Sunday, November 20, 2016

FROGS part 2

Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.

By R. Peterson

Forlorn, the wolf watched as Sarah, the washer-maid, and Prince Dristig danced arm in arm out of the enchanted forest and toward his father’s castle. “This stupid fairy tale didn’t end at all well for me,” the wolf grumbled. “Just my luck … stuck in the forest with nowhere to go! Why! The writer of this sad story was so miserly with his words he didn’t even give me a proper name!” The wolf kicked the witch Dolda’s silver goblet and the vessel sailed through the air and banged into a large Elm tree. The wolf watched as the cup rattled down the trunk and into some bushes. A bit of red cloth caught the wolf’s eye and he went to investigate. The hopeless writer had left in a hurry, no doubt following the prince and his soon to be bride to a much more exciting place, and had forgotten his large bag of words hidden behind the tree.
Rejoicing, the wolf remembered how he had watched the stingy writer pull a word from his sack, treating each one as if it were made of gold as he turned it over carefully in his hand. The literary hack had often placed his words back into his precious bag without even putting them onto paper! “Well I’ll fix that!” the wolf growled as he thrust his hand in the forgotten sack. “Nonsensical!” the wolf cried as he read the word. “I don’t know what it means but at least now I’ll have a proper name!” Then after howling at the full moon for a bit, moons are always full in fairy tales, Nonsensical wandered deeper into the forest because he was hungry … and he could smell a pig.
Only a few yards from each side of the path he was walking on, Nonsensical could see all kinds of creatures scurrying in the opposite direction. Each carried a bundle or a barrel strapped to their back … but there were no pigs. He watched as a fox stopped to adjust a monstrous backpack that was slipping. “Where are you going?” the wolf asked.
            “To Nodnol,” the fox said. “I’ll let you come with me for just ten shillings and I’ll even allow you to wear this very attractive bag on your back.”
            “What’s in the bag?” Nonsensical asked.
            “Oh the usual traveling fare,” the fox said removing the huge bag and rubbing his shoulders. “A few rabbit bones, some dried meat … and of course flies.”
            “Flies?” the wolf asked.
            “Of course I’m packing flies,” the fox said. “No one goes to Nod without them. They’re worth more than gold with all the hungry former-frogs hopping around looking everywhere for something to eat.”
            “I thought the kissing broke all of the spells the witch cast.” Nonsensical muttered stupidly. “Are the men still frogs?”
            “Only their appetites,” the fox said. “One you get used to eating flies … nothing else satisflies.” He was obviously proud of his pun and grinned. “Do we have a deal?”
            “I don’t have ten shillings,” the wolf said.

Good grief! You wolves strike a hard bargain,” the fox said dragging his bag toward Nonsensical. “Put this on your back and you can come along … and pay me later!”
Just as the fox was about to tighten the straps, the wolf saw something bulging inside the bag … so he bit it. The cloth tore and the bag fell off his back. A furious swarm of flies, as big as house, buzzed into the sky like a storm cloud.
            “What have you done?” the fox snapped. “I spend three weeks at a county landfill catching my fortune! Now it’s all gone!” He disappeared into the forest leaping and snapping at everything that buzzed.
            “I’ve ruined my chance to go to Nod for free,” Nonsensical howled as he hung his head. “Now what am I going to do?” And the poor wolf slunk away into the forest more dejected than ever.

Some things never change. A tall witch, ugly enough to be Dolda’s sister, stood stirring a large caldron over a smoking fire as the wolf approached. “Cousin!” she exclaimed. “But thank you for saying I look like her.”
Nonsensical could smell pork and his tail raised and his nose twitched. “Hungry are you?” the witch smiled. Her voice sounded like a goat chewing open a tin-can filled with tomatoes.
            “I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten,” the wolf muttered. “The writer who created me had no talent for detail in his stories.”
            “That’s a pity,” the witch said. She rustled at least thirteen cashmere, silk and lace petticoats under a blackish Dublin mourning dress, trimmed with tiny silver lilacs and rubicund pearls. The garment fit her bony Romford-hips like a wet horse-blanket draped over a starving Yorkshire cow as she batted crow-wing lashes over gleaming south London chimney-sweep eyes and capered around him in a Drogheda sewing circle. The wart on the very end of her magnificently long Windsor poker-nose, gleamed like a dark pepper-cherry ready to be plucked. “I was brought to life by a spectacularly gifted Dictionarian!” she boasted. “The Queen of her Waltham Forest Writers Group!
She thrust a silver spoon toward him. “Why not try a sip?”

Frowning, Nonsensical pulled back just a little, his keen wolf’s nose could detect that something was not quite right. The simmering liquid contained plenty of blood - his favorite, but there was also a flavor of deceit which he did not like at all. “What’s in it?” he asked.
            “A measure of mice and a pinch of nice,” the witch cackled, “toad stools and dog drools, tree sap and lizard crap, blood and bone and all that makes a home for a hungry wolf!”
            “Why not!” Nonsensical howled, flapping his tongue toward the spoon. “How do I know if I like eating … if I’ve never tried it?”
Just then, a wagon being pulled by a dozen terrified rabbits burst into the meadow. A large brown bear with a whip in his right paw and a smile on his bushy face tried to steer clear of the witch’s caldron but one wheel caught an edge and the entire boiling pot spilled on the forest floor. Nonsensical was quick on his feet and leaped in the air but the witch’s elegant gown was splattered and ruined.
            “You ignorant lurching oaf,” the witch cried. “Do you know what you’ve done?”
            “The best I could mum,” the bear driving the out-of-control wagon yelled. “I’m in more than a hurry I’m almost into a frantic!”
            “What could be so important that you come between me and my tricking of a wolf?”
            “Flies!” the bear growled. “I’ve got to get this bag to Nod while the price is still high!”
Nonsensical and the wolf both stared. Sure enough, a large bulging and bouncing bag in the back of the wagon looked like it was ready to buzz away.
            “This whole story has gone mad!” the witch declared. “I’ll fly to Nodnol and sort things out! Now where did I leave my broomstick?’
She leaped, cantered and crawled away in the direction the wagon had vanished and that was the last the wolf seen of her … for a while.
Nonsensical’s long nose twitched. He could still smell pig and it wasn’t coming from the witch’s puddle. His keen eyes ran through the forest and he spied a tiny cottage made of straw next to a pond filled with mud. “Aha!” he declared.

Remember the story of the three little pigs and how they lived in houses made of straw, sticks and bricks? Well that wasn’t true at all. They live in hundreds, perhaps thousands of wood-rail pens, squealing beside reeking mud-pits like all pigs do. The house’s walls were made of straw and the thatched roof was like an enormous circus tent. A large cork was jammed into the roof’s only chimney.
An obviously very disgruntled and very portly woman with a belly full of bacon and a nose as sharp as a king’s dagger sat at a spinning wheel. She was as dirty as a joke told behind a church. Her dangerous, mean little eyes were like two holes poked in a rotted pumpkin. She sat on a sagging porch cursing as she furiously pumped with her foot trying to spin piles of moldy straw into … something.
“My poor, dear, sweet … rotten little betrayer!” she grumbled as she used a large yellow hat to bat away a cloud of flies. “It worked for her so beautifully … why not for me? That little tart, who claims to be my dear sister, who was somehow able to spin this same straw into a fortune is by now probably off to a gleaming castle of her own! Most likely she’s dancing to a polka-band, that really good one from Nod, and eating cupcakes … and here I am stuck in this dreadful story!” She glanced up and spied the slinking wolf that was approaching before she went on … slyly of course, “…waiting for a poorly-imagined wolf to ask what’s up!
            “Duh, what are you doing?” Nonsensical stammered.
            “Why I’m weaving you a … bonnet,” the fat woman sneered. “So you can climb into my rumpled bedclothes and gobble up my pretty young   granddaughter, Red, when she comes for a visit!”
            “Really? What color did you say?” The wolf was delighted.

Only this story’s clumsy writer kept the fat woman from jumping to her feet and boxing the wolf’s long ears … and it wasn’t easy. “I’m too busy trying to make my fortune to teach a howling imbecile like you about fairy tales,” the fat woman attacked with her tongue. “Now be off before I sick a dozen pigs on you. These oinkers prefer corn … but they will eat a sassy wolf … if he’s wet and sweaty from a run.”
            “I’d be glad to go … if you could only tell me where,” Nonsensical told her. “I’m lost without fingers and signs to show the way!”
            “Bring me a cup of cold refreshing water,” the fat woman pointed with chipped and broken fingernails to a rocked-in well in the shade of several trees with a bucket, crank, and rope, “while I think.”

The fat woman thought and then she thought some more as the wolf dropped the cup he was carrying down the well and had to go look for another. She stopped her spinning and used two hats, one green this time, to attack the pesky insects. Morning was coming and sunshine always brought the flies in even greater numbers because of the reeking mud puddles. When the wolf returned she had a plan. “You can huff and puff like most wolves can’t you?” the old woman asked when Nonsensical returned with her water.
            “I’m sure I can,” the wolf said. “Otherwise what would be the point in you asking?”
            “A clever one aren’t you?” the fat woman sneered. “I must have a word with the writer of this story … but for right now you can help me get rid of this plague that has loomed over my happy home ever since I went into the bacon business!”
She then waddled from mud-pen to mud-pen holding open a large bag that small farms come in, while the wolf huffed and puffed and blew clouds of breeding-flies into the enormous sack.
            “What do you do with the flies now?” the wolf asked as they finished the last pen and then walked the three miles back to the house. It took both of them plus an ever-complaining  little Red Hen to drag the enormous bag.
            “Why I stuff them down the chimney,” the fat woman blurted. “Didn’t you see the cork?”
The wolf was reluctant to tell the fat woman about the price of flies in Nodnol. He knew that new-found wealth would make her snobbish and snooty and even lose the few friends she had … but she sensed he was keeping a secret from her and coaxed (beat) it from him with both hats and a broken fence-post.
            “Looks like me and you are going to be partners!” The fat lady shook his paw and he told her his name. She placed the yellow hat on his head and she wore the green one.
            “I’ve been called fat, mean and sneering in this story, but I’ve never had a proper name!”
The portly woman complained as she harnessed a tired old cow to nine wagons piled high with bags of flies.
            “I can fix that!” Nonsensical told her as they lumbered away from the deflated house that had just lost its buzzing treasure. An explosion of squealing and oinking and the sound of a wooden fence that surrounded a corn field being broken into kindling, bid them farewell as they moved ever so slowly toward the writer’s word bag stashed behind the old elm tree.

Good things happen to those who wait … and sometimes to those who can’t. The dirty fat woman was wiggling like a worm on a hook as she reached into the bag containing all the writer’s words. A dozen birds, as well as two bears holding their noses, had stopped to watch history in the making. “Malodorous!” she cried and flung the awful word on the ground. “No wonder this writer wins so many competitions for the worst stories. What kind of name is that for a woman soon to be a lady and the richest in all the kingdom?”
            “If it’s any help,” the wolf told her. “Shakespeare once wrote that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet …” He sniffed the air and then crinkled his nose. “But I don’t think he had you in mind … when he wrote that verse.”
            “Perhaps I better freshen up a bit before we make our grand entrance,” Malodorous said as she sniffed her flabby armpits. A flock of crows barely able to fly because of the stench in the air directed her to a deep pond surrounded by soap weed. The wolf kept watch for peeping Toms while the fat woman scrubbed rinsed and scrubbed, although he couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to gaze on such an awful sight without being forced to with at least a knife. When Malodorous emerged cleaned of all the dirt and grime … and had dried off and dressed … she weighed one-hundred-eighty pounds less … and was actually quite pretty.

And with a song that went something like this …

            “We’re going to Nod to turn a few heads … wag a few tongues and eat some spice breads!
              Riches they say won’t buy every-thing … who gives a damn as long as we sing …”

 Nonsensical and Malodorous climbed into the first wagon and coaxed the tired cow into a stagger with a whip. The much thinner woman’s voice was quite off key and the wolf began to howl-along in perfect harmony. After several verses they made adjustments and the nine bouncing wagons, filled with flies, lumbered toward Nod.

Some people still believe that the roads in Nodnol were then paved with gold, but they weren’t at that time. They were covered with grown men hopping about on all fours begging for flies. Dolda’s cousin, a formidable witch in her own right, was stirring the vapors of rebellion. “A kiss isn’t what it used to be,” she lectured a hungry crowd, “too much lust … too much tongue … and not enough love.” She banged a large spoon on the side of her caldron. “You can pull a man from a frog … but not all of the frog will leave the man … not with such simple kisses.” She overturned the pot to get their attention and then climbed on top the upended caldron as they mostly gasped and a few croaked. “Storm the castle and make me your Queen!” she demanded. “I’ll shorten those long tongues rolling in your heads with a bit of my own magic and make you real men again!”
And the angry mob began to march through the witch’s slimy muck and toward the palace … and the sound of their stomping feet was like Germans in another age: trump … trump …trump.

Fires were burning everywhere when Nonsensical and Malodorous entered the city. The streets were as empty as a poor widow’s cupboards. Smoke from the king’s palace rose in the sky as gilded towers melted … and gold ran through the gutters. “I thought there would be more people to greet us,” Malodorous complained. A pack of dogs ran barking after the wagons and Nonsensical sat proudly on the wagon seat relishing their obvious envy.
Prince Dristig and Sarah were tied to posts at the top of a huge pile of wood in the palace courtyard along with the king and queen. “Burn them!” the mob chanted. “Where are the flies of our youth?” they demanded. “Our royals must be keeping them all for themselves and dining in splendor every evening!”

Raising her hat high in the air, Malodorous stopped the wagons and silenced the crowd with her booming voice … and a gunshot. “You don’t have to destroy the kingdom,” she yelled. “I have enough flies in these wagons to wear your tongues out. They are yours for the asking … just a penny each.”
            “She lies!” Dolda’s cousin had been wandering through the crowd secretly pinching people and making them irritable. Her loud voice was rude and accusing. “Those wagons are filled with tax notices … the king has decided that the only way out of this mess is to keep you too poor to complain!”
The people were divided. Some believed Dolda’s cousin others believed Malodorous. While they were fighting amongst themselves the witch grabbed a torch and ran toward the woodpile. “Stop her!” Malodorous cried to Nonsensical. The wolf leaped from the wagon and bounded toward the woodpile just as Dolda’s cousin tossed the burning torch.

Only the angels know how the wolf leaped so high in the air. He caught the burning branch with his teeth and then ran toward a well to put the fire out. Dolda’s cousin seized the moment and jerked Malodorous from the wagon seat taking her place. “When you get hungry enough you’ll come to me,” she yelled, “… and then we’ll see who becomes your queen!”
            She beat the cow with a frenzy and for the first time in years the poor bovine burst into a dead run. The nine wagons careened through the streets of Nodnol and the wheels became coated with molten gold from the melting towers. Nonsensical chewed away the ropes binding the king and the king immediately ordered the drawbridge to be lifted to keep the witch from escaping. It was too late! The bridge was barely halfway raised when the witch and the wagons started up the ramp.
            Molten gold does not like wood … it prefers to be carried in stone. One of the flaming wheels on the wagon the witch was driving broke away and then another. The wagon turned first sideways and then upside down … the other wagons did the same. All of the people in the city watched as the nine blazing wagons thundered up the ramp and then shot high into the air. A tremor shook the town when the bags exploded. Cloth, wheels and wood were blown outward in all directions. The shrieking witch arched across the sky like a fire brand … and the people gasped as they watched the poor cow jump over the moon.

Great clouds of flies swarmed over the city as the people danced and the men feasted. Malodorous found Nonsensical eating steak and strawberries next to a special kennel the king had erected beside his throne. “I’ve discovered I do like to eat,” the wolf told her. “It’s a little late in this story … but still better than never knowing.” He looked at Malodorous and immediately felt guilty about his own happiness. “I don’t suppose you’ll get your penny for each fly now,” he said. “I’m sorry!”
            “Don’t be,” she told him. “The streets of Nod really are paved with gold … now. The king gave me permission to pick up a stone or two whenever I wish and I couldn’t be happier … well maybe a little.”
            “What is it?” the wolf asked her.
            “It’s this name,” she said. “ … It means stinky doesn’t it?”

 Some people say Dolda’s cousin vanished into the clouds and was never seen again except by a giant with a magic harp but that’s another tale penned by a far more gifted writer. Others say she landed in the same forest-clearing where the clumsy writer had left his bag of words behind an elm tree. Several squirrels and a porcupine swore they watched the witch and heard her raspy voice as she reached her hand into the bag still cursing the writer. “Call me the witch or Dolda’s cousin through the whole story will he …” she grumbled and then a moment later … she screamed.


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