These rats were thin and wiry. They all had crooked whiskers and long orange capes that reached down to the ground. They wore on top of their heads, hard brown wooden hats, which smelled so bad they scared off all of the swamp's gnats.
You would have to be a really nasty rat to scare off all the swamp's gnats.
There were five of those rats in that flat brown bottom boat. They moved that boat through Danbury Swamp with long wooden poles that they stuck deep into the mud. As they approached the toad, they constantly jostled each other after saying a line, as if they'd just had a good glass of fine dewberry wine. They always laughed after everything that they had said, and at the conclusion of each sentence would slap each other on the back hard, as if trying to see if the other rat was alive and not dead.
In a time that seemed so long, that you would have thought two generations of gnats had passed us by, the rats and their boat came up along side of the toad's log. You remember that log. That log which was surely made for a frog.
The toad seemed to brighten up at the sight of the rats. But it wasn't that the toad was really happy to see them. Oh no, not at all. It seemed to be that the toad was more relieved to see them. It was as if the rats came to relieve a great burden off of the toad's shoulders. As if the rats would be able to get the toad off that log and onto the brown road, because everyone knows that a toad with such girth would much rather have his feet touching the earth.
"Hey! There, Mr. Toad! How is the day unraveling?" called out the rat that seemed to be the pack's leader. He drew his hat off his head and swooshed it in a circle in front of him while taking a very wide bow.
The four rats behind him mimicked his motion, all the while, repeating his words of greeting.
"Hey there Mr. Toad!" they called out in unison. "How is the day unraveling?"
They too, drew off their hats off their heads and swooshed them in a circle in front of them while taking a very wide bow.
The Toad half smiled and answered in a deep and gruff kind of way, with a voice of someone who had drunk too much cranberry tea that day. "The day is quite clear, the day is quite nice, the day is quite cheery and the day is quite free. But the day would be complete if only I had a jug of fine cranberry tea".
The rats all looked at each other and then laughed in unison.
"But of course Mr. Toad!" they cried together.
"We've got with us a gallon or two of the finest cranberry tea. "Why this is the best cranberry tea that we've ever given anybody Mr. Toad. It comes from a very far place that is across the blue sea".
"Hrrrrmmmph!" groaned the toad as he turned his great head, away from the rats that sat in the boat. He stared at the swamp's banks for a moment or two and then turned to the rats and cocked his head to one side and began to ask a question in a voice that sounded rather snide.
"Yesterday, you told me that the cranberry tea was the finest tea from the south of Saint Bree", sneered the toad. "You told me that the tea was the best tea west of the Blueberry Sea. And yet, I have seen no difference in the tea that you've given me from day one till today. It's all the same tea if you ask me and what is worse, is that the tea is not free".
"Ahhhhhh! But Mr. Toad!" argued the head rat looking rather offended. "This tea really is the best tea, that can be found south of Saint bree. Let me sing you a song of how hard it was to come by. Let me sing you a song about this wonderful tea. When it is done you will finally see, just how wonderful it is, this jug of cranberry tea".
So the rat straightened his whiskers and loosened his orange cape and began to sing. He sang in a voice that was high pitched and annoying and not very clear. He sang loudly of the lands that no man would go near.
This cranberry tea, this cranberry tea
Comes my good friend from across the blue sea
Across the blue sea to the shores of Bagoney
A land that is ruled by the mad King Maloney
Passing over these lands is really quite scary
You might meet the King's giant who calls himself Larry
Which we did at night when the moon was quite full
We lost our good comrade, Justin, of East Stanbul
We then crossed over the mountains of Stagon
Where we ran into a great big fire breathing dragon
Who swooped down upon us at the pass of St. Beal
Making comrade, Drambuie, his evening meal
We then walked down into the valley of Spree
Where they make the finest of cranberry tea
We paid top price for a jug from old Lou
And returned back home just to give it to you
From the bottom of the boat, the rat pulled out a big jug. The kind of ugly big jug, that could only belong to a surly thug. He held out the jug for the toad to see. The jug was surely full of cranberry tea.
The toad stared warily at the jug of cranberry tea. He moved his jaw slowly back and forth in deep thought for a moment or two and then reached his hand into that hole in that log, that log that surely was made for a frog.
He then reached into a hole in the side of his log and pulled out of that log a brown leather pouch. He then reached into that pouch and pulled out a handful of flies. He studied the flies for a moment or two and then reluctantly handed them over to the head rat in the boat, who took them all in his hand with a very big smile.
The toad reached again into his brown leather pouch and pulled out another hand full of flies and handed them over to the rat. He then pulled out another, and then another and then another until his pouch was quite empty you see, and gave each handful of flies to that rat, just so he could get a jug of cranberry tea.
The rat doffed his hat and said with a smile: "Why thank you Mr. Toad, you will not be disappointed, because this tea… this tea is better than any tea we have brought before. When you drink it you will see, that it is the best tea that can be had from the Valley of Spree".
A toad! A toad giving all of his good flies to a rat, just for some jug of cranberry tea! Now can you imagine that?
Then the rats all took off their hats and together they swooshed them in a circle in front of themselves while taking a wide bow. They all smiled broadly at one another and turned their brown flat bottom boat around, and all laughing, headed back towards the bend in the swamp from where they had come.
As I watched the rats laughing and jostling and heading around the swamp's bend. I became very angry. I became very mad. I became quite incensed at the sight that I'd just seen.
That poor old toad!
That poor old toad!
Giving his days worth of flies for some jug of no good cranberry tea!
If only I could stop it!
If only I could intervene!
I'll be darned if that toad would taste another day's worth of cranberry tea!
As I watched those rats starting to disappear around the swamp's bend, I became very angry at those surly rats. So angry that I wanted to give those rats something more than a spat.
I looked all about me and what did I see, but a rock in the mud. A big rock I must say. A rock so big that lifting it up might take me two thirds of a day.
But in anger there is strength and angry I was. I used all of my strength to lift that big rock. I lifted that rock high up over my head. And as I watched those rat's, approaching the swamp's bend, I realized, that, I could run with that rock with all of my might and smash it right on top of their boat!
Now that would make things just right! At least that's how I thought.
And just as I'd started to take a big step……
There came a sound….