“Afternoon T. What are you doing out in this weather? It’s raining cats and dogs out there! Will it be your usual?”
Theophania had just reached the coffee shop, The Pink Passion Palace, and had managed to bag a pink table in her favourite spot. Right in the corner, next to the window, so that she could people watch and, more importantly, hide if Marjorie was to pop in. Marjorie only worked in the Boring Bank around the corner and would sometimes drop by for a coffee. Theophania did not want to see her daughter-in-law; certainly not today of all days. She did not want to have to explain why she was being accompanied to the coffee shop by a red-eyed neon green frog. Marjorie was bound to think she’d gone batty.
“Oooh, yes please, Barney. A fudge swirl ice cream shake – extra chocolate chunks – and a cup of earl grey please.”
“One momento!” Barney wiggled off to the counter. He was rather a feminine sort of chap and took great pride in his frilly pink apron and matching cap.
Theophania liked him. He made her giggle and also he shared her dislike for Marjorie. Marjorie was incredibly rude to Barney. Not once had she said “please” or “thank you” in all the time she had been coming to The Pink Passion Palace. Just as Marjorie looked down on Theophania for being vertically challenged, she would look down on Barney for working in a coffee shop and also for his love of all things pink. Theophania remembered once how she had reluctantly agreed to meet Marjorie for a coffee in The Pink Passion Palace to discuss a surprise birthday present Marjorie had wanted to organise for Tom. She had ordered a supa dupa light wheatgrass juice.
“Must watch the calories”, Marjorie had said as she had placed her order.
“Must pile on the calories”, Theophania had thought glancing at Marjorie’s ultra thin spindly frame. She looked like an unravelled wire coat hanger - she was that gangly.
Barney prepared the supa dupa light wheatgrass juice and brought it over to their table. “About time”, Marjorie had said abruptly. “What have you been doing in that kitchen? Growing the wheatgrass from seed? Now give it here”, Marjorie had sneered and snatched the pink cup of wheatgrass out of Barney’s hands. As luck would have it, the sludgy green concoction had splashed all over her face, hair and white linen dress. Barney and Theophania erupted into fits of laughter. Marjorie, unsurprisingly, had not been amused.
Theophania sat down at her chosen spot and carefully removed Fred from her top pocket. He sat patiently on the palm of her hand. “Well, here we are Fred. My favourite spot in Bradfoot. Do you fancy anything to eat or drink?”
“Boing! Boing!”, Fred jumped out of the palm of her hand and on to the hot pink tabletop. He lent back against the heart shaped napkin dispenser and took a good look around.
“Croak. Hmmmmm. Amigo, I clash with this deco. Red eyes and neon green skin just don’t go with all this pink. This place does not complement my handsome good looks. Croak.”
Theophania took a look around The Pink Passion Palace. The tabletops were shaped like hot pink lips and were decorated with enormous baby pink vases with magenta tulips spilling out over the top. The walls had lashings of diagonal pink and white strips across them and in the corner sat some fluffy faux fur pink beanbags scattered across a rosy pink rug.
“I guess”, sighed Theophania who was beginning to think that all this pink could actually give her a bit of a headache. “But wait until you taste the milkshake! It’s ace!”
At that moment, Barney placed a pot of tea and a cup and saucer onto the table. He then wiggled back to the counter before bringing across an enormous stainless steel vat of ice cream shake smothered with whirly cream, fudge swirls and extra chocolate chunks. It was far too heavy to carry on the same tray as the pot of earl grey tea.
“Yummy, yummy”, exclaimed Theophania. “Thanks, Barney”.
“Pleasure my dear. Like the frog by the way”, he winked at Theophania as he wiggled back to serve some more customers.
“Croak. “Like the frog”. Pah! Does he know that I’m not just any frog? Croak. I’m a red-eyed tree frog from Mexico”, Fred looked like he was about to start sulking.
“Here have some of this”, Theophania said as she slurped the chocolate delight through a long bendy straw. And yes, you’ve guessed it, it was a pink long bendy straw!
“Croak. Gracias, but I’d rather not. Got any grasshoppers or crickets? Green or pink, I’m not fussy! Croak.”
Theophania shook her head.
“Ok, Fred. I’m intrigued. What’s a Mexican frog like you doing in a cold lake in Bradfoot.” She paused. “Sorry, I mean what’s an extremely attractive frog like you doing in such dismal surroundings”. Theophania thought that flattery was probably the best way to ensure that she got a proper explanation out of Fred.
“Croak. Well, gracias amigo. Croak. It’s a long sad story. To do with romance, danger and heartbreak I’m afraid. Croak.”
“Oh, blimey”, sighed Theophania. “Is it really that bad?”
“Croak. Well, I was once a young handsome frog, going about my normal day-to-day business in the rainforests in Mexico….”
“There are rainforests in Mexico?”, interrupted Theophania.
“Croak. Of course! Croak. Few people realise that Mexico is actually home to the northernmost extent of rainforests that once extended down to the Amazon Basin. Croak. Mind you, those rainforests are being chopped down all the time - fast and furious. I’ve had a few close escapes with a chainsaw in my time, Iet me tell you. Croak”, Fred paused and fluffed his chest out as if to demonstrate how brave he had been when faced with a 50cc chainsaw nearly 50 times his size.
“Croak. Anyway, the rainforests in Mexico are still home to lots of species. There’s the jaguar, which is the third largest cat in the world (after tigers and lions). Very sly though – never trust a jaguar. There’s the spider monkey – pretty lazy to be honest; spend all their time stuffing their faces with fruit and nuts. Then there’s the scarlet macaw - a red and yellow bird, looks a bit like a parrot, with white patches on its face and green feathers on its wings. Scarlet macaws tend to be very arrogant in my experience. Not my cup of tea at all and also a bit stupid – they eat clay from the riverbank – what’s that about? Since when has clay been tasty? Croak.”
“Since when has a grasshopper been tasty?” Theophania whispered under her breath and chuckled.
“Croak. Do you want me to continue or are you just going to laugh at my woes? Croak”, he asked looking indignantly at Theophania.
“Carry on. Please, carry on.” She quickly answered.
“Croak. Gracias. A little hush por favor. Croak. Well, one day I was dining out on some delicious moths and beetles with a lovely señora called Esmeralda. She was the most beautiful red-eyed tree frog I had ever seen. Her skin was so moist – an exquisite emerald green. Her smile was dazzling and her conversation captivating. T, I was in love – soooooooo, in love! Croak.”
Fred gazed lovingly into the distant with a fabulous grin spread across his green face.
He suddenly shook his head and his adoring gaze melted into a very serious frown.
“We were enjoying each other’s company down by the water when all of sudden I saw a camera lens glinting in the sunlight. It was about two metres from where we sat. I thought, “this is it! At last, this is my big moment!”. T, I was born to be a star. I’d heard a rumour that Sir David Attenborough was filming his latest natural history documentary in Mexico and assumed that the lens that I could see in the distance belonged to one of his film crew. I shoved Esmeralda to one side – she was very shy you know, wouldn’t have coped well with all the glitz and glamour that fame has to offer – and started posing for the camera. I stood to the left and flashed my sky blue strips. I stood to the right and flashed my vibrant orange toes. I was looking good. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was on a hot date with a hot frog and I was now about to fulfil my lifetime’s ambition and become a TV star. At that moment, my life couldn’t have been any better. Croak.”
“Wow.” Gasped Theophania. “That sounds amazing! I love Sir David Attenborough. Ooooh, did you see the programme he did with the blue whales? They’re huge those creatures – over 30 metres metres long and weigh as much as 28 school buses!”
Fred did not appear to be listening. Theophania paused and waited for him to resume his story.
“Well, I was wrong. It was not Sir David Attenborough and it was not a film crew. I was not going to make my big break and become a movie star or a TV star for that matter. After striking my best poses, the lens stopped glinting in the sun. It had disappeared. I looked around to see if the film crew had changed position to get a different angle, but saw nothing. I looked around to see if I could see Esmeralda, but nothing. There was no one there. It was deadly silent. Even the macaws had stopped squawking in the background. Croak.”
Fred raised an orange toe to his left eye and appeared to wipe away a tear. He then saw Theophania staring at him. He quickly looked down to the hot pink tabletop, a little embarrassed.
“Croak. It’s this pink deco – very bright – straining my eyes you know… Croak”. Theophania nodded and waited patiently for Fred to continue.
“Croak. Then, out of nowhere, there was this huge bang. I was soo scared T. I didn’t know if a tree was going to fall down or whether it was a gun. I was on my own. Esmeralda had disappeared. It was horrible. I jumped soo high with shock. At least one metre. I expected to land back on to the lush green leaf that I had been standing on but to my complete surprise, I landed in a net. There had been no net previously in my romantic dinner spot, I’m sure of it. I couldn’t understand where it had come from. I started to panic. My toes were slipping out of the small holes in the net, but my body just wouldn’t squeeze through. I was trapped. I wriggled around. I croaked as loud as I could, but nothing was helping. And, then through the small holes in the net, I saw Esmeralda hiding underneath a fallen leaf. She stood deathly still, frozen rigid with fear. I watched helplessly as tears trickled in slow motion from her delightful red eyes. “Run Esmeralda”, I screamed. “Run Esmeralda. Save yourself”, I screamed again. And off she ran. “I will always love you”, I screamed after her. And that was it. The last time I ever saw my beautiful Esmeralda. I had saved her life and I was left to see if there was going to be anything left of mine. Croak.”
“Oh my goodness me”, Theophania gasped. “That is just horrendous. But what happened to you? Why were you in the net? Who had captured you? And why? It must have been terrifying, you poor thing.” Theophania felt sick at the thought of poor Fred being trapped and all alone.
“Croak. Well, I’d been captured. For a zoo or the pet trade, I think. Theophania, I do keep trying to tell you - I’m a highly desirable frog. People pay good money for handsome frogs like me. I was whisked out of the rainforest and after hours and hours in the darkness in a dingy cardboard box, I found myself halfway across the world in a grotty pet shop in Bradfoot. I was of course the finest creature being sold in the shop and unsurprisingly was sold very quickly. It’s a shame that I could not have selected my new owner though. I certainly would not have chosen the obnoxious little girl called Grisella who bought me. Grimy Grisella, I like to call her. She was grotty. Very poor hygiene – smelt of cowpat from what I can recall. She used to try and feed me dried dog food. I mean how ridiculous – that’s not going to give me my daily intake of Calcium and Vitamin D3. Anyway, on the one occasion that she actually let me out of my tank to have a bit of a hop around, I took my chance and jumped for it. And that’s it really. I’ve been living in that grotty lake in Bradfoot, freezing my orange toes off, ever since. I’ve tried to make my way back to Mexico to find my Esmeralda, but it’s just impossible. No one seems to know where Mexico is, let alone give me directions of how to get there. Croak.”
“Oh Fred. That’s terrible, just awful. We have to sort this out. Just wait here a minute whilst I go and pay the bill.” Theophania stood up from the table and went to the counter to settle the bill with Barney.
She was very excited – she knew exactly what to do to help Fred and solve his problems. She smiled happily to herself as Barney handed back her change. She then turned around to return to her table and retrieve Fred.
She stopped dead in her tracks.
“Oh no”, she said out loud. Someone was sat at her table.
It was a tall, spindly lady. She had long boney fingers and a crooked smile.
“Oh no”, gasped Theophania again.
It was Marjorie.
“Why on earth is she here?” whispered Theophania to herself. “But more importantly…where on earth is Fred?!”