Just so everyone is up to speed before I begin, if you haven’t heard of this beloved carnival ride before, then you are in for a treat. Blogger and humorist Nicole Leigh Shaw a.k.a. Ninja Mom, had the ingenious deplorable idea, one day, to roast an innocent, beloved piece of children’s literature. I, for one, think it a delight travesty to purposefully and maliciously unearth the utter ridiculousness shortcomings of timeless classics. However, if I decline the ticket I’ve been offered to ride the carousel, I’d be looking a gift horse in the mouth. Therefore, in the name of etiquette, I will graciously accept my ticket and enjoy the drifting, golden glow of the lights, the cotton candy smells, the creepy organ music, and the way that poor Toad is maliciously bullied by a gang that recruits, none other than, his very best friend, Frog.
Ok…here we go…
From the classic collection Frog and Toad Are Friends, written by Arnold Lobel, I will be assassinating the story, “A Swim“.
“Oh. My. Gawd. I look so fat in this, like, fer sherrr.”
“No! You do not. Shut up. You look so hot in that, I hate myself.”
“Whatever, how much is it…Fifty bucks? Gawd…I guess I’ll get it.”
“Yeah. You toootally look freaking bad-ass in that swimsuit.”
And that is what friends are for. To boost you up when it’s the beginning of the dreaded “swimsuit season,” and your upper thighs are still sporting a lily-white patina becoming only on the likes of Snow White herself, while your lower thighs and calves are still blotched with the farmer’s perma-tan of last year. You probably have hair growing out of places that even the swimsuit bottoms you’re squeezing into shudder to think of. Your feet, far from pedicured, are cracked, chipped, and likely suffering from some type of winter fungus.
But, by God, there’s your best friend. Telling you how hot you look. Or, gently and diplomatically telling you that you should perhaps try something else, or at the very least, pick up a tube of Jergens self-tanner at the next Walgreens. That’s what good friends do. They support you, no matter what, through thick and thin. You know they got your back.
Now, imagine that you are Toad. Your best friend, Frog (whom you’ve known since you were both tadpoles in the same cesspool, a friend you’ve shared everything with, and gone on all sorts of adventures with, who has cared for you when you were sick, encouraged you when you did not want to come out of hibernation, etc., etc.) is with you when you decide to go out for that first swim of the season… Oh, and on top of all that, you look like this:
Did I mention that Frog insists on swimming in the nude? Uh, yeah. Here’s how it went down:
“What a day for a swim,” said Frog.
“Yes,” said Toad. “I will go behind these rocks and put on my bathing suit.”
“I don’t wear a bathing suit,” said Frog.
Well, good for you, Frog. Some of us don’t have lean, amphibian, musculature that allows us to walk around the pond with our bare butts glistening in the summer sunshine.
But Frog obliges when Toad asks him to NOT look until they are both in the water. He’s Toad’s friend, after all. (Actually, a real friend may have first insisted that Toad was being silly. A real friend might have told Toad how hot he looks in a bathing suit, or at the very least pretended to not be repulsed enough to honor the request to turn around. Whatever.)
After some fun swimming and splashing – Toad in his bathing suit, Frog in his birthday suit – a Turtle comes along the bank. Toad, ashamed of himself in his swimsuit since Frog has made no mention that he should feel otherwise, asks his friend to “tell the turtle to go away, I do not want him to see me in my bathing suit.”
Frog, seizing no opportunity to enhance Toads self-esteem, agrees and swims over, buck naked, and asks Turtle to skedaddle. When Turtle questions this, some nearby lizards eavesdrop, because lizards are rude like that, and they hear Frog explain how Toad feels in his swimsuit.
“Does Toad really look funny in his swimsuit?” They ask.
Just then, a snake slithers up and announces that, if Toad really does look that funny in his swimsuit, then by God, he wants a ticket to the freak show.
“We want to see him too!” A couple of dragonflies say.
“Me too!” chimes in the field mouse, who also adds, “I have not seen anything funny in a long time.”
Anyways, things really get ugly when the turtle, the snake, the dragonflies, and the mouse all form a mafioso gang of bullies that refuses to leave the riverbank until Toad comes out so they can make fun of him (and God knows what else. Have you ever seen a mouse chew through a wall? I shudder…).
Toad waits. He is so demoralized that he sits in the water, shivering, while the cruel mob stares…waiting…
Finally, Toad cannot stay in the water anymore.
“I will have to come out of the water,” said Toad. “I am catching a cold.”
Now, prior to this sad and terrible scene, Frog had made a feeble attempt to ask everyone to “Please go away!”
They didn’t go away. Ask yourself: If you were at the public pool with your best friend, and a raucous gang of miscreant thugs approached and didn’t let your friend out of the pool, nor did they leave when you asked, what would you do? Personally, being the goody-two-shoes-scaredy-cat that I am, I would have called the police. I might also consider screaming for help at the top of my lungs to scare off the perps, while garnering attention from passerby-do-gooders who might rush to my aid. If I were tough, I’d stand up to them myself.
Here’s what Frog did…
“What are you laughing at, Frog?” said Toad.
“I am laughing at you, Toad,” said Frog, “because you do look funny in your bathing suit.”
What?! Are you $%&#ing kidding me right now, Frog? You’re really gonna play Toad like that? Why don’t you take your bare, slimy, green ass on down the river and find a new friend, eh? — Is what I would have said. But Toad didn’t say that.
Instead, he takes the high road when Frog tells him he actually does look funny in his bathing suit, and says simply, “Of course I do.” He then walks home.
No, seriously. That’s literally how it ends. No moral of the story. No apology. No justice. Just Toad, walking home drenched, cold, and alone. Taking the high road, yes, but…alone.
Now…picture Molly Ringwald’s character, Andie, from the 1986 teen drama “Pretty in Pink.” Andie, who sews a gorgeous pink dress and makes a stick-it-to-’em entrance at Prom, whereby she re-snags her sweetheart, Blane, who then tells off his rich, bully friend for being so mean to Andie for being poor, gets a fairytale ending when she and Blane kiss and live happily ever after, get married and have lots of babies dressed in pink. Imagine if Andie had gone to Prom, walked in, and Blane told her she looked cheap and stupid, dumped punch on her head, while her best friend, Duckie, spins on over in his fancy shoes and spits in her face. Then “CUT!” Fade to black. Credits roll.
That is what it felt like reading “A Swim,” from the Frog and Toad Are Friends collection.
Thankfully, all of the other Frog and Toad stories read like a cozy sip of cocoa on Christmas morning. But, this one will be tucked away for a future teachable moment, when I’ll pull it out and realize, it doesn’t really have one.
***In Other Carousel News***
Don’t forget to check out last week’s assassin, Bonnie Blackburn, over at her blog “Three Rivers, Two Kids.” (She killed the tale “The Napping House”, by Audrey Wood.) Then, make sure you check out Jenn from Something Clever 2.0 for the next gruesome assassination. Bwah ha ha ha!!!