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Bun and the Frog

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Chapter 1: That Restaurant

A beautiful and impressive white mansion stood out against the inky night sky. Inside, a sweet older gray bunny was working on a light pink bow to attach to a dress. Her sweet and matronly voice could be heard telling a story to a darling pair of kits: a gray bunny and an Arctic shrew.

"Just at that moment, the ugly little frog looked up with his sad round eyes and pleaded: 'Oh please, dear princess, only a kiss from you can break this terrible spell that was inflicted on me by a wicked witch.'"

The tiny shrew whispered delightedly to the bunny kit, "Here comes my favorite part."

The older bunny tied the pink ribbon together around the mannequin she was using and continued, "And the beautiful princess was so moved by his desperate plea that she stooped down, picked up the slippery creature, leaned forward, raised him to her lips, and kissed that little frog! Then the frog was transformed into a handsome prince. They were married and lived happily ever after. The end." She used some scissors to snap off the last remaining pieces of the pink ribbon.

The bunny kit gagged and made a disgusted sound while the tiny shrew, spread out on the floor, kicked up her feet delightedly as the story came to an end. "Yay!", squealed the tiny shrew, "Read it again, read it again!"

The older bunny smiled amusedly at the shrew and set her right side up, wrapping the bow around the precious pink dress she was wearing, "Sorry Fru-Fru, it's time for us to be heading home. Say goodnight Judith." Judith folded her arms defiantly, "There is no way in this whole wide world I would ever ever ever I mean never, kiss a frog. Yuck!"

Fru-Fru grinned slyly, "Is that so?," she shoved her plush frog in Judith's muzzle, "Here comes your prince charming Judy. Come on kiss him!!"

"No!"

"Kiss him!!"

"Stop it!"

"Kiss him kiss him kiss him!!!"

"I won't I won't I won't!"

"I would do it. I would kiss a frog! I would kiss about a hundred frogs if I could marry a prince and be a princess." The shrew sighed dreamily and repeatedly kissed her plush frog, sputtering when all she got was a mouthful of green fuzz, which made Judy laugh.

The older bunny chuckled and said with a grin, "You won't have to worry about that girls. There hasn't been a frog sighting in centuries."

Judith smiled in relief while Fru-Fru replied, "Yes, but if I did see a frog, I would definitely kiss it, even if it didn't ask me! So then I could be a princess!"

Both bunnies chuckled at this.

"Evening Bonnie!" Another Arctic shrew, Mr. Big, came through the door on the paws of a massive polar bear. This shrew, being the father of Fru-Fru Big, adored his daughter and spoiled her, drenching her in lavish gifts. This was made evident by the toys scattered around the pale pink, decorative room.

Fru-Fru scurried over to her father and twirled to show off her new dress, "Daddy! Daddy! Look at my new dress, isn't it pretty?"

"Haha, look at you! Well, I'd expect nothing less from the finest seamstress in New Orleans!"

The book that the older bunny had been reading from was left open to the drawing of the beautiful princess, wearing an equally gorgeous dress. The dress caught Fru-Fru's eyes and she exclaimed, "Ooh I want that one!"

Her father shook his head, "Ah ah, you have many gorgeous dresses already."

"I want that one, please please please!"

He never could say no to her pleading.

"Bonnie, you suppose you could whip something up like that?"

Bonnie smiled, "Anything for my favorite customer." She gestured to the cluster of dresses on the side of the room, all atop tiny mannequins.

Fru threw her tiny paws in the air. "Yay!"

Bonnie turned to her daughter and held out her hand. "Come along Judy, your father should be home from work by now."

As they came out of the pink ruffled room, they could hear Mr. Big scolding his daughter.

"Princess, you're getting that dress and that's it. No more Mr. Pushover. Now, who wants a plushie?"

Fru-Fru grinned, "I do! I do! It's so cute!"

Judy and her mother walked out of the mansion paw in paw. Nights in the Bayou District were beautiful and New Orleans was no exception. As they walked to the bus stop, mammals who were waiting smiled and waved at them. While Savannah Central was known as the gorgeous big shot area in Sahara Square with thousands of sky-scrapers, New Orleans was known for its friendly locals, food, and lively music. The locals were indeed friendly and treated everyone the same.

Judy and her mother ascended the trolley and sat on a bench, Judy on her knees looking out the window in childlike wonder at the sights of New Orleans. She could never get tired of her beautiful hometown, and no matter how many times she saw it, it was breathtaking. The trolley continued until stopping at a small, intimate neighborhood called The Burrows. This was a place just for bunnies to have their warrens safely and peacefully, without disrupting other mammals' homes.

Judy hopped down the trolley while her mother waved goodbye to the driver and the mammals aboard. They walked into their burrow, fully prepared for what would happen next. They grabbed onto anything sturdy that they could find, closed the door, and waited for the kerfuffle of bunnies of all sizes to come cascading out from all directions.

"Judy's home!"

"And Mom!!"

"From the Big Mansion?" *snicker*

"Aw that's so old Vi"

"Shut it!"

Judy grinned at her siblings' antics. Her father, Stu, came along with the mob of bunnies and rushed to hug his wife and daughter. "Bonnie! Jude! How are you two? How are the Bigs? Did little Fru like her dress?"

Bonnie laughed, "We were only gone for a couple of hours everyone! But we are great and so are they!"

Judy spoke up, "And Fru-Fru loved her dress."

That got all the kits rolling again.

"How is Fru-Fru??"

"How is Mr. Big?"

"How is their BIG house??"

"Ugh, seriously Vi stop!"

"How does Fru's dress look like?"

This went on and on as Judy walked farther in the burrow with the rest of her siblings trailing behind and around her. Bonnie, Stu, and several older siblings entered the kitchen to start dinner. Bonnie stopped in front of the kitchen sink and turned to her husband, "Wait! Stu, go get Judy."

"On it!"

Her father popped in and out of rooms only to find Judy running out of a room far across from him, having heard her mother call for her.

"I'm here!"

Bonnie and Stu got out the prized family pot and laid it out on top of their table, starting the process of "Judy's Home Cooking." Judy's parents and her siblings filed out of the kitchen to give her space, finding a place to sit and watch her. She was extraordinarily gifted, but it was still important to keep an eye on her.

Judy stirred and mixed, gathering different ingredients around the kitchen until her gumbo reached perfection. She stirred in the last ingredient, wondering if she was missing something as her dad came with a spoon to check in on her. They all dubbed Stu Hopps as the official "taste-tester" of everyone's, not just Judy's, cooking. Somehow, he always knew when she was just about finished and came in at the right times.

"Mmm, gumbo smells good Jude."

"I think it's done, Daddy."

Stu looked at her skeptically, knowing that she wasn't really done. "Are you sure?"

"Mm-hmm."

"Absolutely positive?"

"Yes!"

He dipped the spoon in the soup and slowly started drawing it to his mouth. "Ookay I'm about to put the spoon in my—"

"Wait!!" She found the tabasco she was missing, poured some in the soup, and tasted it. She savored the taste, making sure it was to her satisfaction.

She nodded. "Done."

Stu tasted the soup and thought about the flavor, a serious look etched on his face.

Judy furrowed her brows. "What??"

"Well, sweetheart...this is the...best gumbo I've ever tasted!" He laughed and picked her up, making her laugh in turn as he tickled her. The rest of the family got a whiff of Judy's Gumbo and scrambled over to the kitchen.

"Yay! Judy's done!"

"I'm so hungry."

Stu looked over at his wife and exclaimed, "Bonnie, our little girl's got a gift!"

She grinned, "Mmm-hmm, I coulda told you that"

"A gift this special just gotta be shared!"

Judy shot out the front door. Her fellow neighbors were sitting on their lawns and porches, catching up with one another as she said, "Hey everybody, I made gumbo!"

All at once, her neighbors exploded into friendly exclamations.

"Wooo that smells good!"

"I got some sweet roasted carrots over here Judy! Here I come!"

All the neighbors all over the warren darted over to the Hopps' burrow to get Judy's homemade dinner, bringing in all types of food to eat alongside it. They all crowded together comfortably in front of the burrow for their impromptu reunion and ate. Judy looked around, a feeling of warmth rising in her chest as she saw how a little food brought her neighbors altogether. No scuffles, no hesitations, everyone sitting happily together as close as could be. Judy looked over to her parents, smiling when she saw them laughing about something and acting like kits in love. If this is what making food for the masses would do, she would gladly do it ten times over.

Eventually, everyone finished up their meals and relaxed on the grass, looking up at the bright stars in the night sky. As they started to notice that it was getting late, families hugged, said their goodbyes, and walked on home. When everybody was gone, Stu and Bonnie filed into their burrow and started the process of getting their kits ready for bed. The older siblings corralled the younger into the showers to get ready as they got ready at the same time.

"Move it!"

"Someone pass the toothpaste!"

"It's right next to you!"

"Ack! The shower's so cold!"

"Violet!!"

"Ehehe."

Thus was the nighttime process of the Hopps' family. Of course, the kits did not take hour-long showers, lest there be no hot water ever. There were just so many kits that inevitability, the last few kits would have freezing water, and the last kit with hot water was doomed to be chastised by the next in line to shower for using up the hot water.

Once they all had showered and readied themselves for bed, they all gathered in the grand living room in the center of the Hopps household to pray together before bed. It worked best this way instead of having Stu and Bonnie pop into every room to pray with the kits. As was the norm after they said their prayers, a few kits would get to talking about the day, and an uninvited, but lengthy discussion would emerge. Today, however, Stu was the one to comment on the day, hoping that he could wrap it up quickly to get some sleep. He ended up making a surprisingly profound statement, which in turn had a profound impact on one kit in particular.

"You were all good today kits, and thank you Jude for that delicious gumbo!"

"Yeah, that was pretty good."

"Judy always makes good things though."

Judy smiled at her siblings. "Thanks!"

Her father looked around and said, "Wanna know something kits? The thing about good food, it brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up, and it puts little smiles on their faces."

Judy nodded thoughtfully, as she had just been having these same musings.

Stu became more animated and enthusiastic as he pulled out a paper with the silhouette of a restaurant and said the next part, "And when I open up my own restaurant, I tell you, people are going to line up for miles around just to get a taste of my food."

Judy piped up, “Our food,” she said cheerfully.

Stu laughed, “That’s right Jude, our food.” As he said this, he found a pen, wrote Judy’s Place on the silhouette of the restaurant, and gifted her with the piece of paper. “And don’t you forget it.”

Judy smiled and looked at the paper reverently with slight awe. Bonnie looked over at their mantle clock said, “Okay kits, time for bed!”

Stu and Bonnie started hugging the kits around Judy before going to hug her. Just then, Judy saw the brightest star she had ever seen. Her eyes widened and she gasped as she pointed it out. “Look!” Everyone turned to the window and oohed and ahhed at the sight.

Judy turned to her siblings and said, “Fru-Fru’s fairytale book said that if you make a wish on the Evening Star, it’s sure to come true!” Her parents came closer to her and hugged her. Bonnie chuckled and replied, ”Well, you wish on that star sweetheart.”

Her father nodded, “Yes, you wish and dream with all your little heart. But you remember, Judy, that old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help it along with some hard work of your own. Then, yeah, you can do anything you put your mind to. Just promise your daddy one thing. That you’ll never, ever lose sight of what’s really important. Okay?”

Little Judy had a serious look on her face and slowly nodded. Stu and Bonnie smiled at each other and made their way around the room, hugging all their kits before saying, “Okay kits, scatter, follow your older siblings to your rooms let’s go!”

“Bye!”

"Goodnight!”

“See y’all in the morning!”

Judy followed her litter into their room. She hopped on the top of the shared bunk bed and took out the paper with the silhouette of a restaurant. She looked at it, really looked at it, and had an idea. She walked over to the window and looked right up at the star. Her siblings were naturally very curious as to what she was doing and spoke amongst themselves.

“What is Judy doing?”

“Gonna look at the star again I suppose.”

"It’s just a star… isn’t it?”

“I guess”

Judy paid no heed to her siblings and closed her eyes as she held the paper close to her heart. If Fru could do it, and she said it worked, why would it not work for me, she thought. She spoke in a hushed voice, “Please please please.”

A few siblings rolled their eyes from behind Judy but most did not care. Judy stayed still, an epitome of tranquility until a certain something disrupted that. A small green frog sat like a lump by her windowsill. They locked eyes, unmoving until he let out a deep croak.

Judy screamed and fled from the room, locking herself in the bathroom where she decided she would stay for a nice long while. At once her siblings broke into peals of laughter. Some wiped tears from their eyes as they grinned at each other.

“Woo! That was funny”

"I thought frogs were extinct or something?"

"Ehh I think people just haven't seen them in forever, don't remember, but that was hilarious."

“Oh yeah, I don’t know about you guys, but I am looking forward to springing this on her in the morning.”

“Haha, count me in!” “Me too!” “Let’s get some sleep now so morning can come faster!”

“Good night!”

“G’night!”

“Night!”

As the years went by, the Hopps family went through plenty of ups and downs but stayed strong throughout. As they always said, "We have each other and our Lord, we'll be just fine." This was very true, although the outlook of their financial situation was not looking very good. They had a very small farm with very small production and that year was not shaping out to be a fruitful one. In fact, this was one of the worst they have had in years, and with saving for their future restaurant, it had gotten to an all-time low.

They sold things they didn't need which seemed to calm things down a bit, but not forever. Everyone's (with the exception of Stu and Judy's) spirits seemed to be slipping. Stu still had ideas and put each one to use, but they all had little or no impact. No one but Bonnie could tell how this wore out Stu and she continuously told him to take out the restaurant funds and stop exhausting himself, but he wouldn't. She said he would break at the last straw, he said he wouldn't.

Until he did.

Stu tried to strike up several deals with several businesspeople, explaining his situation. He said he would give them a certain number of shares, among other things, if they would help him start his restaurant and save their farm. He finally found one who agreed to their terms and they spent days fixing up their farm, which paid off well. What Stu did not consider was the trustworthiness of the businessman, or rather lack of. He asked Stu for his restaurant savings so he could "invest and try to start up your restaurant." Stu didn't think anything of it and was relieved that he found a businessman such as this one who knew his stuff.

Days passed before he got any news of the businessman, until one day he got word of a snake oil salesman that traveled around stealing money from poor and unsuspecting mammals. He had apparently left the area days ago after cheating someone out of a chunk of money. The name and species of this snake oil salesman were the same as the "businessman" whose services Stu had called on.

The Hopps' family was devastated, but none more than Stu. He felt awful for being so naive and more so for not listening to Bonnie, though she didn't hold it against him. From this day on, Stu Hopps was never the same. He was, of course, a great father and husband, but didn't have that same determination and was deathly afraid and cautious of any sort of opportunities that could arise. His motto went from "Try Everything" to "If You Don't Try Anything New You'll Never Fail." In other words, that part of his personality had changed forever.

As he looked for better (and safer) ways to aid his family, Zootopia was looking for people to serve in the ongoing War. It was made clear that the drafts were to be put in action, every male that was of age would be forced to serve. This included Stu. In two days, he would be at his stationed military base.

The Hopps' family stayed strong throughout all of this and put on a brave front. Bonnie was determined to find jobs for herself while Stu was serving. The money Stu would get would help, but not by much. The older kits were to take care of their younger siblings. If they were able to have jobs, a few would. Many needed to stay with the kits.

The day of Stu's leaving quickly came and they all gathered at the train station and said their goodbyes. Stu came to each one of his kits and comforted them before leaving. Judy wore a brave look on her face, not wanting to cry and make her younger siblings cry in turn. Stu hugged his daughter and blinked tears away. His throat constricted. He looked at her, "Take care of your mother alright? Don't forget everything I've taught you. Trust in the Lord. Be safe and cautious. I love you Jude."

She squeezed her eyes shut, "I know. I love you too Daddy."

The train rumbled closer as it steadily came to a stop and Stu slowly walked away. His eyes moistened as he looked at his family around him. He swallowed a lump in his throat. Tears blurred his vision, making it hard to see as he shakily waved to his family before getting on the train with his fellow draftees. Thousands of wives, mothers, and sisters waved to the departing train. One newlywed ran alongside the train while crying out, "Goodbye! I love you!"

Judy watched with blurry vision as the train became nothing more than a speck in the distance. All the siblings looked at each other with teary eyes, some with straight, serious faces, some with tears and snot dripping down their muzzles, no qualms about breaking down in front of everybody. After a little while, Bonnie wiped tears from her eyes and straightened, "Okay everyone, no use standing here like bumps on a log, we are going to go and make ourselves useful. We will not have a pity party here while your father is out there fighting for Zootopia. Let's go!"

True to her word, Bonnie found a job in a factory and worked long hours to make ends meet. So did Judy's older siblings. The ones that stayed with the kits homeschooled them and made sure they did their chores correctly.

Many of Judy's siblings had grown into the mindset where they were also afraid to try new things, but thankfully, Judy remembered what her father had taught her. She remembered what he taught her before everything had gone downhill.

But you remember, Judy, that old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help it along with some hard work of your own. Then, yeah, you can do anything you put your mind to. Just promise your daddy one thing. That you’ll never, ever lose sight of what’s really important. Okay?

She would stick to that. The mantra of "Try Everything," would become hers. She would live her father's dream and she would own a restaurant. None of her siblings wanted to, but she did, and she must. She would!

She will.