Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while know that in October I have a series called Witchy Weekends, and this year I’m continuing writing a fairy tale. You can read parts 1-4 here. And here is the link for part 5. Part 6 follows now:
The Frog Wish (continued)
Eleanor’s stomach grumbled again, and she rubbed it gently with an anxious hand. “Why can’t I hear them?” she asked Reginald. “Why can’t I hear anything?”
“Ribbit. You can hear me, can’t you?”
The frog swung his eyes toward the market. “Maybe if you get closer to them, you’ll be able to hear them, too.”
Did he know this for a fact? “Can you hear them?” He croaked his response; it sounded both affirmative and exasperated. “How often have you come to this market? Has it ever seemed silent to you?”
“You ask a lot of questions.” He jumped off the stump and onto the path leading to the middle of the market. “Come on.”
She hesitated, worried the scene would recede away from her, that she’d be stuck on the path between the mirror forest and the silent stalls forever.
Reginald stopped before he sprang again and turned around to look at her. “You’re not very trusting, are you?” He seemed then to shake his head, an uncanny movement on a frog’s body. “I smell food.”
Eleanor didn’t, but her stomach quivered anyway. “Fine.” She took one small step onto the packed gray dirt. Nothing shifted away from her. She took another step. Still nothing weird––well, more weird––happened. A third.
“At this rate you will starve before you make it across the clearing. Ribbit.”
“Shut up.” But Eleanor stepped it up and reached the frog.
“I could kick you like a soccer ball across the clearing.”
“I might accidentally drop this heavy book on you, though. You might hop away before it crushed your little webbed footsies.”
“Only aquatic frogs have webbed feet. Pay attention.”
Eleanor waggled the book over Reginald’s green body. He didn’t flinch.
“Low blood sugar? Ribbit.”
“Yes.” She didn’t even care to think up something clever to say. The smells of the market were reaching her now, in the clearing, and she thought she could detect the far-off ambient noise it was making. It seemed proximity to the stalls activated their impact on her senses.
“You’d do better to actually read that book than threaten me with it.”
As Eleanor stepped into the middle of the rough ring of stalls, her perception awoke with sounds and smells, and the closer she came to each stall, the less silver it appeared. Color began leaching into the landscape in small doses, suffusing the other people as if from the inside. “Food first.”
She kept just enough distance from the market activity to not be part of it while still observing all that she could. The wares on display seemed to have been lifted out of a stereotype. Baskets of colorful spices, the occasional live chicken or goat, formless textiles draped here and there awaiting the purpose of nimble hands. But the inhabitants of this landscape––people and animals and some creatures who seemed perhaps to be both, conversing with each other as naturally as any shoppers and sellers at any farmer’s market in Eleanor’s world.
She was still looking for food––of the cooked and ready-to-eat variety––when a flurry of activity shifted her eyes to the right. There stood a booth she hadn’t seen before, this one piled high with fruits. Melons, grapes, berries in every color. Bananas by the bunches. A rainbow of apples cascading along one entire side. Figs, stones fruits. Spiky and fingerlike things––jackfruit and citron and dragonstar––she had only ever seen at specialty grocery stores but had never tried. And the squat, bulbous creatures hawking them looked both familiar and completely unreal. One of them, swaddled in layers of clothing of indeterminate shape and color, beckoned her over. His face reminded Eleanor of Reginald’s, writ large, its wide straight mouth and bulging eyes dwarfing its smooth double slit of a nose.
“Hungry?” it asked her.
“I am.” She thought her stomach might actually turn inside-out with fervor and took a few quick steps toward a bunch of fat, shiny grapes. She could devour them on the way to a booth with something roasted and meaty.
“Stop!” Reginald hopped in front of her before she could grab anything.
“What, why?” Her stomach roared in despair.
“Not up on your Rosetti?” He gestured to the book under her arm, then jerked his head toward the proprietor’s grimacing figure. “Goblins?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I take it back.” Reginald kept hopping toward her until she had to step back, out of the immediate fresh aroma of all the sweet fruits piled up before her, just begging to be eaten. “You are too trusting.”
The anger in her belly faded somewhat.
“You can read it later, I guess, but just stay away from the fruits here.” He gave the goblin behind him a stern glance; the goblin stuck its floppy tongue out at him. Reginald croaked fiercely and licked his own eyeball in response, then when the goblin turned around, Reginald did too.
Eleanor stared at him. “That was weird.”
“Thank me later. There’s some roasted partridge on a stick with currant sauce a little farther on.”
She was hungry enough that didn’t even sound strange to her. “Food first,” she repeated and followed him toward the back of the clearing, a little closer than before.
Please join us for my online book launch of Homecoming, the second book in the Animal Affinities series! It will be next Saturday afternoon, October 24th, at 4:00 central time, wherever you have an internet connection. Click here for the details.
Want to read more of my writing that’s already published? Click here for poetry, click here for urban fantasy, and click here for realistic flash fiction. You can also buy my books at Blue Willow Bookshop and my books and poetry art cards at Ella’s Apothecary, and I hope you will!