Short Story Wednesday: One Man’s Frog Is Another Man’s Prince. Rufus, That Is.

“Super-frog Saves Tokyo” by Haruki Murakami

Since the beginning of time, there have been witches. Some believe that Adam’s first wife, Lillith, was one because she taught the healing arts to the human race. Some even say that there are good witches and bad witches. They put Lillith in the good witch category. They also put Glenda from “The Wizard of Oz” and Samantha of the tv series “Bewitched” on the good witch side of the line.

These same folks say that Morgan le Fay started out a good witch. After Arthur knocked her up, she became a single mom. Arthur told her, “That’s not my kid. He looks like Merlin.” Morgan ended up on the wrong side of the tracks. These theoreticians also point out that the Witch of the West in Oz was definitely bad witch material.

As I say, these are theoretical speculations. My take on things is that there is no such thing as a bad witch. And I know you’re going to bring up that Snow White episode. It wasn’t that the Queen was a bad witch. She was just so sensitive. The reporter who wrote the Snow White story, probably Miss White’s p.r. agent, forgot to include the details of how Snowy used to rub the Queen’s nose in how gorgeous she was. Well, I am here to tell you, dear Reader, Snowy may have been Miss Universe beautiful but she had a mouth on her that would make a construction worker blush. And not just blush. But blush purple.

It wasn’t that these witches were wicked or evil. Or even bad. They were simply the got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed kind of witches. We all have our bad days. Admit it. You know it’s true. Even the Dwarves had their Grumpy. You know you wouldn’t want to tangle with you on one of those days. You don’t believe me. Just ask your wife. Or husband, if you are so inclined.

Now that we have got that settled, we can move on to our tale. Doris woke up one gray, cloudy day in the Kingdom of Abengale. She was having one of those kind of lives that day. A Wednesday, I believe. First off, the day was gloomy on top of gray and cloudy, and that just didn’t sit right with her.

Secondly she did not get an Invite to the eighteenth birthday party of Prince Rufus, son of King Rufus the 27th. It wasn’t that she liked birthday parties. She didn’t. Doris was not a people person. Didn’t like people at all. She would rather hang out with her five cats any day than associate with people. Besides that, she would need to buy a new fancy-dancy dress. On her witch’s salary, they were way too expensive for her. She just wanted to feel included. To add injury to insult, all the hoity toity witch society witches received Invites. So why. Not. Doris?

Why not Doris? she asked herself. She asked the universe too. But the universe being the universe, it wasn’t answering.

She gathered up her skirts and made down the road toward the king’s castle. She came upon an old man. He sat on a bench under an umbrella, sipping a cup of tea. “Morning, Tootsie,” he said. He wasn’t specifically calling Doris a Tootsie. He called everybody Tootsie. He continued, “With that look on your face, you look like you gotta go pee real bad. Too bad there ain’t an outhouse within several miles of this place.”

Doris was not up to being trifled with. At least, not by no fool of an old man. “Why don’t you just shut your face and let me be on my way. I have urgent business to attend to.”

“What have I got here? A witch showing off her witchiness. What you going to do? Turn me into a frog?” The old man laughed.

Doris was so angry at this fool of a fool that there was smoke coming out of her ears. She pulled her wand out of her dress pocket and pointed it.

“Young lady, you don’t scare me,” the old man said, grinning the biggest grin you ever did see. “Go ahead and turn me into a frog.”

Doris was taken aback. A witch points her wand and folks tremble. So how come this old coot wasn’t trembling?

“Go ahead and do it,” he urged her on. “I double-dog dare you.”

Doris wasn’t sure what to do. Like people who don’t know what to do, Doris did nothing. She sat down on the bench next to the oldster and gave him one of her questioning looks.

“Why are you not afraid of my wand?”

“’Cause I don’t think you can throw one of your spells at me.”

An inquisitive look filled Doris’ face. “Why not?”

“Because I am already under a spell.”

“You are?” Doris could usually tell when another witch had entranced a creature. How had she missed the signs? The old man didn’t have the usual be-spelled signs.

“Yes I am. Can’t you tell?”

“No,” Doris said. “Who put the spell on you?”

“A frog witch.”

“I don’t believe you. I’ve never heard of such a creature.”

“Just because you haven’t heard of such a being, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

“That’s true. So tell me about this frog witch. If there is such a thing.”

“Oh, there is such a thing,” the old man emphatically said. “You see, I used to be a frog.”

“Funny. You don’t look like a frog.”

“It’s been years since I was turned into a human by a frog witch. My froginess has worn off.” There were tears in the old man’s eyes.

“I see your point.” Doris was becoming fascinated with the old man’s story. She didn’t believe him but she was fascinated. “So tell me about this frog witch.”

Finally the old man had found someone to listen to his tale of woe. “Once upon a time I was a prince among frogs. I was so high and mighty with my princeness I wasn’t about to listen to anybody. Even a witch.”

Doris thought of the slight the king had given her. Not inviting her to Prince Rufus’ birthday party. “I can understand that.”

“So I threw this magnificent party to celebrate myself. Invited everybody in the frog kingdom. Everybody except for one.”

“The frog witch?”

“The frog witch,” he affirmed. “She was none too happy. I mean, she was none too happy. So yadda yadda yadda here I am.”

“What’s a yadda yadda yadda, dearie?” Doris asked.

“Don’t call me dearie. I hate that. My mum used to call me that.”

“Then don’t call me Tootsie. My name is Doris.”

“Nice to meet you, Doris. My name is Rufus,” the old man said.

“Rufus? But the king and the prince of Abengale are named Rufus.” Doris had begun to like this fellow, but now she wasn’t sure.

“Yes, Rufus. You see, the author of this story can’t seem to come up with another name for royalty. He’s not very original that way.”

“I see what you mean. Doris isn’t much of a name for a witch either. I bet the frog witch was named Doris.”

“Actually she wasn’t. Nobody knew her name so we all called her the frog witch.”

“Ain’t that just like an author,” Doris said. “They’re all the same. Treating we characters like dirt. No wonder the frog witch was unhappy.”

“Oh, it wasn’t the name. She really didn’t care about that. It was the wart itch. She had a bad case.”

Doris was starting to getting a little bored with the conversation. She had a party to go to and she was wasting time with this old codger. She stood up and said, “Listen, I have to go.”

“Do it behind the bushes over there. I don’t want to see no witch doing her business.”

“Not that kind of go. I have a party to crash. So is there anything I can do for you before I go?”

“Get me some frogs to kiss. Maybe one of them will be a frog princess. Then I can go back to being the same old lovable Rufus I used to be.”

“Sorry. No can do.” Doris pushed her wand back into her dress pocket.

“Why not?”

“Witch’s union rules. One witch cannot undo another witch’s spell. It’s the way of things. And we can’t help with the undoing either.”

Of course, it wasn’t true. Doris was lying. After all, she was a got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed kind of witch. So Doris went on her way.

‘Course you know the rest of the story. Doris went up to the castle and crashed the prince’s party. She pulled out her wand, pointed it at the prince and fired. Funny thing though. The wand spell backfired and hit Doris in the buttocks.

Bing!

Doris looked around her and everybody was so much bigger than she remembered. Then she saw herself in the mirror. She was a frog. The last the party saw of Doris, she was off to the pond, croaking her protests.

What had happened? you ask.

King Rufus knew the way of witches. After all, he had been responsible for getting a witch to turn his older brother into a frog so he could be king. The night before the party, he sprayed his son, Prince Rufus, with some Anti-hexidant.

Seems Doris, now a frog, passed by the old man one day. He threw out his net, caught her and forced her to kiss him. Big mistake. Think of the worst tasting thing you’ve tasted and triple it. That would be the taste of Doris’ kiss. Then his lips puffed out and soon he was nothing but a set of lips. Anyway that is the last we saw of the old man or Doris.

The moral of this story: Don’t kiss no frogs. It can be lethal.

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “The Swimmer” by John Cheever.

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