down into the brown water. A tear from her eyes fell softly into it, causing a series of round ripples in the calm and still water. As the ripples slowly spread out into the swamp, they suddenly collided with another set of ripples. Ripples that had come from the toad's big brown eyes as a tear from his eyes had, also, landed softly into the cool water.
The two of them, the little girl Shannon and the big toad sat in silence. Neither one of them moved or spoke. A very long time went by before either moved.
"That is a very sad story", said the toad. "Yes, a very sad story indeed".
The toad fidgeted uneasily on his log and stared apprehensively at his jug of cranberry tea.
"So you just live by yourself in the hollow of that old oak tree you do" said the toad quietly. "You live just by yourself with nobody to look after you, just you".
"That's right!" said the girl quickly perking up. "I've been very lonely up there by myself. I really do miss my dad you must know. I think about him almost every day. Sometimes I feel happy when I think about him, because of all of the fun that we had, but, then I become sad when I think of him drowning in the river after too much cranberry tea".
"Do you have any friends?" asked the toad.
"Not really", said Shannon. "I never went to school because my dad was never there to take me, so I usually stay away from the kids and people near the river. I really don't like going near them anyway because they always make fun of the way that I'm dressed and how dirty I am".
"Well, now how mean of them", said the toad sounding quite astounded. "I think you're clothes look just fine and coming from my point of view, a little bit of mud on a person will do them just fine. The mud will only make them look a bit more earthly. Yes, that's exactly how I feel".
"Now I have you as a friend", said Shannon. I have been waiting so long to talk to someone and now I have found you. It makes me happy to talk to you. I've been watching you for a very long time. I always wanted to say something to you but was always afraid to do so".
"Now why is that?" asked the toad who appeared very surprised. "I'm just a big old toad. I am not scary? Am I?"
"Well, it's just that when you drink a lot of that cranberry tea, you kind of act a little different. Your mood seems to change like the breeze that first blows nice and soft and then becomes rather mean".
"Now that's not true at all!" said the toad. "I act the same way all the time whether I drink cranberry tea or not".
"Well, that's not the way it looked the other night", said Shannon.
"What do you mean by that?" asked the toad in a voice that sounded hurt.
"Well I saw you the other night yell at that firefly", said Shannon.
"What?" asked the toad. "Now why would I do a thing like that?"
"Well, you were counting the stars in the sky, for what reason I really don't remember why. But, you got upset at the firefly because every time he lit up, he would mess up your count. You accused him of lighting up on purpose just to mess up your count of the stars".
"Hrrmph", replied the toad. "Well maybe he was doing it on purpose just to mess up my counting; at least it appeared so to me. I mean, every time I started counting the stars he would light up and I would end up counting him by accident and then I would have to start counting all over again".
"Then you splashed that frog who was swimming by your log and yelled at him too!" said Shannon.
"Well, yes, I do believe that he was stealing my cranberry tea from me when I wasn't looking. There are a lot of thieves in this swamp you know. You just can't trust anyone anymore these days", said the toad.
"That's not the way I saw it", said Shannon. "He was just swimming by the log. I think he was going home from the frog jump that they have every Tuesday night at the south end of the swamp".
"Hrrmph", growled the toad.
The two once again fell into silence again. After some time the silence once again was broken by Shannon.
"You know you really must stop drinking that cranberry tea", Shannon finally spoke. "If you keep on like that you'll end up like my dad. That'll mean that I won't have anyone to talk to anymore".
"Well now Shannon! Don't you despair! I mean I'm not going to crash on a rock in a boat. Don't you see? I'll be fine here just you, my cranberry tea and me. We'll have such a joyous time together, the three of us starting each day at a quarter past three".
Shannon's eyes grew narrow and stared hard at the toad.
"You and I will be just fine together", she said coldly. "But you must get rid of that jug of cranberry tea. Now come off that log and come over to the shore. Come stand on the ground like you did once before. Come now Mr. Toad it's time to let go. It's time to come off that log, that log that is surely made for a frog".
The toad suddenly became frightened. The toad suddenly became scared.
"Let go of this log? Let go of this log? " He cried out in fear. "But, I'll drown in the water. I'll sink right under. I'll never make it to the shore. I'll be dead quicker than a clap of thunder".
Shannon suddenly stood up and to the surprise of the toad, stepped into the water. She actually started wading through the water and out towards the toad.
"Now wait a minute!" cried out the toad. "You shouldn't do that you'll go… right… under".
To the shock of the toad the water came up just past Shannon's knees.
"By golly!" thought the toad to his self. "The water is not that deep at all! Well for the… The water is not that deep at all! Now why didn't I think …"
Shannon moved through the brown water and came upon a rock that was close to the toad's log. It was the first time that I had noticed that rock. It was a rock that rose about a foot above the water. It was very flat and big enough for just one person to sit on. Now, I'd say by looking at it, that it was maybe three feet from the toad's log. Or was it four? Honestly, I'm really not too sure.
"See", said Shannon. "The water is only a little deeper that the top of my knees. You can leave that log and finally be free. You can come to the shore again, but, if you want to really be free, you must leave that jug of cranberry tea".
The toad was quite frightened now. Of what, he was really not too sure. Could it be from the thought of wading back to the shore? Was it the thought of going back to the life that he knew before?
I think I know what he was so frightened of and it was not going back to the shore and living the life that he'd known before. No, just between you and me, I think he was scared of letting go of his jug of cranberry tea.
The toad began gripping the log with his left hand extremely hard. With his other hand he pulled his jug tight against his chest a place where I'm sure it did not belong. He stared first at the water for a moment and then at Shannon and finally, he looked down into the opening of his jug before saying: "I'm really not sure of the muddy swamps bottom. If I step into the water here, I may sink deep into the mud and drown",
"You really should let go of your jug and that log", said Shannon who started to slowly creep into the water, inching ever so slowly towards the toad.
Shannon's eyes suddenly went wide and her face became one big expression of joy. She began pointing past the toad towards the bend in the swamp. "Look!" she shouted out. It's the rats! It's the rats! Look Mr. Toad! The rats are coming back from around the swamp's bend! I bet they'll give you another jug of some cranberry tea again!"
The toad suddenly perked up and quickly turned his head towards the bend in the swamp, shouting out gleefully, "Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! The rats are back! The rats are back! They're coming to give me some more cranberry tea!"
When the toad looked up he was surprised to see that there were no rats coming around the swamps bend with cranberry tea. As a matter of fact, there was no one coming around the swamp's bend that is, at least as far as he could tell.
In all of the toad's excitement his hand had loosened on his jug of cranberry tea. He, also, had forgotten about Shannon, who had made her way through the knee high water, right up to the toad's log. That log which was surely made for a frog.
Before the toad had noticed Shannon, she reached over and snatched the toad's jug right out of his hand. Then she did something that I thought was really quite right. She lifted that jug high up over her head and smashed it to pieces on the rock that was sitting to her right. She smashed it down hard, she smashed it down good. She smashed that jug right into a million pieces. A million pieces as far as I could tell. Into the water fell the jug's pieces and following them was the cranberry tea.
"Noooo!" screamed the toad which jumped quickly off his log and into the brown water. He splashed wildly through the water and lurched at the rock.
He groped wildly at the last of the tea running off the rock, but, came up empty. He then looked wildly at the water where the tea was quickly dissipating and disappearing. He then reached down into it and scooped it up with cupped hands. He looked into his hands and saw nothing but brown water.
"My tea!" sobbed the toad as he fell prostrate over the rock. "Why? Oh why did you do that to my jug of cranberry tea? What am I going to do now? The rats won't be back until tomorrow afternoon at a quarter past three!"
The toad put his head into his hands and began leaning against the rock quietly sobbing. After some time Shannon spoke softly to the toad.
"Why don't you stand up?
"No!" said the toad between sobs. "I don't want to. You are mean. You really are very mean to me. What did I ever do to you to deserve this?"
"How does the mud feel between your toes?" Shannon asked with a smile on her face.
"Huh.. Umm. What..." the toad blurted out. "Well I…"
The toad suddenly felt the oozy squishy mud of the swamp's bottom between the toes of his large feet. He had to admit to himself that if did feel rather neat. It felt soft and funny and really squishy.
"Dang", he said softly. "Well, I forgot all about how funny and squishy the feeling of the swamp's mud was".
He stood slowly straight up and at first sunk a bit into the mud until the water was just above the top of his knees. He looked down into the brown stirred up water and began wiggling his toes in the mud. The feeling of the soft mud squishing between his toes sent a shock of pure pleasure throughout the toad's body. First, he started to giggle a little. Then he giggled some more and a little harder, until that giggle grew into a big laugh. A laugh that quickly turned into laughter, I must say. As the toad fell hard into laughter he looked at Shannon. When their eyes met Shannon suddenly broke into laughter just as hard as the toad. They both laughed so hard that they could hardly stand straight and started slapping their knees.
So there the two of them stood bent over with their hands on their knees laughing so hard they made a warm summer's breeze blow over the swamp. They laughed and they laughed. It was the most joyous laughter that I ever did see.
It was quite a while, I suppose, before either one of them became quite composed. They had laughed so hard that tears were rolling down both of their cheeks, past their noses and down into the water that was just below their knees. They smiled at each other. It was the two biggest and happiest smiles that I had ever seen.
"Come on" cried Shannon. "Let's slosh over to the shore!"
And slosh to the shore they did all the while laughing some more.
"Now we can go and run through the May leaves", sang out Shannon.
"Then we can go and dance amongst the pine trees", sang back the toad.
"We'll have so much fun, just you and me", sang Shannon.
"Yes, just you and me", sang the toad. "And no more shall I ever hold a jug of cranberry tea".
So the two of them laughed and ran amongst the May leaves and quickly disappeared into the trees.
Once they were gone, I felt a tear running down my cheek and past my nose. Over the lip it went and fell down into the mud. It was certainly for them. It was a tear of happiness, I could only suppose. A tear of happiness for the toad and the little girl named Shannon. A tear of the happiness for what I had just seen.
Suddenly, I noticed that the sun had begun to sink into a hill that looks over that swamp that's named Danbury. As the sun headed downward its last rays fell upon that log that the toad had been sitting on. You remember that log that was made for a frog. Now, I guess that log will be just that! Only a frog will sit on that log from now on.
So I turned around and headed to the end of Danbury swamp and started walking back down that road. You know that road, that long and winding blue road.