It was “Dad’s Day” at preschool, and Milo’s father was sick with a cold. So I was recruited to fill in.
While I was meditating that morning, it occurred to me that at some point, they might go around the room, asking each of the Dads to say what they did. If that happened, I decided to say, “I tell stories”, and if asked if I’d tell one, I was determined to be ready.
(Which is not at all appropriate, since when you’re meditating, you are supposed to be meditating.)
The following is the story I had tentatively prepared:
Once, there was a frog. You know what a frog is, right?
And what color is a frog? Frogs are blue, right?
Oh, you’re right. Frogs are yellow.
Really? What color are frogs?
Oh yeah, now I remember. And what sound does a frog make?
A VOLUNTEER AUDIENCE MEMBER: “Ribit.”
The other kids agree, throwing in “Ribits” of their own.
That’s right. A frog goes “Ribit.” But not this frog. Because this frog was special. Instead of going “Ribit”, this frog went…
AN INCREDULOUS AUDIENCE MEMBER: “Boowiggee?”
He went “Boowiggee.” And because of that special sound, the other frogs – the frogs who could only go “Ribit” – made him…
“King of the Frogs.”
And he remained “King of the Frogs” for a very long time.
The other frogs finally got tired of him because, when you think about it, that frog was only special in one way – he could go “Boowiggee.” And as unusual as that was for a frog, after a while, it just stopped being interesting.
So the frogs took a vote, and they decided to make another frog “King of the Frogs.” There was nothing special about that frog. But at least he didn’t go “Boowiggee.”
Now, the frog who used to be “King of the Frogs” but wasn’t anymore had nothing to do. Except wander around, mumbling sadly to himself, “I used to be ‘King of the Frogs’.” Which made the other frogs stay away from him, because who wants to hang out with a really sad frog?
A PARTICULARLY ATTENTIVE AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don’t.
Me neither. And that’s how things remained.
One day, a bunch of frogs came up to the old “King of the Frogs” and they said to him, “Old ‘King of the Frogs’: We need your help. The new ‘King of the Frogs’ has a cold, and we need you to fill in.” I would have said “He has a frog in his throat”, but that would have gone right over your heads. As will this.
The old “King of the Frogs” played it very cool – (COOLLY) “Okay, I guess so.”
But inside, he was really excited by this unexpected opportunity. You could tell, because he cleaned himself up real good, he combed his hair for the first time since they took away his job, and he put on his very best “King of the Frogs” outfit. You know the outfit you wear to birthday parties? That one.
I am telling you, that frog looked good.
That day, he handled all his chores perfectly. Which is no surprise since once he was the full-time “King of the Frogs.”
The next day, when the new king was better, it was over. A little sad, I suppose. But at least he had been “King of the Frogs” for one last time.
And as he slowly hopped away, the old frog turned back to the crowd, he nodded goodbye, and he went…
As it turned out, they did not go around the room asking the Dads to say what they did. Instead, we used markers to decorate paper ties – larger ones for the Dads (or as Milo called me the “Daddy-Grandpa”) and smaller ones for the kids – which had rubber bands attached to them so we could wear them after we were finished.
We were also divided into “Dads” and “Kids” and the opposing teams threw wadded-up balls of newspaper at each other. (When I snatched one he had thrown at me out of the air, Milo shouted to anyone who was interested – which turned out to be nobody – “He caught it!”)
Though I did not get to tell it, it was still fun coming up with that story.
And it was an inexpressible blast being “King for a Day.”