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Bun and the Frog

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Nicholas was feeling extremely warm and blissful.

He sighed as he rolled over in the quiet hole, murmuring to himself and bathing himself in the warmth of the sun rays. Everything was still and peaceful for once. He could just lay there forever.

"Ow!"

Or not.

An acorn had flown into the hole of the tree in which Nicholas was sleeping, and bonked him on the head. Nicholas groaned as he opened his eyes, sat up, and rubbed his head. He squinted slightly at the outside of the hole, his eyes becoming accustomed to the light. The warm rays of the sun spilled inside and illuminated the hole.

Nicholas looked around and realized that Judy was not inside. He furrowed his brows in confusion, surely she would not have left him?

"Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty!"

Nick peeked out of the hole to see Judy near the river bank on the side of the forest. She had built some sort of floatation device made of hard sticks and vine and was tying up the last of it. He raised an eyebrow and climbed down the tree, hopped off once he got to the bottom, and made his way to Judy.

When he came to the riverbank, he noticed a small pile of acorns next to Judy and rolled his eyes as he realized who had thrown the acorn at him.

Judy stood up and climbed onto her makeshift raft, looking quite proud of herself.

"Alright, Nicholas, let's go!"

Nicholas hopped on the raft as it began to float down the river. "Where are we going, exactly?"

Judy paddled with a long stick in her hands, as Nicholas laid on the raft with his arms crossed behind his head. "We've got to get to New Orleans and undo this mess that you got us into."

Nicholas shrugged. "I was not the one parading around with a phony-baloney tiara."

Judy rolled her eyes and continued paddling.

Nicholas began to loudly whistle a tune, much to Judy's annoyance. After the fifth chorus, Judy had had enough. She turned to him. "I could use a little help here."

"Oh? I'll whistle a little louder then."

"No! Just—"

"AHH!"

Judy jumped at Nicholas' high-pitched scream, and turned around slowly, slightly afraid of what she might see. A large, scaled creature emerged from the water, causing waves to billow out in all directions, and Judy to drop her paddle. The two frogs held each other without a second thought, Nicholas in a position that shielded Judy from the creature.

The scaled creature stood up as it walked over to dry land and snapped its fingers.

"I know that tune! La Tortura by Gazelle, the greatest singer of our lifetime!"

The creature began to play its trumpet (which Nicholas and Judy had not noticed before) to the tune of La Tortura.

Nicholas' eyes widened, and he grinned. He let go of Judy—who fell with a squeak— and began to strum an imaginary ukulele, whistling along with the creature's trumpet.

Judy stared at them, wide-eyed, dumbfounded, and unable to speak. When they finished their little duet, they both laughed in delight. The creature grinned. "That was great!"

Nicholas grinned back. "It was! You are fantastic! Who are you? Or—well—what are you?"

"I'm Benjamin Clawhauser, you guys can call me Ben."

Nicholas nodded. "Hey, Ben."

Judy slowly waved, still shocked by the large, trumpet-playing, scaled creature.

Ben began to fiddle his thumbs. "The other question is...kinda hard to explain. It's the craziest thing ever."

Judy snorted.

Nicholas raised an eyebrow. "Let's see if you still think that after our story."

"Well, I wasn't always...what I am now. I'm a cheetah! I got to New Orleans a few days ago because I always come for Mardi Gras. I would never miss seeing Gazelle perform on her float! So, I always arrive early to check everything out. I walked by this small building when a small ewe popped up out of nowhere. She asked if I wanted to take a tour of her store, which turned out to be the small building near us. She seemed so sweet and cheerful, that I couldn't say no! So we went inside, she showed me around, and a few minutes in, she offered me some type of...blueberry."

Nicholas tilted his head. "Blueberry?"

Ben shrugged. "She called it 'Midnight Howl' and said it was her own brand."

Nicholas narrowed his eyes. "What happened right after you ate it?"

"This is the crazy part. I started to get all these hard, green scales all over my body. I was freaking out, you guys! I didn't have a mirror to see my face, but I didn't need one to know how strange and scary it looked—and looks. The ewe and her three employees locked me in their staffroom before I could even think! They started talking frantically, but I couldn't understand them. Something about messing up a serum and testing it? I dunno."

Nicholas' eyes widened in realization. "Oh my gosh! She must've tried to do to you, what she failed to do to me! Who knows how many other predators she targeted before me!"

Ben held up his hands. "Wait, wait, wait. She also gave you a...blueberry?"

"Ah, no. I guess they changed the serum to make it into a liquid because they gave it to me as a drink. They still called it Midnight Howl though. I'm not sure why, but what happened to you, is exactly what happened to me. Except, I turned into a frog."

Ben blinked and tilted his head. "A what?"

Judy piped in. "A frog. It's a creature that was thought to be extinct because there had been no frog sightings for a very long time. Kinda like what you are now."

Nicholas turned to Judy. "You know what he is?"

She nodded. "Yeah, my parents used to talk to me about extinct creatures. He's an alligator."

"Huh. Alli Gator. That sounds strange."

Judy shook her head. "No, it's alligator. There's no space in the middle."

Nicholas shrugged. "Either way, it sounds weird."

Ben nodded. "It does."

Nicholas turned to Ben. "So, how did you even escape?"

"Oh! I just waited until the three rams weren't paying attention, which wasn't too hard because only one of them was really paying attention. Then, once I was able to get out of the room and the store, I booked it out of town before anyone could catch sight of me. I've been in this forest ever since."

Nicholas furrowed his brows. "Wait a sec, were you here last night?"

Ben nodded. "Yeah! It was really creepy at first because I had heard the sound of crawling coming near the forest at one point, but then it stopped as quickly as it came."

Judy gasped. "It was you!"

"What was me?"

"The spiders! We were trying to escape from spiders, and we ran into the forest to escape them. You must've scared them away!"

Ben grinned. "Hey, yeah! You're welcome!"

His bright grin started to diminish as he thought about this, and his body deflated. "But...I don't want to be big and scary. I liked my old self when I didn't scare anyone. I could play my trumpet easily, too."

His shoulders sagged, and his expression became sad, with a hint of wistfulness, as he continued. "This was going to be the year where I finally had the confidence to try and become Gazelle's trumpeter for her Mardi Gras performance, but that won't happen now. Mardi Gras is in only a few days." Ben sighed.

Judy frowned. She absolutely loved it when mammals were passionate about something, and she loved hearing them talk about their dreams. So, suffice it to say, she equally hated it when a mammal's dream was hindered by someone or something.

Judy looked Ben in the eyes. "You know what, Ben? We're going to get you to Gazelle's float if it's the last thing we do. We will get back to New Orleans before Mardi Gras!"

Ben's countenance brightened. "You really think so?"

Judy nodded. "I do! I mean, you did find your way into this forest, surely you know the way out?"

Ben grinned sheepishly. "Actually...I have no idea how to get out. I ran here—practically blind. I don't even know how I managed to get in here."

Judy sighed. "We're just going to have to get out of here the original way. The way our ancestors did."

Nicholas turned to her in confusion. "Our ancestors did what?"

"Well, they didn't have maps or watches back then. They used the sun and their instincts, and that is what we will use!"

Ben nodded slowly. "Yeah...yes! That could work!"

Judy grinned. "Yes! We could ask the locals here too!"

Nicholas raised an eyebrow. "What locals? There's no one here except for us three."

Judy threw her hands up. "Well, we just saw a horde of tarantulas last night! And, they understood us! Surely there must be other...nicer locals here."

Nicholas gulped. "Yeah...I don't think I want to see any locals. I'm good."

Judy shrugged. "We won't go looking for any, but if we happen to see any locals, it wouldn't hurt to ask."

"Or it could! Need I remind you of our little escapade?"

"Or it couldn't! Need I remind you of how we got out alive?"

"Barely!"

"But we did, and all in one piece."

Nicholas crossed his arms. "Are we? I seriously have no idea if I have all my body parts. I'm ten times smaller than I was a few days ago. I could be missing an organ or something."

Judy rolled her eyes. "I'm pretty sure our organs are intact, Nicholas. And if they're not, standing around talking about them won't help them grow. We need to go!"

Nicholas sighed. "Alright, alright. Let's go. Let's get this show on the road."

Ben raised his hand. "I've got a question."

Judy raised an eyebrow. "Uh, yes? It's not school, Ben. You're okay. You don't have to raise your hand."

"I know, I know. I just felt like I had to, to get inside the lover's quarrel you guys had going on there."

Nicholas and Judy stared at Ben and said in unison, "We're not lovers."

Ben frowned slightly. "Aw, but you two would be really cute together! Wait, how come you're both here then?" He looked directly at Judy. "Did you swallow a serum too?"

Judy shook her head as Nicholas answered for her. "No, she's not a pred."

Ben nodded. "Ahh, so, how is she a frog?"

Nicholas grinned slyly. "That is an excellent question and a very funny st—"

"That we do not have time for!" Judy clapped her hands. "So, let's get going! We've got to get to New Orleans before Mardi Gras!"

Nicholas scratched his head in confusion. "How? The raft won't hold the three of us, and you dropped the paddle."

Judy scoffed. "Yeah, the paddle that wouldn't have dropped if you were helping me."

"Pfft, of course I was helping. I serenaded you." He winked at Judy.

Judy rolled her eyes. "Anyway...you do have a point. The raft won't cut it."

Ben's eyes brightened. "Wait! I got it!"

Ben ran ahead alongside the river and laid his back down where the river became deeper. He began to float down the river while Nicholas and Judy ran after him.

"Wait! Ben!" Judy cupped her hands around her mouth. "Where are you going?"

"Come on you guys! I'll be your raft!"

Nicholas and Judy looked at each other and shrugged. They ran after the floating alligator and hopped onto his stomach.

Judy grinned. "You're a genius, Ben!"

Ben laughed. "I know! Hey, do you mind if I play a little?"

Judy's eyes widened, and she opened her mouth to respond in the negative, but Nicholas beat her to it.

"We don't mind, Ben! Play all you want, buddy!"

Judy shot Nicholas a withering look. He donned an innocent expression.

Ben began to blow his trumpet, and, to Judy's surprise (and annoyance) began to sing.

If I were a mammal again

I'd head straight to New Orleans

And I'd blow this horn so hard and strong 

Like no one they've ever seen

You've heard of Louis Pawstrong

Mr. Sidney Bechet

All those boys gonna step aside

When they hear this old ex-gator play!

Ben began a passionate and exuberant trumpet solo as he held his horn up high.

Nicholas clapped. "Alright, Ben!" Judy smiled and nodded slowly, beginning to grasp the beauty of the music.

When I'm a mammal

As I hope to be

I'm gonna blow this horn till the walls come down

And Gazelle's going to love me!

Nicholas grinned at Ben's enthusiastic singing, and trumpet playing. As Ben continued to play his own unique tune, Nicholas snapped his fingers as he began to feel the music. He started to strum an imaginary ukulele and began to sing along.

When I'm myself again

I want just the life I had

A great big party every night!

That doesn't sound too bad...

He winked at Judy as she crossed her arms and scoffed.

A vixen on my left arm 

Another on my right 

A bunny or two to hold a candle 

Doesn't that sound about right

Eh, Ben?

Life is short

When you're done, you're done

We're on this Earth to have some fun!

And that's the way things are!

Ben nodded. "Tell it, brother!"

When I'm a mammal

And I'm gonna be

I'm going to tear it up like I did before

And that's a royal guarantee!

Judy put her hands on her hips. "Oh, please! You are getting married!"

Nicholas groaned and rolled his eyes. "Ohh, right. I'll just have to leave a string of broken hearts behind me!"

Judy shook her head. "My turn."

Your modesty becomes you

And your sense of responsibility 

I've worked hard for everything I've got

And that's the way it's supposed to be

When I'm a mammal again

At least I'll act like one

If you do your best each and every day

Good things are sure to come your way

What you give is what you get!

My daddy said that and I'll never forget!

And I commend it to you

Judy looked over at Nicholas to see him playing imaginary drums on Ben's stomach, obviously not paying attention to her words. She rolled her eyes as Ben laughed.

When we're mammals 

And we're gonna be!

I'm gonna blow my horn! 

Ben blew his trumpet.

Nicholas strummed his imaginary ukulele.

I'm gonna live the high life!

Judy laughed and shook her head, rolling her eyes at the two.

I'm gonna do my best to take my place where I belong!

Completely by accident, Ben, Nicholas, and Judy began to sing at the same time.

When!

We're!

Mammals!

Ben blew the last strong notes on his trumpet and when he finished, he gasped for air.

"Whew! Playing the trumpet and singing around the same time is hard. I feel great!”

Judy beamed. "Yes! And the way we all sang at the same time! So cool!"

Nicholas held out his arms. "See! You're getting into the music! Good for you!"

Judy looked around at the river as they floated by dark green trees. As they quieted down, Judy took in the surroundings. Floating down the river, Judy took note of vines hanging down the trees by the river, and the fresh smell of mildew in the air. The smell was not unpleasant, rather, Judy enjoyed the smell. She thought it smelled like life, just bursting out the sunbeams. She loved it. It made her feel alive, just like challenges made her feel alive. She craved it. Getting back to New Orleans was going to be another challenge, just like getting her restaurant. And she lived for the challenge and adventure of life.

Judy gazed at the river ahead, thankful that they were finally getting somewhere. All they had to do, was follow this river, and they would be just fine, and on their way to New Orleans. Judy's countenance brightened as she allowed herself to relax.

Perfect.