Painting Using Negative Shapes
News for November
More than Just a Kissby Mary Katherine Starnes
He watched the woman rush across the busy street between a couple of slowing cars and make her way to the park. He could see from the smile on her face that the shopping bag from the bookstore was a welcome weight on her arm. He wished she wouldn't walk so fast though. He almost got hit by a car trying to keep track of where she was going.
She walked toward some of the trees near the center of the park as she adjusted the scarf around her shoulders to block the wind from getting to her neck. He saw the look on her face that said she wasn't surprised when she found that all the benches were full of older men reading the newspapers, lovers watching the geese swimming around in the pond, and women gossiping with one another. It
was a beautiful afternoon despite the biting chill in the air.
She found a tree that must have looked cozy and sat down among the roots, nestling herself further down into her jacket. She pulled one of the books out of her bag and admired the gilded cover for a moment, then smiled to herself as she opened up the first page and took in the beautiful illustrations next to the story titles. It wasn't long before she was immersed within the pages, oblivious to the wind, the chatter of people, and the sounds of the traffic as it whizzed by. This annoyed the frog beside her immensely. How was he supposed to get her attention now? He had hopped and croaked, but nothing brought her out of whatever story she was seeing in her mind's eye. Maybe if he tried talking. He hadn't experimented with any voice he might have yet.
"Miss," he tried, but it came out as a funny croak that started with a humming sound. It was a start, at least. He tried again and the woman looked up, but that was no good for him. He needed her to look down. He hopped as high as he could and croaked again, but she went back to her reading. If he could have sighed he would have. In desperation he jumped up onto the page she was reading and tried again. "Miss?"
He expected she would scream or jump up. He wouldn't have blamed a pretty girl like her for trying to squash an ugly frog like him in the pages of her book. What he did not expect is for her to calmly talk.
"Hi there, Mr. Frog. I guess you are supposed to be a prince aren't you? I suppose you want a kiss? Well, it isn't going to happen Mr. Frog. You simply don't look kissable," she smirked. "Hop along. Go on...shoo!" She flicked her wrist over his head a few times. He stayed where he was.
"Hi to you," he said slowly, trying to figure out how to work the words through his wide mouth and past his long tongue. He still couldn't believe she wasn't trying to squish him. He would try to squish him if he was in her position. Maybe she was an even better candidate than he thought or maybe he wasn't actually talking in a human-ish voice like he thought. She just stared at him unblinking for a long time. He figured he would have to be the one to break the silence with the way things were going.
"I needs your kiss, me thinks," he said, looking up at her.
"Ugh, what did you say?" she said dumbly.
"Pardon me, where is my manners? Will you gives me kiss please?" Her mouth was moving, but there wasn't anything coming out, so he repeated himself.
"Do what?" she asked. For a moment, he wondered if her eyes would fall out of her head because she had them so wide. He tried to clear his throat, but all he ended up doing was bubbling out his neck. At least he was so green he didn't have to worry about her seeing him blush for it, he thought.
He continued. "The crazy cat lady who live below apartment poof me into frog when I told her apartment smelled like litter box. Then she try to give me as munchies to her mangy kitty kitties. I thinks I needs kiss to break spell, so I wait outside the book place to find lady who buys the fairy tales books and you comes. So I asks you, but it hard to speaks because my brain seem ten size too small than usual. Please, miss miss, say you understand." He felt a little tinge of hope deep in his frog chest when she closed her mouth and cocked an eyebrow.
"If you think I am going to kiss you, you have another thing coming. You are all slimy and..."
"I is not slimy!" he argued, cutting her off.
"Ok, so you aren't slimy, but maybe you have been swimming in the green pond over there."
"No. My brain not so goods, but I don't remember pond."
"So a crazy cat lady lived in the apartment below you, huh?" she asked, eyeing him as though turning into a frog might be contagious. It might be for all he knew, but saying that wouldn't get him the kiss he needed, so he just nodded in response. "And she told you a kiss would break this spell?" He nodded again and felt guilty over the lie. The kiss always worked in the stories and stories are always based in a little truth, right? He wished he could sigh when she started laughing.
"Jeez this book is giving me kooky dreams. I shouldn't be sleeping in the park though. I have wait up. I've probably been mugged already." She was speaking more to herself than him as she pinched her leg through her jeans. He watched with fading patience as her brows furrowed and she pinched herself again. She leaned back against the tree and looked at him where he sat on the opening page of "The Frog Prince", irony or ironies.
"Miss, please. Just one kiss and I shall be man and you shall go back to book and never kiss frog again," he coaxed. She went a little pale.
"I'm not dreaming," she said. It was not a question, but he shook his small and warty green head as if to answer her. "Well, I guess the logical thing would be for me to oblige you, but none of this is logical, Mr. Frog. I think I should go home and throw out that stale coffee I've been trying to use up and lay off the caffeine for a while."
"Woman!" He croaked as loud as he could as he hopped up and down on her book.
"OK, OK," she said, holding up her hands. "Quit before people stare. I'll kiss you," she conceded. She picked him up, cupping him in her hands. She lifted him up to her face and he leaned forward expectantly, but stumbled at the loss of balance when she faltered. He looked up at her, trying to look more like a cute frog and less like a real frog. Women liked cute things, he reasoned. "You haven't been eating any flies have you?" she asked. He shook his head, trying hard not to glare with what he knew would be amphibian eyes that were already creepy enough. "No? No worms, crickets, anything like that?" he didn't move. "Well, all the same." She sighed and set him back on the book before reaching into her purse for a sanitizing wipe. It took everything he had not to hop off and find someone else. He about had his fill of her, but he sat still while she soaked him with the lemon scented square of tissue. When she finally kissed him, it was quick and forced. He waited expectantly but nothing happened. He didn't understand it.
"Now what, Mr. Frog?" she asked.
"We go see crazy lady. I needs your helps. Please, Miss," he begged her.
"Alright, alright, no frog tears, please," she chuckled. "I'm out of my mind," she added to herself. She stood and gathered her things, shoving him in her bag beside her phone and lipstick. She responded to his complaints with, "You think I am going to walk around New York with a frog in my hand like some loon?"
She pretended to be looking for something in her purse whenever she asked him if they were going tthe right way. At one point, he had trouble remembering the apartment number, but when they started climbing the steps, his memories came rushing back. His fear did as well. Suddenly, all he could focus on was the memory of twelve thousand cats trying to pounce on him as he hopped his way through the hag's apartment and out the window. It had been suicide or mutilation, so he chose suicide. Luckily, there had been a fire escape for him to land on, and the cats were all too well-fed to fit through the window. Still, he had a small green body now and the memory was causing him so much panic, he thought his tiny heart might explode. He was just about to croak his change of mind to the woman from the pocket of her handbag, but before he could, she was knocking on the door to the crazy lady's apartment. He idly wondered if he felt feint because he was a human in a frog's body or if a frog was capable of feeling like he on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He decided he didn't care when the woman starting talking to the hag. Really, he thought, she should be more polite. The hag was capable of turning people into green things with webbed feet. Respect was due where it was due.
"Yes, hello. You turned my friend into a frog. I would like him back as a human right now," his savior said, sauce in her voice and a hand on her hip. She was either very brave or perhaps she still thought she was somehow dreaming. He started shaking when he heard a tom cat yowling in the background.
"No change backs," the old woman grunted. He felt the little threads of hope that had started to twirl inside him begin to fade. He also started to fear his new-found friend would wind up as a frog too. At least he would have company, he thought glumly. The older woman tried to slam the door, but found a foot blocking it.
"Listen, lady. I have this friend from the other side of town who is going to shake up a little potion if we both don't come back fully human within the hour. What would happen if all your little kitties you have stuffed in here turn against you when you sprout whiskers and a cute little mouse tail?" she taunted, the corner of her mouth deepening into a smirk. He watched through the open zipper as the hag tried to decide whether or not she was bluffing. If he was unsure if he was actually shaking earlier, he was sure of it now that he was in the palm of his friend's hand and eye to eye with the old woman. Her warts and long, crooked nose were a little too close for comfort. He could smell the incense in her matted grey hair. He saw the outlines of cats crowding towards the door in the dark apartment.
He almost jumped out of his skin when the woman sniffed in disdain and turned away, shutting the door behind her. To his surprise, he was jumping out of his skin as well as the gentle hand that held him. He could have screamed for joy, but found he was feeling a little dizzy as he began to spin round and round in midair. When he finally slowed to a stop, he dropped to the floor and found himself on his feet - his human feet. He could have kissed the soles of his old sneakers. He looked up at the woman who had saved him and held out a hand.
"The name is Brian Connelly. Nice to meet you," he said as he held out his hand. He watched her look at his hand and then back up to his face.
"I thought you were supposed to be a prince," she said, putting her hand back on her hip.
"Are you kidding me? After all we have been through, that is what you have to say?"
"Where is the white horse you were supposed to whisk me away on? It says in the book that we ride off into the sunset. How are we meant to do that with no horse?"
"Will coffee substitute?"
"It might," she smiled, finally reaching for his hand and shaking it. "I'm Maggie Johnson."
"You look a lot shorter now," he said, then quickly added "I'm just teasing," Her glare turned to a smile. "Hey, do you think we can get that coffee in to-go cups? I want to start searching for a new apartment. Remind me to make sure to get one on the bottom floor this time. It was scary hopping down the fire escape while I was still trying to get used to those long legs and webbed feet," he laughed.
"I think we can manage that," she smiled up at him. He held out his hand to her and she took it as he led the way down the steps and out into the chilly afternoon air.
"I have to say that the first kiss was pretty good, but I think we can do better now that I have shed my scales."
"Frogs don't have scales, Brian," she laughed to cover the slight blush he could see creeping up into her cheeks.
"Oh, really? You are going to argue with me about what frogs do and do not have?"
"Hey, why do you think she has never been evicted? All those cats and the smell of that incense is kind of sickening."
"You know, I suddenly feel really bad about those mouse traps I set out in my kitchen. That white mouse I saw in my cabinet did look awfully like my landlord around the ears."
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