The Merits of Becoming a Frog

The Merits of Becoming a Frog

A Story by YouoweYoupay

He had always thought small creatures had extraordinary superpowers. Small animals. Small insects. Small human children.


The Merits of Becoming a Frog


   If this heat carried on any longer, Morris would be soon throwing breadcrumbs at grilled chicken wings. He didn't find it funny, but it seemed inevitable. He counted the grey pigeons cooing and fluffing their feathers at his feet. The glare of the sun was a malicious laser beam that had already sworn an oath to make him suffer. His sight alternated between the large sign almost impossible to pronounce on the ugly, orange building, opposite the park bench where he sat and the glossy packaging of the chocolate bar in his hand.

“Magic in every bite." The slogan read. "Enjoy at your own risk. Side effects unprecedented. I'm joking. It's just chocolate.” Morris rolled his eyes suspiciously. He flipped the candy bar to the other side and murmured the description with the tone of an advertising voice artist.


“It takes a remarkable chocolate to paint joy on our faces.” He dabbed the pearls of sweat on his forehead and squinted his eyes to read the fine print underneath, “But let’s be realistic and mature about this. A bar of candy won’t make you happy, but as promised, it shall ease the pain and help you get through the day. Love, your only friend, also the most innovative witch you have ever met, Almas.”

This woman. Innovative but also silly...


 With furrowed brows and a wispy smile, he tore open the green wrap and snapped a square chunk of dark chocolate. He recalled Almas' favorite color. The green plastic packaging is the personal signature of her vocation. ‘Pure-hearted sorcery’ as she referred  to it with a pride that twinkled with authority but was also open to negotiation; she granted you the freedom to disagree with her and criticize her recipes. The gentleman that attended her healing session last week stood up in the middle of her chanting and refused to pay, leaving her humble residence with shaky legs and a polite scowl.


"You ought to be thankful you were not born in the medieval ages." he had said to her at his departure.

 Morris scattered dry bread for the pigeons, but he did so almost disrespectfully. Without a greeting or a single kind word. The birds, on the other hand could not tell the difference in the quality of their feeder's hospitality. Except the fat one with the green spotted throat. It cooed and strutted about anxiously, losing interest in the shower of breadcrumbs. Morris misinterpreted this new anxiety as plain thirst. And it made perfect sense, he almost fancied the idea of doing the pigeons a favor and drizzling over their bobbing heads the drinking water in his lap instead of stale French bread.

He pressed his neck with the cool bottle and sprinkled more crumbs with a sigh of self-pity. Why he had not felt a single friendly breeze since morning was not a mystery to him, but the outdoors had become as stifling as the indoors. He could already feel the flaming chains of midsummer harden around his throat. It was an offensively blazing afternoon. Every single leaf of every oak tree at the park held its breath in the still air seasoned with dust and the smell of exhaust fumes. 

Morris absentmindedly took a bite of chocolate and it granulated like sand in his mouth. He did not feel any different. He ruckled the silver green wrap in his hand and decided to save his judgment for later. And as he was about to take a second bite, the shrill sound of intertwined squealing was carried in the scorching air. He clicked his tongue and lightly snarled. The heat on the bench and the pavement was enough to bake a chocolate banana cake. And why were the flies and the wasps getting larger each day? He fanned them away with his hand and narrowed his eyes into the distance where two swings rose and fell in opposite directions. Their metal arms whined and whimpered and he dusted the chocolate particles off his shirt. As he stood up to properly shake any powdered sugar left on his clothes, he made sure to carefully step a tad further from the disciplined line of shiny black ants headed toward their work station for today: the half circle of pink-glazed doughnut abandoned -or maybe accidentally dropped- near the stone fountain.

Immaculate cleaners! Morris nodded in silent admiration. These little guys cooperated to break down their gigantic dinner and they also rid the park of human garbage. He had always thought small creatures had extraordinary superpowers. Small animals. Small insects. Small human children. And the way 'normal' people walked blindly past this diamond-bright awareness, is not only baffling to him, but also infuriating.

****The Night Before****

"No, no. I'm not." Jerry's wife had gestured with her open palms, "I'm not upset. Really.. I know..." she inhaled, refreshing the hospitable smile on her face, "You're Jerry's best friend and I know you want the best for us. Maybe you're right. I don't know. It would break my heart to think about it. But maybe..." she lightly shrugged, "Maybe I do need to try harder. Maybe I do need to spend more time with my son. As a mother...It's just- It's not easy sometimes, you know?" She trailed off and Morris glued his mouth shut and resisted the urge to soften the edge of his words. Her water-glossed eyes rolled up to the ceiling and she failed to hide the trembling in her lips. Then she cleared her throat. Then she swiped her hair behind her ears with both her hands before placing them on her hips and nodding. Then her gaze finally met his. She put an effort into remembering who was the host and who was the guest, "I'll check on the oven and get back to you, okay?" He moved out of her way, straightening himself up against the wall, "Excuse me." she sighed.

Despite the courage she wore on her face during the confrontation, Morris could easily imagine the other side of the evening, filled with laughter the aroma of chicken roast. He could picture her finally crumbling down and burying her tear-stained face in Jerry's big, strong arms. The most generous and honest man he had ever met. Not exactly easy to anger, but Morris was certain of how his face looked that night after everyone left.


The park as a whole was not an unpleasant place for a man who wanted to be left alone, but the problem was the small twin brothers who usually arrived prior five in the afternoon. They pulled on the tail of the old grumpy black and white cat, flung stones at the feet of passers by, and when it was time for them to go home they disintegrated and screamed at their mother’s feet as if the world was ending. One time the two of them loudly conspired to feed his pigeon friends some of the chili flake seeds that came in a neat little plastic box along with their mother's usual lunch. He remembered watching her twist her fork around the cream white pasta and slurp it with her hand over her mouth to appear more graceful.

Tragic and absurd! Mindfully and lovingly raising your child is more important than taking neat bites of the flat, thick noodles that resembled tape worms. The difference between the two concerns was like the distance between heaven and earth!


After passing by the local mini market on the way home, he turned off the lights and threw the bags of green onion and tuna cans on the kitchen counter. He was curled like a shrimp on the living room sofa when the ringing land line phone in his apartment switched to voice mail. He had fallen asleep with his grimy, smelly socks and mud-caked shoes still on. The salty sweat stuck to his armpits and neck like molasses and his head pounded from hunger, noise and the tyrannical weather. The mental reminder that he should 'wash his hands and feet' died down as he drifted out of consciousness.  If only he had turned on the fan earlier, the wish faded out as his eyelids weighed down like curtains. 

Too late… 

"Morris, my dear friend," the frog adjusted the bow tie of his well-cut, tailored black suit and looked at Morris with a mixture of sympathy and conceit, "if you still believe frogs fall with the rain. From the sky.  I'm sorry to tell you: that is not the case." The frog rubbed its eyes tediously, "Good heavens, we're not in nineteenth century England anymore. Kindly, do yourself a favor and check the encyclopedia nearest to you.. You left it in that room that you swore to keep locked forever." and with that, the frog disappeared.

Morris jolted slightly and with a groan, turned to the other side of the sofa, his eyes fluttering between wakefulness and sleep. The curtains of the balcony door rustled a little before they faded into blackness.

 Thankfully, in this dream, the amphibian didn't thirst for his blood or remind him of what a failure he was. But the memory that resurfaced as he blacked out again was a few times worse than carnivore frogs.

Whoever ran the dream theatre behind the scenes in his mind must have been cruel.

"Jo, look at me." Morris softly called, "Joseph." the child raised his head and peeled his eyes away from the paper on the floor, a red crayon still clutched between his fingers, "What do you wanna be when you grow up? A frog?"

"No. No frog." he shook his head vigorously, "Soopa frog." he drew a circle in the air with one hand. The boy's face, eyebrows and thick brown hair were the reflection of Morris. Only smaller and lighter.

Almas smiled as she watched him with crinkled green eyes and a tilted head. A waterfall of red hair streamed down her shoulders as she set it free from the thin hair band she then wore as a bracelet.

"Ohh.." Morris lightly tapped his forehead, "Right, right. Super frog. So Jo, tell me. Jo look at me."

The boy ignored him at first, smudging crisp red everywhere but inside the hollow apple he was supposed to fill for his homework.

"Jo, how does the super frog move. Show me... Alma." his voice dissolved in a small snicker.

"Hm?" she turned to him and chuckled, already contaminated by his huge grin.

"You need to see this."

Like an inevitable transformation in times of dire need, the boy let the crayon slip from his hand and he crouched in the position of the 'Super Frog'. Morris and Alma rolled on the cushions. He clutched his belly and gasped for air as she wiped a tear from her eyes and clapped, barely able to keep them open, head thrown back and firelight hair blanketing the head of the sofa.

Later that night, she had told him, for an enchantress like herself, caught between the antique recipes of the cauldron and the quick fixes of the microwave, this was her favorite spell of all ages and eras: unrestrained laughter.


Morris woke up startled, the sound of his uneven breathing louder than anything else. He wiped the moisture off his face and threw his arm on his eyes, falling back asleep soon after.


One. New. Message. Beep.


"Morris, you can't keep doing this." The woman on the other side deeply sighed, "If you keep ignoring my calls, I'm just gonna show up at your door... Do you realize how much effort I've put into tonight's dinner? So, don't let me down and be here by 7:00 pm.." a pause, "You can show up late, if you like. But I want you to come. I need to tell you something that just might change your mind."


Another message an hour later.


"Hey, Morris, it's Jannah... I just wanted to thank you." a young girl said tunefully, "For the uh--for your kind words yesterday. I really needed to hear that everything will be alright. Even though I know that it won't be okay for a long time." She opened her mouth and closed it again, "But you also need to practice what you preach, you know? You're so sweet-you take of others and you just wither and waste away alone. That's not fair, don't you think? Let me help you like you've done for me. I love you a lot. You're not alone. Call me back, please."


"This is a little embarrassing," Almas groaned on the other end of the call,  "yeah you can laugh at me when you see me next week. You have my permission to mock. But uh, I'm calling from Cassandra's phone and even though her offer to buy me a land line was quite enticing, you know me, I don't- I refused. Told her this technology is the work of the Devil, may he stay far." she took a crunchy bite of something before she added, "Listen, about the chocolate... I might have accidentally added a mild- MILD laxative. But it doesn't affect everyone. And you've got guts of steel. Literally. So I'm not worried. Yeah." she smacked her lips and took another bite, "By the way, do not fall asleep after eating that bar, whatever you do, don't do it- I'm just kidding. Call me back, will you?"


The last message played as he tossed and turned to the other side, twitching as he barely caught himself from falling over by the coffee table.


"So that's it, then? That's how you roll." Jerry's voice stabbed, "Listen, I'm not stupid and neither are you and I know someone told you this before and I'm gonna say it again. So shut the f**k up and listen to me." he sniffed, "The way we raise my son." He emphasized the last few words slowly and carefully, "The way we raise him. My wife and I. Is non of your business. And if you ever." A pause, "If you ever speak to her that way again or shove your garbage theories in my son's head again… I will break your face and staple you on the wall for everyone to see." his breathing simmered for a moment, "We all said we'd stand by you and help you through this. But you need to stop using your broken heart as an excuse to break someone else's heart." Another pause before he continued more softly this time, "Look, I will only say this for your own good. I hope I don't see you tonight at Sania's dinner."


Back at the park, the twin boys had not been the ugliest part. They were never persistently parasitic enough to spoil the corner at the park he considered a half-disappointing sanctuary. After all, he could still withstand an hour or two of stormy mischief. What he absolutely loathed was the fiery pink and orange sky at sunset, that brought with it a sickening song. Remembering a line or two, a lazy tune or two was usually never unbearable, but when he recalled all the lyrics and the voice and the 'erm and 'um' that interrupted the recitation, his stomach would roll like a washing machine and he couldn't as much have a decent drink of water or a bite of his poorly arranged sandwich. But no matter how deep he buried his head in the trash bin, he could not get himself to vomit his tiny morsels of breakfast or at least maybe pass out and relax in obsidian for a few hours. Unnoticed and undisturbed. But it always stopped rigidly at the swooning and the shortness of breath, and from there his body would make the narcissistic decision of regaining strength and balance.


He had made an exception this time only. He promised Almas he would not try to throw up in order to give the enchanted chocolate a chance to prove its usefulness. If he does try to ruin it, she would know, she fiercely reminded him, and on their next meeting, she would not hesitate to turn him into a frog. He thought he would have to ask her at some point, in the least bitter way he could think of, to stop bringing up the name of the animal. But he didn't find the need to point it out. It didn't hurt when it was Almas who took her liberty with him. Her jokes were small smooth stones that plopped and silently sank in the water.


"You know how I always remind you to drink enough water?" she once said to him as she brushed her long bright red hair before the tall mirror in her small living room.


"Yeah?" he crossed his arms and smiled, leaving the steaming porcelain teacup untouched. It bubbled and trembled on its own. The green vines that made a home of the wall behind him interlaced around the window in a picture that resembled a sleeping child. That is, if you look at it without analyzing too much. At times, the map of vines appeared more like a nest of snakes.


"The good thing about being a frog," she fished a lump of tangled hair from the tips and twisted them in her hand to throw them in the trash later, "is that they absorb water through their skin, so they don't need to drink."


He raised his eyebrows and gestured her to elaborate.


"I mean, you should be able to get the healthy intake your body needs from like…" she rolled her eyes in calculation, "One shower."


"Is that so."


"Mhm. And-and like splashing your face with water a few times a day."


"Really." he nodded, looking down at the tiny silver pixies having a pool party at the rim of the tea cup. One of them was relaxing with his arms thrown back to lean on the mouth of the cup, but the silly grins disappeared from their microscopic faces, and they instantly wanted to remove themselves from the drink, but Morris signaled them to stay, "That's an interesting bit of information."


"Yeah." She grinned, half-twisting on her stool that faced the mirror to look at him, "How about that?" she let go of the comb and it floated in the air, finding its way to her drawers.


He shrugged and tried to avoid looking at his wrist watch only to make the mistake of glancing very briefly at the time portal that served as her mirror. The only piece of furniture that had once encouraged him to wake up in the morning. He could go back. He could fix something. Almas gathered her bright hair on one side and gently parted it and twisted the strands into a long braid.

He hoped that she hadn't noticed. His fingers quivered and his heartbeats fluttered with a hint of nausea. The bubbling and tiny plops and splashes in his teacup. The ticking of the clock. Almas' voice as she babbled and jested. His jaw tightened and his fist tensed under the table. Had she noticed? He really didn't want to fight with her again. Had she read his mind? No. She was still listing the merits of being transformed into a frog.


"Morris." She said in a less cheerful tone, "Your tea's getting cold."

© 2020 YouoweYoupay

Author's Note

Stay tuned for more fun facts about frogs.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review this short story.
Constructive criticism is appreciated.

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I did like this tale. The twist and turn leading to the proper ending. What does a frog do? You are a story teller my friend. Thank you for sharing the outstanding and entertaining story.

Posted 2 Years Ago

who knows,we might like it

Posted 2 Years Ago

The very best thing is your incredible depiction with personification of the tyrannical weather as a fun & dramatic thread thru-out your story. The next best thing is your highly detailed & imaginative way of crafting your trail of chocolate madness. I kinda followed that this guy was going thru his routine & having flashbacks & phone messages, etc., but it required a second reading to sort how that was intertwining. All in all, this is top-notch storytelling with a flare for exaggeration which is right up my alley & then some. I love how far you stretch a detail, here & there, yet you don't over-stretch & don't make this into a heavily ornamental slog of reading. Just enuf outlandishness to keep us shaking our heads, but not so much that we're on overload.

I've read dozens of volumes of prize short stories which are selected from leading magazines, you've probably seen lots of such anthologies. To tell the truth, I'm too dense to get most of these stories. I love the sharp witty writing, I envy the far-flung imagination, but I really don't know why all these particular elements are gathered into a story & what it all might mean. I feel the same way about your story. I once wrote a story like this & posted it at the cafe & nobody commented on it (whereas I usually get at least a few reviews!) I love your writing, your storytelling, & your imagination. I think your writing is exactly at the same level as the prize-winning stories I've been reading for decades. I'm just not analytical enuf to know what it all means, but I don't need to know that to enjoy top-notch writing. Life doesn't make sense & people flit along just like your main character here (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review this piece! Actually, this short story was .. read more

2 Years Ago

I totally agree with your last comment!
I am not a story writer I do not have much of merit to help you in this regard but as a reader I can say that certain elements in this story are wonderful. You can paint a picture quite nicely in your dialogues and you have a good mode of empathetic transference in your characters. I did get lost at times in your narrative as of to whom you were writing about in your subjects transitions this would be remedied later in the dialogue but a smoothing of this would go a long way:) but the most important aspect that I would say you have in spades is your creativity you can have all the technical prowess in the world but write nothing of consequence without that essential ingredient. As with everything the technical stuff comes from repetition and trial and error but you can not learn imagination and creativity from a writers manual that is just naturally inherent so now I am going to say it to you... don't stop writing Ayesha

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

Absolutely! I will need to polish until shine. And practice.. like the case of every skill and 'job'.. read more
Robert Trakofler

2 Years Ago

oops sorry Aysha I am friends with an Ayesha LOL
I don't write short storis so can't help you in the technical department ..Though , i really loved the way you presented the story . I was just a bit confused at places not knowing abt. the character you are taalking about .
Love , Ankita

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed reading my short story. Your feedback really helps me improv.. read more
Well, you did ask, so you have only yourself to blame. 🤪

You’re trying very hard to jazz up the writing with vivid language—way too hard. Look at a couple of examples:

• Morris scattered breadcrumbs for the pigeons, but he did so almost disrespectfully.

How in the hell do you scatter breadcrumbs disrespectfully? You’re forgetting that only you know how you want the reader to take the line. And: Would the story change in the slightest were he being nice about it? If not, you need to chop it because it contributes nothing, but slows the reading.

But more than that, what happens in the first paragraph that matters? From a reader’s viewpoint, someone we know nothing about, in an unknown place fed breadcrumbs to some pigeons. Whoopee!

Does it move the plot? No. Does it set the scene, meaningfully? Doesn’t seem so. How about developing character? Possibly, but do I want to know more about someone, when the only thing I know about him is that he feeds pigeons and fantasizes about them?

• Every single leaf of every oak tree at the park held its breath in the still air seasoned with dust and the smell of gasoline.

So the elm leaves didn’t hold their breath, and the ash didn’t? Why?

And how does a leaf hold its breath? You're using cliche expressions, just to use them, and not thinking about if they make sense.

And: after filling the place with gasoline fumes (not exhaust fumes) why is there no explosion? Again, you're saying things for effect without paying attention to reasonability or accuracy.

• The glare of the sun was a malicious laser beam already sworn an oath to pierce his eyes and make him suffer.

Seriously? A "malicious laser beam?" Do you know what a laser is? And how can the sun, which radiates as a globe, be compared to a beam of light? Again, you’re saying things for effect, not telling a story.

• He recalled her favorite color.

“Her?” Where in the hell did “her” come from? This unknown "he" could be ten, ninety, or anything between. You know. He knows. The unknown she knows. But who did you write the story for? We know not the smallest thing about him, his life, the place, the year, or anything else. So talking about him remembering a generic female, and remembering her favorite color is, literally meaningless. And of more importance, why does a reader care that someone unknown thinks about someone unknowable?

Bottom line: This isn’t a story. It’s you, talking to the reader about things that would only be meaningful if they already know the story—or at least such things as what’s going on, as he sees it. You have context, and you have intent, but the reader has no clue of what you’re talking about, or why. You talk about “Jerry’s wife.” But who in the hell is Jerry, and why do I care?

In your school days you were given none of the skills necessary to write fiction, So...if you don’t know what a scene is, how can you write one?

All your life you’ve been choosing fiction written with the skills of the pros. You don’t see those skills, any more than you see the techniques of the person who knitted a sweater you wear. But you do see the result of them, and you’d know, at a glance if that person lacked the skills of knitting. That applies to every profession. You would know in a paragraph if the one who write a story you were thinking of reading used the skills you expect them to use—just as others see the problem in your work.

Instead of reporting and explaining, place the reader into the story, as-the-protagonist. Don’t explain what happens, make the reader live it, in real time.

If you read a romance, do you want the author to tall you that the protagonist has fallen in love, or do you want them to make YOU fall in love with that person, for the same reasons? In a horror story, do you hope to learn that the protagonist feels terror, or have the writing terrorize YOU?

People don’t read to learn the facts and the sequence of events. They don’t want to read the words of a narrator they can neither see nor hear. They want you to make them CARE, and FEEL. They don’t want to hear about the protagonist; they want to BECOME the protagonist, and live the events, not know they happened.

But doing that takes the skills of the Fiction-Writing profession. So in the end, if you’re not willing to invest some time, and perhaps a few coins in your writer’s education, can you say you’re serious about writing?

At the moment your approach is outside-in. You, the narrator, are lecturing the reader, using the nonfiction skills we’re given in school. That’s inherently dispassionate. It explains and informs. Instead, you need to tell the story from the inside-out, presenting what matters to the protagonist—the things that character is actively focused on, and making decisions on, not what you notice in the mental picture you hold.

What matters to the protagonist is what drives their actions and decisions. How can we know why they do and say things if we don’t know the situation as the protagonist does?

In other words, shut up, get your tall into the prompter’s booth and let your actors do their job—after you learn how to do that, or course.

And to help, the best book I know of on the subject is free from the site I link to below this paragraph. The last time I did a critique I suggested you pick up a copy. Now, I’m giving it to you. Use it not, as you see fit. But unless you begin using the skills the pros take for granted, nothing will change, because you cannot fix the problem you don’t see as being one. And the largest one you face is encapsulated in the words of E. L. Doctorow: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” At the moment, you’re giving the weather report. Fix that, and…

You did ask.

Jay Greenstein

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

Thank you for your time and detailed review. I will fiercely work on my skills and hopefully improve.. read more

2 Years Ago

Before I found Swain's book I'd written six—many times queried but unsold—novels, and thought I .. read more
This reminds me a lot of Ray Bradbury's writing style. It's a celebration of the simple things in life. I like how it helps us look at the magic and mystery in our everyday lives.

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

Thank you so much for your time and review. I have never read anything by Ray Bradbury. Maybe I'll c.. read more

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7 Reviews
Added on September 17, 2020
Last Updated on September 26, 2020
Tags: poetry, poem, poet, author, imagination, song, art, books, reading, writing, family, love



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