“Come on!” Mary said as she raced down the path. “You’re so slow, Luke.” Luke chased after his sister on his short, 6 year old legs, but couldn’t keep up with Mary’s longer strides.
“Slow down, Mary! I’ll tell Mom!” Mary let out an exaggerated sigh, but slowed her pace. Their dog, Cooper, did not slow down his pace, but instead started running back and forth between the brother and his 10 year old sister.
“You’re so annoying Lukey, I don’t know why Mom says I have to take you with me.”
“Well I don’t even know where we’re going.” Luke retorted.
“We’re going to meet Sarah in Terabithia and catch fairies.” Mary said matter-of-factly, holding up her red bucket.
“It’s a magic land where everything you imagine comes real. I read it in a book.” Mary said proudly. “Look, there’s the gates over there!” She pointed at two massive willow trees, with low hung branches that almost seemed to curtain the path. Behind it, a small swampy pond hid within some reeds. Luke eyed it suspiciously.
“Mom says magic isn’t real. That just looks like a tree.”
“Well Mom doesn’t know everything. She didn’t even know that mermaids can sing underwater.” Just then, Sarah came bounding down the path, red hair twisted back in braids.
“Yay, Mary, you brought Lukey!” She exclaimed.
“Mom says I haveta.” Mary pouted.
“Well, he can help catch the fairies! They’re slippery.” Sarah started off towards the part in the willow branches. “Come on, Lukey.” Luke stared disbelievingly at the trees, as Mary and Sarah went through towards the pond.
“There’s one!” Cried Sarah, as Mary launched herself towards a dart of movement near the ground. She came up empty handed just as Sarah jumped for another, a quick leap of green. Laughing, Sarah stood up with a squirming handful and quickly dumped it in the bucket. Luke edged his way closer to the willows with Cooper on his heels as Mary popped out of the reeds with another squirming handful. She dumped that one in the bucket too, and this time, Luke was sure about what he saw.
“Those aren’t fairies! Those are frogs!” He exclaimed, walking up towards the bucket. Mary opened her mouth to argue, but her expression changed as she looked at Luke.
“Oh my god, Luke! Look beside you!!” She said, pointing hurriedly. Luke looked to his feet to see the biggest, fattest bullfrog he’d ever laid eyes on, . Even Sarah was staring now.
“Catch it!” Sarah urged. Luke didn’t need any more urging, fairy or no fairy. The bullfrog made a noble attempt to get back in the pond, but soon Luke’s hands were wrapped about it, and it was struggling to push off against his chest.
“See!” Luke proclaimed to the girls, “It’s a frog!” Mary looked at Sarah mischieviously.
“Maybe you should kiss it then.” She told her brother. Luke looked confused.
“Yeah!” Sarah chimed in. “Everyone knows if you kiss a frog, it’ll turn into a princess!”
“But I don’t want to kiss a princess!” Luke said disgusted.
“Princesses aren’t for kissing! That’s yucky. Princesses are for rescuing, and then you get to go live in a castle and eat ice cream all day.” Mary said with an authoritative nod. “That’s what my book says.”
Luke stared at the frog questioningly. It had stopped struggling and was staring up at him. Luke thought it looked almost… Hopeful? Even Cooper seemed to be urging him on with his stare. Sarah and Mary were quietly chanting “Do it” beside him. Luke screwed up his eyes, and placed the tiniest kiss on the frog’s nose.
The frog reacted violently, kicking it’s legs back at Luke’s face. Luke threw his face backwards, but he threw himself off balance on the slippery rocks around the pond. He started pinwheeling his arms desperately as the frog went flying at Cooper. Cooper panicked, and bumped into Luke, who went flailing backwards and landed with a solid thump into the muddy pond.
Ten minutes later, Luke and Mary’s mother looked down at the sorry tableau in her kitchen. One boy covered in mud as he bawled his eyes out, two muddy girls staring sheepishly at the ground trying not to laugh, and one soggy golden retriever, all dripping mud on the floor she’d spent all morning cleaning.