In a large forest, there was a ancient pond home to hundreds of toads. For over five hundred years, the Keaton family governed the pond.
The Keaton family were known for their intelligence, bravery, and athletic skills. They followed practical rules, which kept toads safe from predators.
There was one toad named Nicolas, a Keaton himself, that always broke those rules. He was close to danger more than once, and was now reminded daily, to not stray far from the pond.
Most days, Nicolas sat on top of a crooked rock at the furthest edge of the pond. He tilts his head toward the sky and watches 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 a toad.
One day, Nicolas felt so inspired by the bird’s song, he tried to chirp along. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and hoped to chirp the prettiest chirp those birds would ever hear, but Nicolas, quickly realized the echo of his own, very loud ￼demonstrative, “CROOAAAK!”
When Nicolas looked around, he noticed that he frightened all the other birds away. Nicolas felt alone, hung his head, and hopped away under a rock.
Just as he was feeling sad and embarrassed, he wanted to try again. This time though, he would do better. He’s make himself look like a bird. He’s fly like a bird.
Nicolas gathered leaves, feathers, twigs, and sturdy blades of grass. He started building a pair of wings and tried tying them under his belly.
It wasn’t long until two birds, Marty and Jilly, Nicholas’s best friends, 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 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, jumped the biggest leap any toad could have mustered.
The wind blew over his face. His heart was in the air. His legs 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 wings and whimpered a soft and defeated, “Rib- bit.” Marty pulled him out and put him back on his legs stating, “Well, why not try again.”
Nicolas jumped up and immediately agreed, “Yes, yes, and this time we’ll make the wings stronger. 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. 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 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 Keaton family had gathered below, bracing for the worse. 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!
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 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 Keaton 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.