1. Boy Meets Frog
I was sitting in class the first time that I saw the frog.
Miss Weaver had been my teacher for a few months, and was best known around Stagwood for having a stack of black hair that rose a foot above her head. Before the school year started, I’d heard rumors about her, and within a week I realized that they were all true. For one thing, she did, in fact, wear the same outfit every day; the colors changed, but she always had on striped pants and a striped jacket. For another thing, she was mind-numbingly boring. The kind of boring that makes your eyes shut without your permission. The biggest problem, though, was the stories. She was obsessed with tales of former students who had become some kind of famous. The first couple of times weren’t bad, maybe even kind of interesting, but by the second week of school she had started repeating herself, just like her outfits.
By then, I knew all the stories by heart. The professional football player who was good at math. The politician who was a teacher’s pet. I knew every word. Instead of trying my hardest to listen, I spent most of class drawing in my notebook. Most classes, I drew imaginary places and then whipped up some creatures to fill them. They had horns where horns don’t go, fur where scales should be, and all the wings. They were odd, and they each had a story that I wanted to tell. But, on that day, I never even got to the first pair of wings. I had barely gotten started when the frog appeared and changed my life forever.
It was a moment of exceptional boredom when I saw it. Its little green face was pressed up against the window nearest to me. My pencil stopped dead in its stubby tracks. I couldn’t stop looking at the frog and it couldn’t stop looking back. We were locked in a staring contest with unknown stakes. Maybe some frogs blinked, but with its eyes smushed against the glass, this one didn’t. Stagwood Forest was just beyond the schoolyard and it was riddled with frogs, but they always avoided people. I knew right away, in a way that I could think better than I could say, that this frog was different.
I tried to listen back in to Miss Weaver, just in time to hear the end of her story about Martin Shandals, the now-famous comedian. Martin had transferred schools half way through the year, so I always felt to me like that one shouldn’t count. We were supposed to be learning long division, but something had reminded her of Martin. I knew exactly what bad joke she would end the story with, and much less about long division.
“Whenever he acted up in class I’d say, ‘we’ve got a real comedian on our hands don’t we?’ And I was right!” she said with a giggle.
I was sure that Miss Weaver would see the frog eventually, but I was wrong. Nobody did. When I looked again to see if it was still there, I noticed something shiny. It made me forget all about class, and Miss Weaver and Martin Shandals. There was no denying it: this frog had put on a tiny pair of glasses.
I wanted to lecture it, to explain that frogs don’t wear glasses. It bothered me that it didn’t already know that. On top of that, it had been staring at me for at least five minutes. It seemed to be bordering on rude. Could a frog even be rude? I wasn’t sure. But, the bigger question was why it was so interested in me.
I wasn't the type of kid who got attention. Teachers always wrote “needs to participate more” on my report cards (with a smiley face to make my parents feel better). I never got into trouble and barely ever stood out on purpose. A few years earlier, I accidentally peed my pants because my zipper had gotten stuck in the bathroom at the last moment. I tried to convince everyone that I had fallen into a puddle at recess. The custodian, Mr. Salazar, charged outside with a mop and brought me with him to point out the puddle. My guess is that we wasted a half-hour looking around at the dry gravel. Luckily, my mom dropped off some new clothes and nobody really noticed my wardrobe change (…or that it hadn’t rained in weeks).
That’s how it was. Whether I did something spectacular or sneezed myself out of a chair, nobody cared, and almost nobody said my name. As far as school was concerned, all those things had happened to “some kid”. So, why would a frog with glasses jump up on a windowsill to stare at "some kid"?
Teachers, on the other hand, were a different story. Once her lesson started back up, it didn’t take Miss Weaver long to realize that I wasn’t paying attention. She called me up to the blackboard to make an example out of me.
“Since you don’t feel the need to listen, why don’t you solve a problem on the board instead?” she said, sitting down at her desk.
My stomach immediately did a flip. Then it did a flop. The problem would take a minute or two to solve, and being in front of the class always made me nervous. How could I be expected to do anything when there was a spectacled frog staring me down?
I walked to the right of the equation on the board so that I could check on the frog with a glance. Despite the distraction, I did my best to focus. Halfway through, I saw that the frog had moved towards the front of the classroom. It stopped at the window by Miss Weaver’s desk. It took me a moment to figure out what it was doing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was trying to lift the window!
Finishing the problem became almost impossible. I made a mistake and then quickly erased it. The next time I looked over, the window was open. Why should that surprise me? Of course a frog with glasses would also be super strong. The window was only open an inch, but that was enough for it to slip through. I dropped the chalk, and some of my classmates laughed. Bending down to pick it up, I tried convincing myself that when I stood back up again the frog would be gone. “It’s not there. I just think it’s there.”
When I straightened up, the frog was sitting on Miss Weaver’s left shoulder.
This was a brave frog.
Her head blocked the class from seeing it, and I realized that I was still the only one who could. Either the frog was real or my imagination had outdone itself. It wasn’t all that surprising that Miss Weaver didn’t feel it there, because the shoulder pads inside her jacket were large and fluffy. I had heard that she rested her head on them like pillows during her breaks. There was a frog sitting on Miss Weaver’s shoulder and nobody else knew it. And I was supposed to be doing math.
Now that it was closer, I could see the frog better. It didn’t look like some new species of frog to me. It looked like every other frog I had seen (except for the glasses). I wondered if they made contacts small enough for a frog. But, it wasn’t the right time to worry about frog vision. That would be a job for a frog eye doctor, anyway.
I had daydreams all the time when I was drawing, and sometimes I got lost in them. It was possible, I thought, that my imagination had just carried me away. I tried one last time to explain the frog away as part of an elaborate daydream. I concentrated hard, finished the problem, and put the chalk down. The frog couldn’t be real. I shook my head confidently.
When I turned to Miss Weaver, I saw the frog look me square in the eyes and nod. A moment later, it disappeared into Miss Weaver’s hair.