POND KING • by Amy R. Biddle

The thing about evil witches is, they’re just as susceptible to fads as everyone else. That’s what got me here in this lily pond. Prince one day, frog the next. I’d like to blame my father for making enemies, but the truth is, evil witches these days don’t need a reason to turn a prince into a frog. It’s just ‘the thing to do.’

It’s been hard, leaving my courtly life to jump around in the mud. I used to live for jousting, and I was even getting into hunting dragons. Sure, I don’t have to worry about our ruby debt or demon infestations out here in the pond, but mosquitoes for dinner every night gets old, fast.

Still, I’m trying my best to fit in. I even found myself a wife. I can’t decide if I should call her Jezebel or Jasmine, but it doesn’t matter because it comes out “Uurgup” either way. She’s a lumpy green mess, but she’s a killer fly catcher and those legs can get her a good three feet of air. We’re even trying for some tadpoles, but I’m not sure if I’m ready yet. Frog eggs gross me out.

I haven’t lost all hope of returning to society, though. In fact, I’m pretty sure today’s my lucky day, because a blonde-haired beauty is making her way towards the edge of the pond. I’m sitting idly on my side of the pond, a good stone’s throw away, and I pretend not to notice.  I’ve got to be all stealth, because if Jasmine catches me wooing a princess, I’m pretty sure I’ll be sleeping in the reeds tonight.

This princess has just the right curves under her lacy yellow dress, and she sports a cute little button nose, but I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with her. The sad fact is, most decent princesses aren’t desperate enough to go wading into swamps looking for their true love. No one wants to ruin their make-up kissing amphibians. Plus, it’s a gamble. Kiss the wrong frog and a girl might find herself marrying into a kingdom that’s borrowing gold from dragons in order to deal with their ogre problem.

She sits on a mossy log at the edge of the water for five minutes before getting impatient. With a huff, she flounces up and starts collecting rocks. On first plunk she’s desecrated my dining room table. That dirty little daughter of Medusa! Jasmine won’t be happy when she finds out that my new mistress has been re-arranging the furniture.

But this blue-eyed beauty is my only ticket out of this place, so I do what I’ve got to do. I’m making my way to her side of the pond when my neighbor, George, jumps to the bank by her feet and sticks his bulbous throat out like he owns the place. That’s when it hits me. George isn’t George at all. He’s Huron the Halfwit, a prince from the troll-infested land of Roth, who hasn’t been bested in a tourney for the last twenty years. Humans under an animal curse tend to keep certain body characteristics. It has to be him, because he’s got a tiny head that sits atop ungainly amounts of pure frog muscle. Just like in his human form, he’s being an ass.

With a few swift kicks of my massive hind legs, I sprint to the edge of the pond, crawl out of the water and flop onto the bank next to the big lummox. I glance around to make sure Jasmine isn’t in sight, then give my best “urrrrgup” in the hopes that it will impress this rude little princess.

When she sees the two of us sitting side by side, she smiles. Then a look of confusion crosses her face.

“But whom shall I choose?” she asks, and wrinkles her nose.

I start jumping up and down in front of her, and barely make it as high as her kneecap. Next to me, it looks like Huron is trying to point at himself with his tongue. This is embarrassing. After one thousand years of trendy curses, we should have come up with some kind of frog-to-princess sign language so I could at least say, “Huron’s an idiot and I’ve got a kingdom full of rubies.”

Of course, if I could say that, Huron would be able to tell her about the demon infestation that’s shut down the ruby mines, not to mention our massive debt to the Three Princes of Dawn, who aren’t princes at all, but are pretty good at torture. Maybe being a frog isn’t too bad after all. I haven’t thought about those jokers in a while.

I’m mulling over the hardships of princedom when Blondie’s face brightens up and she scoops both of us up at the same time. She puckers her lips and goes in for a double-whammy. I scream “urguup urguuuup” the whole way, but it doesn’t stop her. The physics of animal curses are pretty simple, and I’ve met enough centaurs and mermaids to know how this turns out.  No wonder this girl is kissing frogs, she can’t pass Curses 101. Huron, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be worried about living the rest of his life with the legs of a frog and the body of a man. He probably slept through class, too. These two would make a perfect Halfwit couple. With a quick twist and a twitch of my legs, I’m free, splashing back into my wet wonderland.

Come to think of it, Jasmine’s kickers put the legs on this princess to shame, and that blonde hair is a reedy mess. This whole frog-in-pond business isn’t half as bad as I made it out to be. Better yet, I don’t have to discuss politics, know which kingdom has the best minstrel, or care about the number of buttons on my coat. And no demon infestations to worry about. Yeah.  Maybe I could start hunting dragonflies.

Amy R. Biddle is a sailor and writer who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Other than a smattering of poetry and articles both online and in local newsletters, Amy’s proudest literary achievement is her work co-running the online magazine Underground Book Reviews. Amy’s debut novel, THE ATHEIST’S PRAYER will be published in the fall of 2013 by Perfect Edge Books.

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