There came a high pitched sound that made me stop in my tracks and drop that big rock right back into the ground. It was funny because when I dropped that rock it made nary a sound.
This sound was something new. This sound was something different. This sound, I've never heard here before, in the swamp called Danbury.
"That's so sad", said the high pitched voice.
The toad was quite startled. The toad was caught quite unawares to hear this high pitched voice coming out of the air.
"HRRRMMMPH", growled the toad, while looking about.
"What is that you say there, whoever you are?" all the while clutching his full jug of cranberry tea.
"Who are you? And what do you mean by… 'so sad'?"
As the toad looked around the swamp, he spied a small girl. She was sitting on the bank just behind him half hidden in the swamp grass that grew on the swamp's banks.
She was a small girl, maybe twelve, maybe thirteen. She was dressed in rags made of faded bluish green denim. Her hair was quite blonde and her face was quite dirty. But beneath all of the dirt, the toad could see that she was really quite pretty.
She was standing on the bank and watching the toad.
Watching with sad and hurt eyes, eye's which somehow caught the heart of the toad.
"You are so sad", answered the little girl.
"It's so sad to see you day in and day out sitting on that log, that log that was surely made for a frog. It's sad to see you just sitting on that log and drowning your sorrows in that cranberry tea. You will never know how much it hurts me to see this", said the girl who looked down to the ground with a very sad frown.
The toad was quite speechless for a moment or two. He sat and stared in his cup, trying to think what he should do. His head was quite full of the mirth from the tea which always lifted up his spirits immensely, and made him forget that he was not touching the earth.
"Well now wait just a moment", the toad finally protested. "I feel just fine, I feel just dandy. I don't feel sad at all. As a matter of fact, I've never felt better. In all the days that I can remember, I've never felt as good as I feel today. I am happy, I always feel this way".
"So you see", continued the toad, "I'm not sad at all".
"So why are you sitting on that log in the middle of the swamp?" asked the little girl. "Why are you sitting on a log that was surely made for a frog?"
"Well now!" answered the toad quite indignantly. "I like sitting on this log. It suits me quite fine. I mean, who says that this log was made only for a frog?"
"Toads don't sit on logs that are made for frogs", said the girl. "With your enormous girth you should be sitting on the earth".
"When is the last time you touched the brown ground?" asked the girl.
"Well, I touch the earth all the time", answered the toad. "Why just the other day I… I mean just last week I… I… Well now…"
The toad stopped short and began to think. When was the last time that he touched the earth? He thought and he thought and he thought some more.
When was the last time he played in the mud? When was the last time he saw his friend Spud? It had been such a long time that the toad had even thought about such things.
He became quite rattled and started feeling defensive.
Actually, what he really felt was rather… sad.
As the sadness grew, the toad started feeling quite defensive and mad. He became a bit upset at that little girl who had just spoiled all his fun. The fun that he was having drinking cranberry tea, which made him feel glad, so glad in fact that he was thinking of going on a spree and finishing up that big jug of cranberry tea.
The toad looked at the little girl and said quite indignantly:
"Well, maybe I don't want to touch the earth. Maybe I want to stay on this log that was made for a frog. I'm quite happy here you see, so leave me alone and let me drink my cranberry tea".
The girl looked hard at the toad. She knew his words were deceiving. She could tell that he did not mean what he said. So she furrowed her brow and slowly asked, "How did you get on that log?"
It had been so long ago that the toad couldn't quite remember how he got on the log. He remembers a night long ago drinking his first jug of cranberry tea. Or, was it his second jug… Or maybe it was his third… It was dark then… Or maybe it was light. He stumbled through the forest and came to Danbury swamp where he went for a swim. Didn't he? Or did he stumble and fall in?
"Dang", said the toad quietly. "Honestly, I really can't remember how I got here".
"Who are those rats?" the girl asked again. "Who are those mean looking rats, with crooked brown whiskers and long orange capes the hang down to the ground? They certainly are not the type of rats that I would hang around".
"Well now!" exclaimed the toad. "Those rats are very good friends of mine, indeed they are!"
"They don't look like friends to me", said the little girl.
"Well now! What do you mean by that?" asked the toad.
"Friends aren't nasty and mean like those rats which seem to only want to take your days worth of flies for some stupid jug of cranberry tea".
"Well now!" started the toad in a defensive tone of voice. "I like cranberry tea, I do. Yes very much, indeed I do. Those rats bring me the best cranberry tea that can be found from the Valley of Spree, they do. They've risked their lives fighting dragons and giants they have. Crossing over dangerous waters and forbidden lands all just to bring me back a jug or two of the finest cranberry tea. Why as a matter of fact, they've even lost a comrade or two on their last journey they did. So you see those rats care for me very much, yes they do. They are very good friends of mine, they are".
"But I heard you tell those rats that you've never seen any difference in the tea that they've brought you from one day to the next, I did", said the little girl.
"Well now! I'm sure that this tea is different, yes it probably is", said the toad. "I'm sure that this tea is the best tea from the Valley of Spree".
The toad then poured himself a cup of the tea and took a very large gulp from the cup.
"Hmmmm", the toad said as he furrowed his brow.
"Is it different from all the other tea that they've given you?" the little girl asked. "Is this tea the best tea from the Valley of Spree?"
"Well yes… Well I… Well let me take another drink", answered the toad.
The toad took another gulp and then stared quite disappointedly into his rusty cup.
"Hmmm…", he said. "Well maybe not this time it is not different, but I am sure that the next jug of tea will be different. Yes, I am sure it will. By golly those rats have risked their lives to get a jug of tea for me. As a matter of fact two of their comrades lost their lives on the last trip, yes they did. Did I tell you that?"
"Yes you did", said the little girl sadly. "You said that they lost a comrade or two".
"Well, yes, they lost those two that were mentioned in the song that the rat sang. You must have heard that wonderful song of hardship and sorrow. Didn't you?"
"Yes, I heard that silly song", sighed the girl. "Did you ever meet those two comrades that got killed by the giant and the dragon?"
"Of course I did… Err well… I'm not too sure", said the toad.
"Do you know any of those rats' names?"
"Of course I do".
"So what are they?"
"Well the leader's name is… well now let me think…. I mean rats just behind the leader are named…. Ummm… well now, what do you think about that?"
"So how do you know that any of those rats got killed?" she asked. "I bet you see the same five rats every time that they show up. I bet they get their tea from the very same place every time. I bet they've never crossed over the sea. I have a hard time believing that they've gone over the sea to the Valley of Spree".
"Now, how would you know that?" the toad replied quite indignantly. "How would you know whether or not they crossed over the blue sea? How would you know whether or not they went to the Valley of Spree?"
"Well", started the little girl. "I know that the sea is really quite large. I'm sure that it would take much more than a day to sail across it just going one way. So if they went across the sea yesterday, they could not have possibly gotten back today! That, also, would be the same for going to the Valley of Spree, being that it resides across the blue sea. If the rats couldn't have gotten back and forth across the sea in a day, then they couldn't have lost any comrades either, going across either way, you see".