Who Let the Frogs Out?
A word is many things to many people, but is essentially a token, and like all good tokens, is used to lie regularly. Very little of what you ever read is actually true. However, what you are about to read is the truth, the whole truth, and something else.
Something Is Happening.
What you will now read is something a little different from the previous, but in its own way it is nothing but the truth.
Once upon a time there was a handsome frog, who we shall call Humphrey, though that was not his name. Humphrey was a very lonely frog, and as such, was taken to going on long, rambling walks through the countryside around where he lived, although he didn’t call it countryside. Whereas other frogs concerned themselves mainly with the eternal struggles of life and were only really moved by predators, food, and reproduction, Humphrey was moved by music, dancing and poetry, and consequently subsisted on a diet of dead flies, a taste not useful in pursuit of friends. Those amongst you who are also moved by such things (but probably have a slightly tastier if not necessarily more nutritious diet) as was Humphrey can appreciate what a bind this would be, especially since Humphrey was without opposable thumbs.
When Humphrey was a mere tadpole, he tried learning musical instruments, but found that they were far too massive - nobody had yet had the foresight to cater for the untapped potential of the musical frog market...whose loss this was not immediately apparent, it must be admitted at this early stage. He was also presented with a problem when attempting to dance - underwater, he was a slave to the current rather than the rhythm (not for Humphrey the staid environs of a stagnant pond). This left poetry, and since the author of this piece is no poetry fan, no opinion can be offered on the quality of the lines he produced.
An obvious point of contention with the above statements, which are obviously factual because it's me that's writing them and it's my story, is how do frogs get exposed to music? Birds gave them the idea, much as they did with humans and other creatures (this story treats humans as creatures. i hope to set a precedent). Because the frog larynx is not particularly suited to the harmonious and melodious discourse provided by birds, the occasional frog had attempted to fashion an instrument to emulate them, using materials found in nature. These endeavours often lasted only an hour or two before the more pressing needs of avoiding marauding weasels and stoats and minks and however many other predatory animals i can think of without referring to wikipedia reasserted themselves.
However, frogs were certainly not averse to vocal choirs. You may have unwittingly heard some of them before, and simply considered them to be weird sounds of nature, or cheesy commercial christmas cash-ins. Indeed, one of the reasons Humphrey was tolerated so indulgently by his peers was because he was often the lead of their impromptu chorus, which filled many with joy, or at least, not unhappiness.
So, Humphrey liked singing, and he also liked walking, as i believe i may have intimated earlier, but i haven't told you yet how he learned to walk, since as he was a frog you would expect him to hop. He learned to walk after a life changing experience in his adolescence when he met a maverick English frog, who we shall call Jeremy, though it is doubtful that that was his name. Jeremy believed that hopping was undignified, and could prove this fact to three decimal places. It was during such a demonstration that a young and impressionable Humphrey saw "the light," which was actually the leading torch of a long lost mole exploration party. That party has not yet reported back, and its story will be told separately. Humphrey asked Jeremy if he could teach him to walk, and Jeremy said yes, but that was the last anyone saw of Jeremy. Undeterred, Humphrey decided to teach himself, and a long and arduous process began. His fellow frogs were often awoken by mutterings and curses. "One foot on the ground!" and "damn these springy legs!" and other such witticisms. It was due to his lack of secrecy that other frogs would later shun the course he offered in Walk Like A Caveman…The Secret Is Out.
In desperation to attract converts to his side came the day that Humphrey unveiled his new skill to his hitherto sceptical colleagues. He gathered them all together, in a massive group, in broad daylight. After the carnage of predators, the gnashing and the fighting, the screaming and the hiding, the remaining seven frogs all agreed that it was a very impressive skill despite being impractical and slow, now could they please go back to the safety of the pond? They were unspecific about future social plans. And no, they didn't feel like a sing song right now.
The frogs who we must loosely count as being amongst Humphrey's peer group were fairly typical of frogs for this period. They were not actually averse to new ideas, but more pressing concerns of survival and reproduction concerned them for the vast majority of their time. The life of leisure required to indulge in such things as hobbies seemed so far away that there were not many who even envisioned such a state of affairs. Oh, they were not averse to social pyramids. Frogs who were blessed with large throats and loud croaks found themselves the envy of frogs with lesser abilities, and consequently found life to be slightly easier, but this is relative, as is everything. They were at the mercy of their environment, and they were at the mercy of the predators contained within their environment. A particular bugbear for these frogs was the common domestic housecat, so labelled by others who considered them cute. Many frogs had become adept at screaming and then playing dead, but a recent poll had indicated that of all frogs questioned, the vast majority preferred a situation where this need did not arise.
These frogs looked upon Humphrey as though he were a curiosity. Occasionally, one of the top frogs would single him out for some wit and repartee, and steal his dinner from him, but Humphrey was such an easy target that few frogs were really very impressed by this. Consequently, he was largely unmolested, even indulged slightly. For example, the frogs who survived his walking demonstration merely considered that their comrades had been a bit stupid in coming out into the open, after all, this was Humphrey. Everyone knew he was not the most practical or foresighted of frogs (their own stupidity in joining them was left unspoken.. after all, they were still here, which was obviously the result of some incipient cunning, although they were not keen to repeat the experience).
It was on a particular day when Humphrey was walking along a path which didn't expose him too much, for Humphrey was a quick learner, when he encountered a female human being, sitting by a toadstool. Being a frog, Humphrey had yet to develop a vocabulary to describe her, so we will just say that he perceived her as massive, and that she had an expression on what he assumed to be her face, though Humphrey was unskilled at interpreting human faces. In fact, this was the closest he had ever got to a human being. He had previously seen one from a distance, as it fell from the sky. He had therefore assumed this to be their natural behaviour.
Before he could go on his way, however, the female human being picked him up (having not been taught when young about virulent diseases transmitted by amphibians) and started making noises. Humphrey was slightly scared by now, as these noises were intolerably loud to him. The female human being looked at him, with another expression on her face, all the while assaulting his senses with both smell and sound. He wondered whether to squeal, and decided that it would probably be pointless.
It would actually have rendered this story pointless, as all that would have otherwise happened would have been that he carried on being a weird frog until he got eaten by a grass snake, which in turn slithered into a large dog due to not being itself.
Instead, Humphrey remained scared, but remained silent and accepted that he was probably about to have an interesting, if very scary experience.
Now, as some of you know, when fear takes over, the responses are not always rational. Humphrey was overtaken by an urge to run away, or even hop away, as dignity was of no concern to him now. But he was frozen in place, as if some magic glue held him fast. The female humans mouth changed shape, became much thinner but much wider, and then changed shape again, as if trying to make itself into a small mound. Simultaneously, she leaned towards him.
This stirred him into action. He leapt for all he was worth, but unfortunately, straight at her. As he collided with her forehead, and for no good reason, he kissed her. It was his first ever kiss. He was to remember it forever.
What happened next? This.
Humphrey tumbled towards the ground as a noise, quite loud; as of lots of air rushing into a place recently vacated by a relatively large creature, in this case the female human being. Humphrey landed, and quickly righted himself, satisfied that there was nothing more than bruised pride. He turned round and surveyed the scene.
There was a female frog, staring venomously at him. Being a loner and also unpopular, this caused no immediate concern to Humphrey, who made as if to leave. After all, his previous experience with females staring venomously at him were often traumatic. However, the female frog then started shouting, which was incomprehensible, because she had only just turned into a frog and that was something that she was unfamiliar with, but was essentially a babble of rage and consternation. Gradually, however, it calmed down and started becoming intelligible.
“...As if I ever had any control over my life anyway, I suppose I should be used to this oh my god this is all a trick isn't it it's one of those hallucinogenic drugs that my parents are always giving me to keep me on the estate this is happening too often now or maybe I shouldn't have ate that mushroom wow this is the most realistic yet am I going to get menaced by dogs? That would be really cool as long as nothing eats me that would be a bit too much to cope with.... hang on, I didn't eat any mushrooms I hate mushrooms I grind them beneath my heels the texture is just yucky yucky yeucchh!" and on and on.
Needless to say, this was well beyond Humphrey’s previous experience, and this left Humphrey slightly bewildered. His understanding of female frogs was pitiful at best, and female frogs who had previously been human and believed they were currently on drugs...it didn't bear thinking about, mainly because he was currently incapable of it. He decided to try to take control of a situation.
"Do you want a fly?" he asked her.
“.... Mind you, there's those toads that are said to induce...sorry? Fly? I can fly? I didn't think frogs could fly. Wow, this really is something else, I’ll have to ask for some more of this stuff. How does that work then? I have no wings. "
Humphrey could not even begin to reply, but this didn't matter as she carried on chuntering away to herself, with more pointless monologue that I shan't bore you the reader with because you won't find it interesting. Unless you're on drugs yourself.
Humphrey became aware of his surroundings. A whole variety of large trees and plants could be hiding any predators who had been attracted by this noise, and it was time to head for safety. Humphrey had a little den somewhere near here, and before you tell me that frogs don't have dens, I will say that this frog does have a den, and that is where he is about to go with his new friend, and can I please get on with the story, honestly I’ve never known such a rude reader.
"Where are you going?" asked the female frog who had previously been a human.
"Come on," replied Humphrey "I know a place."
"Oh good," she said daintily, "can we get a cappuccino there? Is it a frog place or can other creatures go there?"
"CREATURES!" thundered Humphrey (your first task: draw a picture of Humphrey thundering), "Is that how you refer to us? We're the pinnacle of amphibian evolution, nature’s ultimate design, the end product of an eternal struggle, you cannot improve on us. Creatures!"
"Wow, this is really realistic, really real all round. I can't wait for this bar you're taking me to, all these little frogs sitting round smoking and drinking and discussing philosophy and arguing about the Toad Question…"
"What is your name?" asked Humphrey, determined to rescue the situation to something approaching his normal experience.
"Name? I had a name...name..." and that was all he could get out of her. She started looking a bit confused and afraid. I should point out to the more pedantic reader who might insist that one thing that one does not forget is his or her name that this ex-human had just had her brain size reduced by a factor of buggerloads. however, her basic personality was to remain the same, along with a surprising ability to remember obscure things. what this says about the true nature of memory is something i shall keep to myself, allowing me to feel smug every time i read some psychologist trying to compare human cognitive abilities with those of computers. i mean, yeah right. anyway, i digress. and probably not for the last time.
"Then I shall call you Harriet, though that is surely not your name. Come Harriet, I shall take you to safety, and although I know nothing of these cafe-bars of which you speak, I will be glad to let you tell me."
They walked warily through the undergrowth, Harriet obviously being a natural at this walking lark. Humphrey was impressed. It had taken him loads of time to learn all that, and here was this newcomer taking to it like a fly to spider’s webs. He offered her some morsels he found on the way, for surely she would be hungry after all that species changing which had to be stressful and take up loads of energy, but she merely shrank back, saying something about having a bad enough trip as it was. He'd even found an earwig, something of a delicacy around these parts, but this would not sway her. Presently they came to his den, which you will not be surprised to learn he had named Dun Hoppin'.
Harriet seemed disappointed, being a spoilt and ungrateful so and so, so she said nothing and merely went to a corner and crouched down, but Humphrey could tell she was unimpressed. Pah! It had taken him ages to build Dun Hoppin'. The amount of blood, sweat and mucous was incalculable, not to mention the sense of achievement, the peace it gave his soul, the aid it gave his creative powers, the security his imagination needed, and he began to explain this to her in the hope that she would somehow be more happy to be here.
"But what exactly is the point?" she asked." All that work and for what? So you can come here and hide from the world, I suppose. Why not turn it into something where all frogs can meet and socialise? I bet there's nothing like that anywhere for all you frog types. And you could have a back room for Toads, and a pool out the back for tadpoles, and special rates for the recently attacked, and a separate counter offering fried flies and toasted caterpillar."
Humphrey was taken aback, by an elderly mole as it turned out. He turned and remonstrated with this mole, explaining that he was not its natural prey, he had mistaken his back leg for a worm, and couldn't he see the sign on the ceiling underneath? and the elderly mole replied that he was sorry, failing eyesight and all that, hope there's no lasting damage, be on my way now, worms to catch and all that, and off he went. Humphrey returned his attention to the matter at hand.
"But why would I do that? That seems like an awful lot of work, just running around giving people food and drink while they sit there and drop rubbish on the floor and complain about the service and start fights because their need for fending for themselves ended when they started getting other frogs to do things for them and the boredom and the harassment..."
"But you can make lots of money!" interjected Harriet.
"Money?" asked a bewildered Humphrey.
So Harriet explained about money, about currencies, about stock markets, about shareholders, about working your arse off to make someone else rich, about national economies and the need for unemployment and the inevitable criminal underclass that will always happen when you demand that a large percentage of the population are to be mobilised in keeping a lucky few in a style of utter, but relative luxury, about the rising security costs that accompany the inevitable discarding of large swathes of this population when their purposes become obsolete due to progress of some obscure notion or other and how those who made it so somehow still failed to see the connection between it all, or did but didn't care. Yes I’m deeply cynical. Give yourself a large pat on the back for that groundbreaking insight and then will you please stop interrupting. I'm beginning to think you are on drugs.
"So what you're saying is.... I need to go and convince all the other frogs to start exchanging tokens for goods and services, and that the pursuit of more and more of these tokens is to be a prime motivator for only some of them whilst the others trail in their wake and inevitably don't do so well out of it."
"Yes!! But not by going and telling them as if you were bored housewives comparing the merits or otherwise of washing powders. You have to do presentations with slideshows and overhead projectors and short films. You'll find frogs listen then. We can tour the wilderness with a magnificent entourage."
This led to many more explanations, as Harriet had used many terms that Humphrey was unfamiliar with. At the end of it all, Humphrey found his mind a-boggling but glowing with excitement. Yes, he could make this work. It was so easy. So he and Harriet started planning.
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