And now, a brief break—much needed—a little-known tale about an ordinary tree-frog with an extraordinary moniker, and a highly unusual, and somewhat ironic, malady. His name is Theodore, well, when time permits: Theodore Ribbitz Kronprinz und Kaiser Burggraf von Waldschloss.
Teddy, as his lazy friends like to call him, moved unexpectedly to North America from his native Germany, packed into a wooden crate filled with strudels, stollen and marzipan just last year, arriving on our shores barely in time for the holidays. Upon disembarking from his cross-sea voyage, he hid amongst the marzipan critters and made it safely, as the young delivery driver who picked him up, delivered them all to a nearby bakery and pastry shop, which also sold a bit of candies and other confections on the side.
Attempting to converse with his marzipan companions proved fruitless, and Teddy pursed his lips in his characteristic way, as his eyes bulged slightly in disapproval; and he then hopped away and out of that store, searching for more stimulating fraternity—others more suitable and appropriate to his station in life. His involuntary journey thus far had not disturbed him greatly, he was a tolerant and imperturbable amphibian after all, and of high breeding, though not ignorant or unresponsive to the plight of the common frog. In general, frogs of all stations have this equanimity, as they are, in their own words, “alike on land and in water”, meaning, they can be comfortable in a variety of locations and situations, not to mention in widely diverse company.
So Teddy, or ‘Ribbs’ as he liked to be called—but only close family tended to call him that—wandered a bit through the streets of Baltimore, all the while noticing, what most people might call a small ‘lump’, caught in his throat, which seemed to be growing. He first noticed it while traveling in the crate, but hadn’t paid it much attention at the time. He gagged and choked, and then coughed, trying to dislodge it, but with no luck. A raven on a nearby telephone line, overhead, was watching Theodore throughout all of this, thinking he looked mighty tasty, though unsure what the darn frog’s problem was, and then she thought better of eating him, considering her own delicate digestion, nothing to be toyed with, and certainly not worth risking on this paltry, little green meal. Hardly a meal even, more of an appetizer really, but she flew down even so, out of curiosity, and landed next to the unaware and pardoned appetizer, still gagging and hacking away on the side of the street.
“What seems to be the problem, little man? Cat got your tongue!?” Upon which, she cackled with laughter, and flapped her wings up and down in approval of her clever witticism.
Theodore Ribbitz Kronprinz und Kaiser Burggraf von Waldschloss looked up at her, with bulging eyes, made even more bulging-er than usual from his coughing, and spoke thusly: “I pray, dear raptor, or what ‘ere you be.” He began, using his finest old and middle English, of which his grandfather, Baron Kronprinz und Kaiser Burgraf von Waldshloss, had taught him, being the only member in their family to have studied any foreign languages whatsoever, and having a predilection for classical studies. “No, it be not a cat that hav’est my tongue, silly goose, or what ‘ere fowl you be, but a…squeak-ichth-eek-gaachh.” His speech having suddenly been taken over, most embarrassingly, by that little glitch in his throat, and making him to sound a bit like a stepped-upon mouse, or a frog going through puberty.
Upon which the raven crowed with laughter, wings a-flapping wildly, and she retorted, “Ah, I see. It be a frog in thee throat!!” She mocked him.
Upon this comment, he turned bright red, but unfortunately for him, he really just turned a strange shade of brown, being the color a green frog actually turns, when he blushes. He opened his wide mouth to make reply, hoping something witty might come to him, but to his chagrin, he could think of nothing in time, and instead he just stood there silently, with gaping wide mouth and bulging eyes. The raven leaned forward expectantly, waiting for his answer, her beak parting slightly as mirth rose up from her bosom, her gleaming eyes gleefully sparkling in the sunlight, but before her good humor erupted again from her belly, at his expense, Teddy turned and hopped away in a flash, too stunned with embarrassment to withstand another moment of it—and certainly, were he a tadpole still, he would have retreated with tail between his legs.
There are many other things that can be said about Theodore’s journey, but for now, I will only tell the next important event, about how he found his way to ‘a people’ most like him in every way, among whom he settled and lived happily. Immediately after his embarrassing debacle, as he made his retreat away from that boisterous raven, he discovered a local branch of the Baltimore public library and so, being a fairly erudite and scholarly frog, he high-footed his way into the archives, where he discovered that a large community of Germanic tree frogs had emigrated many years earlier, and had settled in the low-country of southern Pennsylvania, in a wooded copse not far from Littlestown. With glee, he exclaimed joyfully at this discovery, from his perch behind the micro-fiche machine, which had been unplugged and tucked on a small table behind the periodicals from the 1950’s, all which were waiting there to be discarded, if the custodian could ever get around to actually doing his job.
The librarian heard what she thought was a mouse squeaking, but which was truly just our poor tiny Teddy, with his unfortunate ailment, and so she called maintenance, asking them to set traps again, for the umpteenth time, and why don’t they ever do what she asks them the first time?! As they prepared to send someone over to set the traps, Teddy made his way out the back door, and began his trip to Littlestown to find ‘his people’. In fact, he even made it most of the way there, before the custodian did finally make it over to the archive room to set the traps. First, he couldn’t find them, then he got hungry and had to have a snack, and after that he got tired, and so he took a nap. Well, by the time he woke up again, it was time to go home for the day. The next morning, when he got to the library, he forgot. And it wasn’t until sometime the middle of the following week, when the librarian heard the mouse again, and this time it really was a mouse and not ‘Ribbs’, when she called the custodian again, and asked why he never can do what she asks the first time, he got the message and finally set the traps.
By the time the librarian checked on the traps, and realized the custodian had forgotten to set them with any kind of food, or bait in them, the mice had long-since left the archive room and had resettled in the basement, where the custodian had left a garbage-bag filled with leftovers from the break-room refrigerator. He had honestly intended to take it out to the dumpster and throw it away, but as he was making his way to the back doors, he got the worst Charlie-horse in his leg and he had to return to the supply room where he went to get something to put on it. After that, it was about time to go home for the day.
Meanwhile, in a small wooded area, not far from the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, a small community of immigrant German tree-frogs just added a member to their numbers. And what a member indeed, one with aristocratic pedigree and noble heritage, and a fine young bachelor with prospects, we might add. Yes, of course, you know who: Theodore Ribbitz Kronprinz und Kaiser Burggraf von Waldschloss. And, you’ll be happy to know, well, the little glitch in his throat eventually took care of itself. No, the cat hadn’t gotten his tongue, and it certainly wasn’t a frog in his throat. It turns out that Teddy is allergic to marzipan, who knew!? He had eaten some on the trip over from Europe and was just suffering a little anaphylactic episode, but nothing too serious. He’s a frog after all, and as they all like to say about themselves, “we’re alike on land and in water”, which is to say, that they can be comfortable in all situations, and nothing much really bothers them, not for very long.
* * *