Edna Goes to the Frogs
by Ed Kratz
Two days after her eighteenth birthday, Edna went to the frogs. She found a passage in the bushes that lined the Cole County Library, and stood five feet away, staring and concentrating.
“I want magic,” she said. No wind blew, but the bushes shivered and waved.
A creature started forming, at first a collection of waving sparkling lights, like a pointillist painting. Then he was there. A quick glance and he was an odd-looking man with a wide neck and bulging eyes. A closer look and Edna knew she had her frog.
“I am Gregor,” he said. “You want the pond?”
“Yes. My stepmother says I’m just a plain girl destined for a boring life, and I should be happy with that. But I want more than that. I want magic.”
“You want the kiss?”
“Yes,” she said.
He went into the bushes. She followed. They should have gone through the bushes and out the other side. But instead, they went down a dirt path, lined with roses, orchids, and daffodils. The roses were as large as punch bowls, bees the size of kittens buzzed around inside their petals. The orchid stalks were as long as Edna’s legs and colored in purple and orange and gold.
The smell surprised her. Not overpowering as one might expect from such immense flowers, but refreshing, like a perfume blended by a master artisan. The daffodils were a glowing, golden swath of color like a burst of sun. She had to turn her eyes away.
They came to a clearing. A pure blue pond filled the center. What frog pond would be so blue? Only the one here, the one that would change her life.
Gregor reached for her hand. He smiled at Edna’s lack of hesitation. Some people avoided touching the frogs. His hand felt warm, not clammy as she expected. Slowly, he led her to the pond. There were the frogs. They looked like regular frogs, not sort of human-like Gregor, but they were actually potential partners.
Six frogs sat on lily pads. Edna knew five other young people were waiting to take their chance. But the searchers could not see each other. No one would know who found their mate here.
The frogs on their lily pads rotated in a circle, a merry-go-round of hope and love and opportunity. One frog caught her eye. It was bigger than the rest, sitting there large and proud. She felt drawn to this one, like someone spotting their luggage on an airport carousel. She reached. The pond merry-go-round went faster, and she missed. “No.”
“Try harder,” Gregor said. “Only one chance.”
The frog was coming around again. Did the others see how special he was? She had to catch him. Now. She snatched him. Then the kiss. And there he was, a big man dressed in a cook’s apron, not the trim Hollywood handsome man Edna had imagined. At least he wasn’t grotesque, and she had to admit, his large dark eyes seemed warm.
He smiled at Edna. “You’re beautiful. An answer to my prayers. My new partner in my diner. We’ll do great. My name is Otis,”
Otis, a big man with a stupid name and a diner. She was doomed.
Gregor said quietly, “No sorrow. Just wait. The pond works for everyone.”
The pond works, Edna thought, but my stepmother is right. Magic is not for plain girls like me. With sorrow in her heart, she let Otis lead her from the pond.
Her first surprise was when they got to Otis’s small cottage. He looked the kind of big dumb guy who’d want to carry her over the threshold.
Instead, he stopped at the door and shook his head. “I am not going to carry you in. What am I, some cave dweller who’s dragging his bride home? Always seemed dumb to me.”
It had always seemed silly to Edna, too. She smiled. He took her hand, and they went in. “I tried to make it look nice. But what do I know?”
That was the second surprise. Edna loved browsing through the decorator magazines at the local store in town. Everything in this room was like what she loved in the magazine.
“It’s not original, “Otis said. “I copied it. I have relatives who make furniture. I made a few changes. Probably made it worse.”
Shock three. Otis had made careful, delicate improvements that made the room even more inviting and warmer than the magazine display. Almost like magic, but not magic. Otis was still not the handsome partner she had dreamed of.
He led her to the bedroom. The bedroom was more beautiful than the living room. But Edna knew things would soon get worse. What kind of lover could this big, awkward man be? He’d probably jump her like some slob now that they were officially a couple.
“You rest now. I’m going to clean up. I’ll make us dinner.”
Edna looked at him. “I am your mate, now. Legal and all.”
“You’re my mate according to the stories and the legends. I am not too experienced with ladies, but I know this,” Otis said, “you’ll be my wife when it’s in here.” He touched his chest. “For both of us,”
Edna wondered if there was a chance. She might not have the magic she had dreamed of, but at least her life wouldn’t be miserable. Her stepmother was right. She was plain. She deserved boring.
As days went by, it turned out that Otis was one pleasant surprise after another. Before they went to bed for the first time, Otis trembled as they undressed. “You are so beautiful.”
No one had ever called Edna beautiful.
When they started, Otis was slow and cautious and delicate. Yet, when she was ready, he was far from slow, far from delicate.
She assumed he must have had many lovers to be so skilled. She accepted that. Then her next shock came. She was resting on top of him, strangely feeling safe and secure and comfortable on his gently heaving chest.
“It was okay?” he asked.
“Okay,” Edna laughed. “It was a lot more than okay. Surely a man of your experience could tell.”
“My experience? I swear that you are my first.”
“Just felt like I was you, and you were me.”
“That’s magic,” Edna said.
“You’re my magic,” Otis said and stroked her hair so gently his big bulky hand felt like a spring breeze.
Maybe she could live with this man and eventually be resigned to living a dull life and forget about magic and dreams.
Time passed. Late at night, after they closed the diner, both of them exhausted, Otis would put on a waltz on an old LP record player they had for music while they cleaned up. Then he’d practically carry Edna around in a dance when they finished.
Their cottage was next to the diner. More than one night big Otis carried her in. After long days, she was happy when he carried her home to bed, where she slept like a little girl feeling safe and secure and loved.
Edna’s happiness increased when they had a daughter. Otis was a doting father who shared all the child-rearing tasks, like changing diapers, taking turns waking in the night, holding his daughter. They made out well enough with the diner to hire staff and take a day off now and then.
Her father visited often. Her stepmother tried to stay away as much as she could. She’d never had children, and she did not take to her step-granddaughter. Edna’s father had enough love for both of them.
On her daughter’s second birthday, Edna’s father had dragged her stepmother to her house. She was pouty, but Edna tried to be kind to this unhappy woman. She’d always been thin, but lately, though she was not ill, she’d grown so thin and taut, she looked like an angry exclamation point.
Edna was showing her some changes they had made to the house. Edna’s father and Otis and her daughter were out playing in the yard. Her stepmother stopped at a window and looked out. If she had a superpower, the envy in her eyes would have turned into death rays. She shook her head. “So that magic you wanted didn’t seem to work, did it?”
Edna looked in the yard. “Magic?” She knew now. But she didn’t say anything. A beautiful child, and a loving husband and mate, that was the greatest magic of all.
Copyright © 2020 by Ed Kratz