In a large ancient forest, there was a historic pond known for its prestigious family of toads, the Keeton’s. For over five hundred years, the Keeton family has governed the pond and all of it’s inhabitants.
The Keeton family were known for their intelligence, bravery, and athletic skill. They kept to a set of practical rules, which kept every toad safe from predators. There was one toad in particular, named Nicolas, a Keeton himself, that always seemed to break those rules. He has been close to danger more than once, and was now warned daily to not stray far from the pond.
Most days, Nicolas sat on top of a crooked rock at the far edge of the pond, tilting his head toward the sky so he could watch the birds. He loved the birds, always wanting to fly like them, look like them, even sing like them. In fact, Nicolas often thought about being a bird instead of toad.
One day, Nicolas felt so inspired by the bird’s song, he too wanted to chirp along. So courageously, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath in hopes to let out the prettiest chirp those birds ever heard. But Nicolas began to blush, and felt scared at the echo of his very loud, billowing, “CROOAAAK!”
Well, to no surprise, Nicolas let out the same sound he always had, because of course, he is a toad. His croak was so loud, it startled all the birds away. Nicolas felt alone, hung his head, and hopped away under a rock.
Just as he was feeling sad and embarrassed, he had a wonderful idea, “I will make myself look like a bird, fly like a bird, then I could sing like a bird.” He though that if he could fly and sing, the birds will not stare and laugh. So, Nicolas gathered leaves, feathers, twigs, and sturdy blades of grass. He started building a pair of wings that would tie together under his little toad belly.
It wasn’t long until Nicholas’s best friends, two birds that any toad would be lucky to know, Marty and Jilly, came looking for him. Flying down to make sure he was okay, Marty chirped, “Nicolas, we came to check on you, looks like you have quite a project going on, can we help?”
Nicolas answered, “Say, would you mind helping me get these wings tied on properly?”
Marty and Jilly looked at each other doubting that it would work, but Jilly quickly chirped, “Of course we will help!” They pulled the wings over Nicholas’s head and tied them together. Nicolas was so excited, he quickly hopped to the end of his rock, and with one big push, quickly jumped the biggest leap any toad could have mustered.
The wind swept over his face. His heart beat rapidly. His wings spread out like a swan’s. Just as he was about to sing, Nicolas tumbled down, down, down to a patch of muddy grass.
Marty and Jilly flew over at once. Nicolas looked up under a pile of broken foliage and whimpered a soft and defeated, “Rib- bit.” Marty pulled him out and put him back on his legs stating, “Well, that was only your first try, why not try again.”
Nicolas jumped up and immediately agreed, “Yes, yes, and this time we’ll make the wings strong. I can flap them fast like you. We’ll make a beak, and a tail. I’ll try harder than before.”
Marty and Jilly began to assemble the necessities and though worried, helped Nicolas. They found a broken acorn for a beak, and made him a beautiful feather tail. After Nicolas resembled a bird, Jilly shouted, “Now hurry, follow us,” and off they flew to the nearest branch of the tallest tree.
Nicolas tried to hurry, but was quite clumsy in his new bird attire. He jumped quickly up the tree after stumbling over a family of squirrels with very startled faces. Nicolas’s words draped behind him in delay, “Oh sorry, please, please excuse me.” The news spread in a matter of minutes back down to the pond where the Keeton’s were told about Nicolas new adventure.
In no time at all, Marty, Jilly, and Nicolas were half way up the tree, and bouncing at the end of a branch. Jilly called out, “Okay everyone, on the count of three spread your wings, flap hard, tuck in your legs, and force your tail up and down. Ready, One, Two, Three….”
Nicolas worked hard to keep afloat, flapping, tucking, wagging, and just as he was flying, he started to fall. The Keeton family had gathered below, bracing for the worst to happen. Just then, Marty and Jilly swooped down and each took a side of Nicolas’s wings and carried him upward.
Nicolas shouted, “Up, Up, Higher, Higher!” Nicolas could scarcely breathe in excitement. His eyes widening, watering, his gizzard fluttered with joy. He saw the tree tops. He saw the horizon he heard of so often. He could have never imagined anything better, and with his dreams coming true, he took another deep breath and sang, “Rib-bit, croak croak, rib-bit, croak croak.” Nicolas was singing beautifully!
Jilly and Marty put him down on top of a tree and shared the most magical song together. Sundown began to stretch over the tree tops, and Nicolas absorbed one last look from the towing heights, at the clouds, the sunset, and his friends. “Thank you,” Nicolas said to Marty and Jilly, “I’ll never forget this,” and they helped him back down.
As Jilly and Marty flew away, Nicolas sat at the end of his crooked rock for a few minutes. He looked over at the water, at all the small glowing lights from hundreds of toad houses, and the humming of home life with fragrant kitchens. He felt a contentment and appreciation swell for his own family and pond.
He turned to hop back to the pond and saw his mom, dad, brothers, and sisters patiently waiting to welcome him home. He was reminded of the Keeton family rules, but now they didn’t seem so bad. Now, he had something of his own. He knew as a toad, he could sing like a bird, or fly, or do anything he could possibly imagine or dream. He accepted he was a toad. He was happy to be a toad. He was proud to be a toad, and knew that nothing could hold him back.
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