Soy had the frog in his hands within seconds. He was always good with outdoorsy stuff like that. His mom was usually busy with his siblings, so Soy was left to play outside a lot. By third grade, he had caught a pet turtle, salamander, and flying squirrel. Unfortunately, his older brothers Rick and Hank stole the squirrel and kept it in their room. Once a week they played a game where Rick threw the squirrel from the second story window, and Hank caught it midair with a trash can as it glided down. Soy tried to get them to stop, but they never listened.
The frog didn’t put up much of a fight. I started to wonder if it actually wanted to be caught.
“Do you believe me now?” I asked.
Soy peaked inside his hands, and then lifted his head. "Well… this frog is wearing glasses. I’ll give you that.”
Both of our minds were racing with questions.
“Let’s bring it to my treehouse, so we can figure this out,” I said.
I had built most of the treehouse in my backyard myself. My mom and dad insisted on one of them being there when I used certain tools, but that was about it. Building things always made me feel good afterwards, and I had gotten pretty good at it. The treehouse had been done for a while, but there were still a few things I wanted to add to it before winter.
When we got there, I told Soy to use the elevator. It was really just a rope with a weighted pulley system, but I called it the elevator anyway. We used it when we needed to carry things that we couldn’t bring up on the ladder. I climbed up and then lowered it down for him. All those years of critter-handling had paid off, and he got it inside the treehouse without any problem. I shut the door and quadruple-locked it, so that the frog couldn’t run away (and also to give us some privacy).
“Okay, Soy,” I said, "let him loose."
Soy lowered his hands and opened them, letting the frog hop to the floor of the treehouse. I had a small drafting table, drawings, and bits of wood all over, which provided plenty of places for the frog to hide. Luckily for us, it didn’t move at all.
Instead it looked up at me, and in a loud voice said, “What do you mean, him?”
Soy fell backwards from a crouch onto his rear. The frog was looking right at me, waiting for an answer, but all I could do was shake my head.
"It’s rude to assume I’m a ‘he’, don’t you think? I happen to be female,” said the frog proudly. Soy was now holding his head with both hands.
“It can talk!!” he said in disbelief.
"Well, now calling me an ‘it’, after I just told you I was a girl, is just plain inconsiderate, Soy,” she said.
I knelt down closer, looking for anything that might make sense of it all. Maybe the frog was a robot? But nothing about the way it moved was robotic. And would a “Made in China” sticker really make me feel better? It… she… had just called my best friend by his first name! Soy was so flabbergasted that he was gnawing on his backpack strap, so I doubted that they had met before.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the frog, kneeling down, “we didn’t mean anything by it. Truly.”
The frog hopped even closer and said, “You’ve always been kind,” then whispered, “it’s a powerful thing. Remember that.”
“I will,” I said, amazed that I had just gone from meeting a talking frog to taking advice from a talking frog in a matter of seconds.
“But, um, if you don’t mind me asking, how is it that you can talk?” I said.
By that point Soy had half of the backpack strap in his mouth.
The frog crooked her head at me slightly. “Do you think that humans are the only animals that can talk?” she asked.
I was startled. Was it possible that animals could talk, and somehow no one in the world knew about it? Was everything that I thought about animals wrong? I took a seat on the floor, too. Soy spit out his strap.
"That’s not cool,” he said. “I tell my pet iguana all of my secrets. If he can talk, I need to know who he’s been talking to.”
The frog gave out a little laugh, then she said, “Oh, I’m just kidding. Animals can’t talk any more than humans can flap their arms and fly.”
I was embarrassed, but mostly relieved.
“What about some kind of iguana sign language?” asked Soy, still nervous.
Ignoring Soy's question, I asked the frog, “How is it that you can? Talk, I mean."
“For starters, I’m not a frog,” she explained. “The only reason that I—”
Without any warning, there was a knock on my treehouse door.
“What are you up to in there? Why is this door closed?” asked my mom sternly.
I searched my brain for an answer that didn’t have the word frog in it.
“Soy and I were, um, we were doing homework, and the breeze kept blowing our papers away." I replied.
“He’s a clever one” the frog whispered to Soy.
I gave the frog a signal to be quiet. It may have been the first time in the history of the world that a frog had spoken, but for the time being, she needed to stop. If my mom heard a female voice, she would break down that door, quadruple-lock or no. I added another lock every time she broke down the door. A few weeks earlier Soy had lit a firecracker inside the treehouse and she had noticed the smoke. I added the fourth lock that night, but was more sure than ever that metal was no match for “mom strength”. For the moment, I needed this frog’s vocabulary to shrink back down to “ribbit”.
“Well, come on inside the house. There’s a man from the school board here who needs to speak with you,” my mother said. Then she lowered her voice and spoke softly into the crack of the door, “and he looks pretty official. He’s even wearing a fancy suit with a shiny yellow bowtie. Don’t worry though, he assured me you’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Yellow!” screeched the frog.
“What?” asked my mom.
“Oh, I said, ‘Hello!’” I lied, using the best high-pitched voice I could muster.
“Honey, ‘Hello’ usually comes at the beginning of conversations. We’re pretty far into this one,” she said.
“Ah, right. I just sometimes forget when you’re supposed to say it,” I said nervously.
“Oh. I didn’t realize. Maybe we can work on that, sweetie,” she said, getting even closer to the door, “because that’s definitely a problem. Just hurry up and come down, please.”
I heard my mom climb down the ladder and then watched her go back inside the house. The frog jumped up to the open window which faced the woods behind my house. I was amazed at how high she could jump. It was immediately clear that she could have left any time that she had wanted.
“Whatever you do, don’t mention me,” the frog whispered frantically. “I’ll find you later.”
And with that, she jumped out the window into a bush below.