The frog stretched out on his sun- dappled rock as if he were settling into a chaise lounge. She could tell from his body language - so much more human than frog - there would be no turning him down. "I don't know anything about you," he said. "You may begin your story."
It was completely absurd. Absurd that Sunday was in the middle of the Wood talking to a frog. Absurd that he wanted to learn about her. Absurd that he would care. It was so absurd that she opened her journal and started reading from the top of the page.
"'My name is Sunday Woodcutter -'"
"Grumble," croaked the frog.
"If you're going to grumble through the whole thing, why did you ask me to read it in the first place?"
"You said your name was Sunday Woodcutter," said the frog. "My name is Grumble."
"Oh." Her face felt hot. Sunday wondered briefly if frogs could tell that a human was blushing or if they were one of the many colorblind denizens of the forest. She bowed her head slightly. "It's very nice to meet you, Grumble."
"At your service," said Grumble. "Please, carry on with your story."
It was awkward, as Sunday had never read her musings aloud to anyone. She cleared her throat several times. More than once she had to stop after a sentence she had quickly stumbled through and start again more slowly. Her voice seemed overloud and the words felt foreign and sometimes wrong; she resisted the urge to scratch them out or change them as she went along. She was worried that this frog-who-used-to-be-a-man would hear her words and think she was silly.
He would want nothing more to do with her. He would thank her for her time, and she would never see him again. Had her young life come to this? Was she so desperate for intelligent conversation that she was willing to bare her soul to a complete stranger?
Sunday realized, as she continued to read, that it didn't matter. She would have Grumble know her for who she was. For as long as she had sat under the tree writing, she thought the reading of it would have taken longer, but Sunday came to the end in no time at all. "I had meant to go on about my sisters," she apologized, "but..."
The frog was strangely silent. He stared off into the Wood.
Sunday turned her face to the sun. She was afraid of his next words. If he didn't like the writing, then he didn't like her, and everything she had done in her whole life would be for nothing. Which was silly, but she was silly, and absurd, and sometimes ungrateful, but she promised the gods that she would not be ungrateful now, no matter what the frog said. If he said anything at all. And then, finally:
"I remember a snowy winter's night. It was so cold outside that your fingertips burned if you put them on the windowpane. I tried it only once." He let out a long croak. "I remember a warm, crackling "re on a hearth so large I could have stood up in it twice. There was a puppy there, smothering me with love, as puppies are wont to do. I was his whole world. He needed me and I felt like... like I had a purpose. I remember being happy then. Maybe the happiest I've been in my whole life." The frog closed his eyes and bowed his head. "I don't remember much of my life before. But now, just now, I remember that. Thank you."
Sunday clasped her shaking fingers together and swallowed the lump in her throat. He was definitely a man in a frog's body, and he was sad. She couldn't think what in her words had moved him so, but that wasn't the point. She had touched him. Not just him as a frog but the man he used to be. A more gracious reply Sunday could never have imagined. "I am honored," she said, for she was.
"And then I interrupted you." Grumble snapped out of his dreamlike tone into a more playful one. "Forgive me. As you can imagine, I don't get many visitors. You honor me by indulging me with your words, kind lady. Do you write often?"
Excerpted from Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. Copyright © 2012 by Alethea Kontis. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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