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Jeremiah was a Bullfrog

John (J.A.) Pitts resides in the Pacific Northwest where he hunts dragons, trolls, and other beasties among the coffee shops and tattoo parlors. Check out his award-winning Sarah Beauhall series from Tor books and Wordfire Press, or his short story collection, Bravado's House of Blues, from Fairwood Press.

Find John at japitts.net, or @johnapittswriter on Twitter, or @johnapitts on Facebook.

Ms. Evelyn watched as kindergartener Angelica Poplavov stepped into the spotlight and grabbed the microphone. She wore a floor length, pink chiffon dress and her blonde sausage curls bobbed at every step. The audience watched with the mixture of joy and annoyance of people waiting for their own child to perform.
"Jeremiah wasn't just a bull frog," Angelica spoke into the mic, her voice the trill of a goldfinch.
Someone laughed.
"Jeremiah was a very good friend of mine."
Evelyn winced as light exploded from the stage. Those who weren't dazzled watched as Angelica grabbed her dress in both hands and ripped it away to reveal a black T-shirt with a frog's skull on the front, black leggings, and metal studded boots.
Distorted guitars erupted and Angelica screamed into the mic like a pack-a-day death metal singer, belting out a distorted version of "Joy to the World" that spoke of tragedy and death.
When the reverberation of the last drum beat faded, people scattered in chaos. Parents fled with crying children while a few threatened lawsuits.
With the crowd dispersed and the chairs stacked, Evelyn watched Angelica sitting alone eating her weight in store bought cookies and orange soda. The principal had been ranting about a teacher's responsibility and the evils of such music for the last seventeen minutes.
"During rehearsal," she said for the eleventh time, she sang along to the Three Dog Night album we found in the library. I have no idea where that," she waved her hand toward the girl, "came from."
"This will come up in your review," he barked before storming away.
Evelyn walked toward Angelica and snagged a brownie from one of those high-end mixes. She sank her teeth into the rich chocolate and sighed.
"Am I in trouble?" Angelica asked.
Evelyn smiled. "No, darling. I'll need to talk with your grandmother, but you're fine." She collapsed into a chair and grabbed a cup. Angelica gleefully wrestled a half-empty bottle of orange soda around to fill her teacher's cup.
"Didn't spill a drop," she said with pride.
"You're a clever girl," Evelyn said and added the orange liquid to her surging sugar high.
They ate in silence, Evelyn consuming nearly the whole plate of brownies and Angelica keeping her glass topped off. Evelyn knew she'd probably be throwing up later. But it was worth it.
"When will your grandmother be here?"
"Show's over at seven," Angelica recited. "She will arrive at seven-ten, no earlier. I am to behave myself, sing my heart out, and not eat too much junk."
She smiled sheepishly at the last bit before biting into another snickerdoodle.
"Want to tell me what happened?"
Angelica ducked her head, shoving the rest of the cookie in her mouth. "You promised," she mumbled.
Evelyn nodded. "No trouble, but that was an unusual performance. I'm curious why you changed things."
Angelica looked up; her eyes narrowed and crossed her arms--her lips a tight line across her otherwise adorable face.
"Okay, then. We'll just wait for your grandmother."
"Grandma Marinka didn't know Jeremiah the way I did. She'll never understand."
Evelyn ate the last brownie and closed her eyes.
She had nearly fallen asleep when the staccato tapping of heels echoed across the auditorium. Evelyn stood and turned to face Grandma Marinka.
She was hauntingly beautiful. In her early fifties, she had that same air that Helen Mirren had when she entered a room. This woman exuded power and grace.
"Angelica," she called, squatting and holding out her arms as the child darted across the room.
"We had a bit of a surprise tonight," Evelyn said, joining them.
Marinka stood, shooing the child back to the table and faced Evelyn with arms crossed. The move was so typical Angelica that Evelyn smiled.
After a brief, but thorough explanation, Marinka laughed. Then grew stern. "This Jeremiah?" she asked.
"A classroom pet. One of the other students took him home over Easter break, and the poor thing died. Angelica has been very upset."
"He was a prince," the child piped up, her voice thick with tears, or maybe cookies. "He was going to let me kiss him when I was older, then we would live happily ever after."
Marinka's look quelled Evelyn's laugh.
"Is this true?" the older woman asked in all seriousness.
Evelyn squinted in confusion. "What are you asking?"
"Did this frog make such a promise?"
Evelyn laughed, finally. "It was a frog. It didn't speak English."
Marinka nodded. "I understand, but you see, Angelica speaks frog."
The room spun for a moment and Evelyn found herself settling to the floor, Marinka's firm grip making it a more graceful collapse.
"I warned you," Miranka said. "I should have home schooled you. What did you do?"
Angelica shrugged. "Ms. Evelyn said I'm not in trouble, so you can't be mad."
Miranka shook her head. "Fine. What did you do?"
Angelica scuffed her feet on the floor and twisted her pony tails. "I changed the music to be something like a song I found on the internet."
Miranka sighed and shook her head. "What am I going to do with you?"
Angelica shrugged.
"More importantly, what am I going to do with her?" she pointed to Evelyn who looked up confused.
"She's a nice teacher. I promise not to do magic again without your say-so. At least not until I'm in junior high."
Miranka thought for a long moment. "My mother would've had her killed. But this isn't the old country."
Angelica clapped her hands and smiled. "Goody, I like Ms. Evelyn."
Evelyn found herself pulled to her feet and sat back by the snack table with a cup of black coffee in her hand. She didn't ask where it came from.
"We should talk about our Angelica," Miranka said to the young teacher.
Magic? Evelyn thought. Parent-teacher conferences are going to be interesting.
"What about Jeremiah?" Angelica asked.
"There will be other frogs," Miranka assured her. "There always are."
The End
This story was first published on Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Author Comments

This story came to me based on an ear worm that had been stuck in my head. Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog was a very popular song on the radio when I was a wee lad. I even had a band of neighborhood kids put on a lip synch show for my mom with me using a jump rope as a microphone singing this song. That has stuck with me over the years. I have a friend who is very much into the cookie monster form of heavy metal, which I've never been able to appreciate the way he does, but as a fan of music, I give it my best shot from time to time. Combining those two items, with one of the folk tales that has always fascinated me, seemed like a great way to tell a story. Plus, who doesn't want to see a kindergartener belting out a metal version of a 70's tune? Even if she is a witch.

- John A Pitts
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