Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Much Ado about Nothing (not about the play) (07/28/11)
TITLE: Inside-Outside, Upside-Downside
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Mama VanFrog glanced at the clock and croaked to her son for the third time. “Fraaaank-lin, it’s time to get up – NOW!”
Unfortunately, Franklin awakened on the wrong side of the bed. Or rather, the wrong side of a cool, inviting, marbled red-and-gray rock, just the right size to be used as a frog child’s bed.
Franklin grunted a pitiful-sounding, “Gwaark-ark-bark” in reply.
“What was that you said?” Mama ga-rumphed.
“Nothing,” Franklin grumbled while rising from the wrong side of his bed as if to assure his destiny for the day. He plodded the few steps into the kitchen with several lethargic hops. “I said nothing. Absolutely NOTHING at all.”
“Answer respectfully when you’re spoken to.” Mama flicked her sticky tongue for emphasis and barely missed his nose. “Your father and I expect you to cultivate appropriate frog manners, Franklin.”
The young frog answered flippantly as he hop-hopped toward the door. “Ga-gark … yes, Mama … gark-gark-gark.”
Mama stiffened. “I don’t like your tone, young man.” Her suction-cup-tipped fingers twitched with emotion. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m going outside.”
“You’re not going anywhere until you eat breakfast. I gathered worms just for you.” She gestured toward a bowl on the table. “I know you tire of flies all the time.”
Franklin glanced at three juicy earthworms writhing in slow motion in the bowl. “Nope. Don’t want worms.”
“I want spiders.”
“We’re not having spiders today!” Mama belched a loud kwa-kwa-KWARK-ish croak. He knew she meant business. “Stop being so rude, Franklin. Eat your worms and be grateful for them.”
Franklin sidled up to the door backwards. “I’m going outside.”
Mama glared her best buggy-eyed stare. “If you go outside you can stay outside until lunch. Do you understand?”
Franklin scowled his best frog-sneer in return, and scooted through the door rear-end-first, glaring all the while. He would hunt the breakfast of all-star frog-champions: grand-daddy-longlegs.
Outside, the sun was already tropic-hot. His usually slimy skin grew dry and taut, and there were no spiders in sight. Within minutes he hopped back inside, slamming the door behind him.
“Master Franklin VanFrog, you decided to disobey,” Mama grumped, “so GO OUTSIDE!” She pointed in the direction of the door as if to make no mistake about her instructions.
“I decided to come back inside, that’s all.”
“Well, you’re going outside!”
“I am not.”
“I decided to eat those worms.”
“You will NOT!” Mama frowned and hovered protectively over the bowl of worms. “I’m saving these for my coffee break, thank you very much.” Her beady eyes stared daggers. “Now go.” She gestured toward the door.
“I’m staying inside.”
“You’ll be getting a beating on your backside if you’re not careful. I’d say you’d best be going creek side and get yourself some breakfast. There are plenty of minnows out there. Or maybe you’ll get lucky and find a spider.”
“But Mama …”
“Don’t ‘but Mama’ me, Franklin VanFrog!”
“I just meant …”
“You meant you’re on the selfish-side rather than the obedient-side – the what-you-want-side rather than the what-you-get-side. Well, it doesn’t work that way.”
“ … I meant … there’s a me-side and a you-side …”
“ … and a right side and a wrong side.”
“So now you want me to go outside?”
“YES. You’re not staying inside. Not now that you’ve made this huge mess out of nothing.”
“Well. The upside is I get to do what I wanted in the first place.” Franklin stuck his nose in the air.
“And the downside is, unless you get busy, you’ll be hungry waiting such a loooong time for lunch.”
Franklin lashed back with defensive nonsense interspersed with haughty croaks - his ‘last word’ as he hopped out the door: “The near side of every argument (grog-og) actually is the far side (grog-og) because the downside becomes the upside (grog-og), and besides (grog-og), I’m headed lakeside, and not creek side (grog-og). That’s what I think (GROG-OG).”
The door slammed.
Mama blurted out, “Say ribbet when you mean it, and mean ribbet when you say it, boy!”
In reality, she knew each new generation must learn the same life lessons over again … hop the same hurdles, rediscover the virtues of obedience, and grow up. With a thoughtful look in her eye, she sighed deeply, perched on a rock beside the table where aromatic hot coffee laced with cream and sugar beckoned, and sucked up one of Franklin’s worms. It was, indeed, quite delicious.
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