It began as just another ordinary day. From behind the clouds, the sun attempted to attract the attention of the local residents, but with a modicum of success. The gray clouds squeezed out an occasional raindrop upon the calm pond, and Betty, Alice, and Irma, the chickens who belonged to Olde Stable Farm, could be heard arguing and shouting in the distance. The wind purred rather than blew, and Cedric the frog, the hero of this story, was sitting by the side of Tunbridge Pond looking sad and empty. His eyes just stared, the stare of boredom, the stare of nothingness. His eyes just stared—and occasionally blinked. The thrill of living had departed from this little frog, and only the shadow of existence remained.
Cedric was probably the most popular animal at Olde Stable Farm. His popularity rested in his genuine kindness. He did not have a wicked bone in his amphibian body. When the other animals had a problem, needed something done, or felt sad, Cedric appeared as the frog in shining armor.
Sure, he was known to be rather dramatic, and he often misquoted from literature or confused and mispronounced the names of famous characters in history, but putting this aside, he was loved and respected by all the resident animals. Nevertheless, as often happens in life, Cedric felt that life had become meaningless, dull, and boring. Why? He didn't know.
Cedric had just returned from a busy morning of helping some of the animals that lived at Olde Stable Farm. Betsy the pig had needed some cleaning done at the sty. Cedric often helped clean out the dirty straw and replace it with fresh straw to make up her bed.
Betsy was both huge and lazy. She rarely moved, even on cleaning day, which, incidentally, was any day that the animals took it upon themselves to clean her up. Betsy's only real interest in life was food. She lived to eat. She had become the comic character associated with pigs: an eater. A few senior residents of Olde Stable Farm remembered her as a piglet. She was the runt of the litter—skinny, ugly, and fragile. As a newborn, she had to fight her brothers and sisters to get any milk; even Rosie, her mother, seemed to have little time for poor Betsy. Her early childhood was spent fighting for food. Food had become her security blanket.
Cedric escaped his boredom and feelings of hop-lessness by dragging out the smelly straw and replacing it with fresh.
'See how beautiful your bed looks now, Betsy? I'd much rather stay here and take a nap with you than pick up the eggs from the chickens for Mrs. Ramsbottom.'
'Stop fussing, Cedric,' breathed Betsy, as she slowly awakened from her morning nap. 'Nothing pleases you more than doing jobs and errands for your friends. You know you love to deliver eggs to our revered owl. Indeed, you will use any excuse to hop over and see Mrs. Ramsbottom. It's what you like to do. She's always had a strange fascination for you.'
This sighed remark from Betsy, who was ever so lethargic in her speech, made Cedric smile.
'Well, now I'm off to get the eggs. I can hear the chickens' cluckings, so they can't be too far away. As the Greeks would say, ciao!'
As Cedric hopped over to see the chickens, he could see Chandu and Chico, the two Burmese cats, talking with Old John the mule. He couldn't help but think about Betsy's remark. He really did enjoy helping his friends at Olde Stable Farm, and he noticed that his gloom and boredom mostly came when he was alone. He didn't enjoy his own company very much. That's why he loved reading about the famous characters in history and literature: he could escape, if only for a short time, into their lives. They seemed so full of life, surrounded by adventure, the opposite of what he considered his boring existence to be. Although he'd never said this to any of the animals, he didn't really know who he was or what he needed in life to make himself happy. His happiness came in helping others.
As Cedric approached the chickens, he heard Alice remark to Betty and Irma, 'Here comes the hopping delivery frog, Mrs. Ramsbottom's pet.'
Betty and Irma clucked in agreement, their heads bobbing and darting in all directions. Cedric felt dizzy just looking at them.
'I heard that. I heard what you just said. That's a degrading remark. I'm not anybody's pet, but I do like to help. What's wrong with that? Why are you always clucking nasty things about others? Gossip, gossip, gossip. One day it will all catch up to you.' Looking at Betty and Irma, he said, 'Mark my words. Remember what the great philosopher, William Snakespit, said: 'The evil that we do lives after us; the good is buried with the seed.''
'We never said a word-word-word,' said Alice, reverberating through Betty and Irma. Betty scratched her way into the conversation, saying, 'We only said, 'Here comes the happy frog, a dear friend of Mrs. Ramsbottom.''
Irma clucked at the same time, 'The owl who knows everything!'
'If she knows everything, and she certainly seems to know most things, she will know what you really said!' Cedric blinked in amazement at the brilliance of his remark. The three chickens blinked back, not knowing what to cluck. It was a moment nobody knew how to break. Cedric and the chickens just stared at one another.
In a flash, a furry tail smashed into Alice's beak and bowled her over into the other chickens. A paw flipped the side of Cedric and threw him into the egg basket. Fortunately, he was too light to do any damage to the eggs, but he felt shaken up.
'Toby!' Cedric screamed. 'Watch where you direct that furry paw of yours. Look at the havoc you've caused!'
'Sorry, sorry,' Toby growled, 'I'm going somewhere.'
'One day I'll give that dog a piece of my mind. He's always hurrying somewhere,' said Cedric.
©2012. Leo Booth. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Angel and the Frog. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442
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