Lore of the Lindian Woods as related by Raji Singh
On a recent August evening, Tenille, our family, and I relaxed in the Fiction House garden. Captain Polly entertained us with her whimsical account of Turt’s first visit to the Lindian Woods.
(Turt’s a giant of a land-sea beast, species Trumpeter, akin to a Galapagos turtle. He’s tattooed with the images humans added to him as he traveled the world.)
Captain Polly perched on Turt’s beak-snout, big as an ostrich egg, tough as an anvil. Turt was cooling his shell in our fountain as he listened intently to the colorful macaw’s even more colorful tale. Turt cannot speak human words as Captain Polly can, so he couldn’t contradict the talkative bird’s version of what happened. He didn’t take a bite out of her plumage either, so I am supposing the story is accurate.
* * *
Once upon a time…
As the Frog Brothers Brer and Frer amble down the road to get to the Lindian Woods, they come upon a big, half-round brown rock. It wasn’t there the day before.
“Couldn’t have just fallen from the sky,” says Frer.
Brer ribbits agreement. “Too heavy to have dropped from a cart, Brother Frer.”
Frer sniffs it. Fishy. “I don’t recognize it from our pond. River’s too far away. So it couldn’t have washed in.”
Brer pushes at it with his willowy leg. We have a mystery, Brother Frer. “Is it real or am I just imagining it?”
“You are not imagining, Brother.”
They hop atop its dome for a closer look. They study the dozens of carved, drawn, and painted pictures. The Frog Brothers’ eyes widen with excitement, as the magical glow of sunshine brings the images to life. They see armored ants doing battle with ferocious, sword wielding ladybugs. The weapons crash together, but make only tiny, tinny sounds.
There are people depictions. They keep ever busy with people chores.
So many pictures – Animals playing, birds flying.
A cricket rides a snail. He leaps, somersaults and shouts to Brer, “Race ya.”
“Yer on.” Brer hops. He goes so far that he almost gets to the Lindian Woods. He looks back. The cricket and snail have barely moved. Brer hops back. “I win.”
Cricket and Snail grin. “Whoa Frog. We win. You have to SL-O-O-O-W DOWN to win.”
Mad, Brer stomps. When he does this, he feels a rumble, as if he has caused an earthquake. Brer looks to Frer and questions. “Did the rock just move, Brother?”
Frer nods. “I do believe it did, Brother. Maybe we should take our leave before it might rocket away as fast as it arrived here?” As Frer says this, his spindly green foot brushes against a drawing of a dozing sloth, and bring her to life.
She advises, before returning to sleep. “SL-O-O-O-W DOWN Frog.”
Brer laps his long tongue into a pictured pan of fricasseed flies and gulps them. He suddenly starts vibrating like a rattlesnake’s rattle. Even his eyes shake. When he sticks his tongue back out so he can catch his breath the flies are slithering all over it. They didn’t disappear into his belly, as they ought. In chorus they buzz, “SL-O-O-O-W DOWN. If you must et us, as Frogs are ought, do it slow or in your throat we’ll be caught.” They fly – to freeze back into their picture pan, once a’gan.
Suddenly there is a feline scream.
“Me-o-o-o-w! Pick on someone your own size.” A painting of a scowling cat challenges the Frogs. Puss stands on hind legs. Actually, he is their size only if Brer were to stand on Frer’s shoulders. The feline wears boxing shorts. His paws are fisted. “I’m Puss ‘N Gloves. Champion of the world,” he screeches. “Put’em up I say. I’ll sl-o-o-o-w you two hoppers down a notch.”
The riled up Brothers hop and duke. Their blows touch only – AIR.
Puss ‘N Gloves is so swift not one punch lands.
Frer and Brer huff and puff until they are so tired they barely move. “We’ve met our match, Frer,” says Brer. Brer nods. SL-O-O-O-WLY they crouched into frog squats.
“Let that be a lesson,” Puss ‘N Gloves meows. He leaps, clicks his boot heels, and stretches his paws skyward. “Victory belongs to me.”
“You are right,” Brer and Frer croak sl-o-o-o-wly, as sl-o-o-o-wly to sleep they drift.
Theirs would have been a contented and happy sleep – but
Suddenly water splashes them. The moving pictures go still. All, but one, and Frer and Brer wish they’d never seen it. It is the carving of a monster living in a scummy bayou pond. Its flopping-about splashed the water. One side of its body is gator – all rough, scaly. The other is human – with long, flowing hair, smooth skin, as handsome a human ever there was.
He ambles toward the Brothers. “You Frogs shouldn’t be a listening to the do gooden’,
SL-O-O-O-W DOWNERS. Now you sl-o-o-o-wed down enough for us Fasters to et ya.” He clamps his scratchy gator claws on their heads, opens his mouth, and then stuffs in Frer and Brer.
It is so dark the Brothers have to feel around to be sure the other is still there. Frer remembers what the Flies did to him. “Hold tight to the tongue, Brer,” he shouts. They do. Just in time.
The monster swallows. He coughs. He chokes. He cannot get the Brothers to slide down his throat.
The monster slyly smiles. The Brothers look out into the bright world from behind the prison bar teeth. “You boys SL-O-O-O-WED me down.” But I’ve got all the time in the world. I’ll just wait you out.” He lies down and basks his gator side in the sun.
Frer and Brer tremble. “What shall become of us?”
They hear “psst, psst,” from the Puss. Puss ‘N Gloves quietly creeps beside the monster’s snout and whispers to the Frogs. “Do what I say and you’ll get free. Miss a punch and you’ll be down his gullet for the count.”
Brer and Frer stare at each other. Their eyes ask, “Can we trust him?”
Puss ‘N Gloves punches at the rock’s top. The rock begins moving, shaking, and then quaking violently. “I’ve awakened it,” Puss excitedly purrs.
“How can you wake up a rock?” the confused Frogs ask one another.
Startled, by the rock almost roll motion, the monster inadvertently opens its mouth and says “Huh.”
“Jump,” Puss ‘N Gloves shouts to Frer and Brer.
Brer says to Frer. “Cat and creature might be in cahoots. ‘We let loose the tongue for even a moment, down the throat we may go.”
“Jump, fools,” meows the Puss. “Know the time to be SL-O-O-O-W and the time to act fast.”
They jump. Mid leap, they find themselves heading right at a giant beak-snout that wasn’t there a moment ago. “Tricked,” they croak to one another as they close their eyes and ready themselves for the worst. “Why did we ever climb this rock?”
They hear a loud trumpeting sound that seems to say, “What makes you think I am a rock?”
They open their eyes and see that the question is coming from the beak-snout. It is at least four times their size. They go flying right into it. They see the cable sturdy neck it is attached to, but they cannot see that it comes from within the rock.
“Well its down one hatch or the other today for us,” Frer consoles his brother as they lock arms and prepare for doom.
TO BE CONTINUED
NEXT WEEK: THE FROG BROTHERS MEET THE STRANGE ROCK-LIKE CREATURE
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)
©2014 Raji Singh