THE TOAD PRINCE • by J. P. Roquard

There was once a #beautiful princess. Everyone loved her (or rather, everyone followed her) because she was #beyourself #makeup #realme #livelovelaugh #followback, and so much more to so many people. But more than anything, she was #cool.

One day, the Princess ventured out in her endless search for content. The sunlight was soft (perfect for pics!) so she raised her phone, capturing a glorious #nofilter #selfie. There was no doubt the Princess was beautiful. In fact, she was so beautiful in this particular pic, and she was #mirin’ so hard, that she lost her grip! The phone tumbled from her hands, straight into a puddle. #splash

Her heart leapt to her mouth. No more pics. No more comments. No more likes. And definitely no more hashtags!

A tragedy! A disaster! Her whole life gone in a watery instant. She needed to post about this, quickly. She needed a photo to show the whole world how terrible this was. Her hand reached for her pocket, looking for that familiar, smooth oblong. But her pocket was  empty. The phone she so desperately sought was down there, in the puddle.

She fished it out. The screen flickered, glowed, but refused to work. The Princess sat down and cried. “This is so unfair! God, I’d do anything to have my phone back.”

A policeman appeared at her shoulder. “Take it over there,” he said, pointing at a blinking neon sign across the street: We fix phones!

The store smelled musty, dim lights cast a yellow pallor (terrible for selfies), and an ugly toad sat at the counter. He was squat and pale with greasy hair. He wore a black t-shirt and cheap frames.

The Toad regarded her with wonder. “Aren’t you the Princess?”

She held out her phone, trying not to look at the Toad. “Can you fix this? Please?”

“Maybe. What will you give me in return?”

“Anything! Just fix it, quickly.”

“A selfie?”

“Okay.”

“And a kiss?”

“Anything!” said the Princess. But behind her back she crossed her fingers.

The Toad took her phone in his tiny fingers. With magic screwdriver and enchanted pliers he opened it up, muttering an incantation under his breath. Before long the phone was shining brightly, like #brandnew.

“Oh my God!” gasped the Princess.

“Now for my payment,” said the Toad.

The Princess cringed at his sweaty face, his formless clothes. #yuck. She snatched the phone and ran from the store, bounding into the street and crashing straight into the Policeman.

“What are you running from, little girl?” asked the Policeman.

The Toad came huffing and puffing. “She didn’t pay!”

The Policeman raised an eyebrow.

“He wants me to kiss him! To be in his selfie!” she said. #noway

“You promised! You said you would do anything if I fixed your phone.”

“Did you?” asked the Policeman.

“Yes, but…” #nofair

The Policeman considered the Toad, then the Princess. “If you don’t want to kiss him, you don’t have to,” he said. “But if you don’t, then you must pay for his services. Is that fair?”

They both nodded, but the Princess rolled her eyes. #whatever

“Good,” said the Policeman. “How much do you usually charge to fix wet phones?”

“Six hundred dollars,” said the Toad.

#ohshit

***

The Policeman held up the Toad’s phone. “Ready,” he said. The Princess puckered up and squeezed her eyes shut. She planted a tiny peck on the Toad’s cheek. #grossout

“There, all done,” said the Policeman.

The Toad eagerly took his phone. “Great!” his fingers already tapping, already sharing, already hashtagging.

Disaster! Princesses don’t kiss toads in selfies. Now he was putting it on insta for the whole world to see. Everyone would know she wasn’t a #trueprincess

Ding! Her phone buzzed. He’d tagged her! And worst of all, the comment: A kiss for helping @theprincess #greatday #newfriend

She wanted to #die. She wanted to—

Ding! Her phone buzzed again. A new follower? Ding. Another? Who were— ding ding ding ding

Notifications bloomed, likes and follows pouring over the princess. But how? She swiped back to the pic; her puckered face on the Toad’s greasy cheek. 356 likes. In one minute.

She checked his profile: @toadprinz_

He was not #betrue #naturalbeauty or #livelaughlove, and he definitely was not #cool. But he was #gamer #comics #cosplay and he had more likes and more followers than she’d ever seen. And now those followers were becoming her followers, those likes would be her #likes.

Ding, ding, ding, her phone buzzed again and again, follower, follower, follower. This was the greatest day of her (social media) life! And all because she had #kissed the @toadprinz_.


J. P. Roquard is a husband and father, based in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of the Buckingham Green: An Emperor Donald Tale and is blissfully smug about living outside the range of North Korea’s nuclear missiles.


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