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'Kiss Me: a Geriatric Fairy-tale'

Editor's Note: "Kiss Me: a Geriatric Fairtale" by Teresa Wild won first place in the East Grand Forks Campbell Library Short Story Contest. The morning was peaceful with water tapping gently at the shore's pale and fine sand. Tall cattails waved ...

Editor's Note: "Kiss Me: a Geriatric Fairtale" by Teresa Wild won first place in the East Grand Forks Campbell Library Short Story Contest.

The morning was peaceful with water tapping gently at the shore's pale and fine sand. Tall cattails waved in a little breeze while masses of green algae floated on the ponds surface.

It appeared to be a day much like any other day. Old witch Zora, retired now from witch-ing, her ample hips swaying back and forth while she tramped bare footed down the path toward the pond, huffed to herself, "Fine mornin', it's a fine morning. Hope I caught enough to trade for cheese and wine to go with me bread tonight."

Zora stepped faster, fisting the wool layers of her skirt high. Still, some of the heavy mate-rial dragged in the dew and mud anyway. The old witch didn't care a beetle's dung about messy things like that, though.

Once at the water's edge Zora held the crawfish net up in her large knobby hands. The cool sand felt good as her big toes dug done for better purchase.

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The net was overflowing with moving crawfish.

Zora was missing most of her teeth, and because of it, her cheeks caved in as she smiled in anticipation. Smacking her lips, she uttered, "Bread, cheese and wine tonight."

Bending over, the former witch opened the net, began throwing pinching groups of craw-fish into a large wicker basket she kept tucked away on the shore for transporting her catches.

Halfway through emptying the net, Zora heard a loud croak, almost a belch. Out of habit, she covered her mouth. When she realized it wasn't herself who'd made the rude noise, she unbent, standing and peering around for the source.

"Down here," pointed the croaky voice.

Zora looked down, put balled hands on her hips. A frog, green like new buds on trees, and large like a lump of bread dough, was hunched on one side of the crawfish net. It had the strangest eyes Zora had ever seen on a frog, deep blue as the sky. Zora harrumphed. "Who are you? Wha', are you?

"I'm your handsome prince. Kiss me, and you'll see", answered the frog between croaks.

"What?" cried Zora, her toothless mouth twisting in disbelief.

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"Kiss me." The frog repeated. "I'll transform into a handsome prince, marry me and you'll be rich."

The frog jumped out of the net, landing and settling next to one of Zora's big bare feet. "Come on. Have you ever met a talking frog before? You've got to realize I'm enchanted. What can it hurt to try?" Belch, croak. "The worst that can happen if you kiss me is I'll still be a frog." He paused, contemplating, before quickly adding as if this made kissing his slimy mouth okay, "And you can wipe your mouth afterwards."

Zora glared sidewards with eyes squinted in suspicion at the frog, muttering, "Huh, if I did kiss you and you turned into a rich prince, what says I want to marry you? Maybe I just want you to make me rich. Besides, if you're young, I don't want to marry no kid." Zora's expres-sion turned thoughtful. "But I could use riches."

The frog cut in, "Yes, yes, just kiss me, transform me. I'll agree to give you all the money you want. Just do it, quick, I've been a frog far too long."

Grudgingly, and against her better judgment, Zora scooped the frog up. With the expres-sion of disgust, she leaned in to kiss him, whispering, "Here goes."

The kiss left an aftertaste of what Zora imagined a cat's litter box tasted like. Frog spit was smeared over her mouth. Coughing, hawking and swiping at her lips Zora flung the frog away and it hit the large trunk of a tree with a wet splat sound.

Waddling over to the pond, Zora cursed, cupped some water over her mouth, spitting the awful taste of the frog away.

Whirling round when she heard a moan from the direction where she'd tossed the frog while frog split droplets mixed with green algae slid down her jutting chin, Zora stared in disbelief at what had become of the frog.

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The green lump transformed into an old man, older than even herself. He was fully clothed and wiry limbed, bent over like a wind blasted tree. Long tufts of white hair floated around his head. He turned toward Zora. The bluest eyes she'd seen met hers, the same eyes as the frogs.

As if the tip of an iceberg of a magic spell had been cast upon her, Zora felt something she couldn't identify tug ever so slightly at her soul for the first time in her long life.

The old man groaned while stretching to stand straighter. An expression of wonder passed over his face when he told her, I hadn't realized it had been so long since the enchantment had been first cast upon me."

Zora took a few steps toward him, "What's your name, old man?"

"You can cal me Glen, short for Glendorf," answered the former frog with a half grin, his face full of gratitude as he focused on Zora. "You just saved me."

"My name's Zora" she offered while holding out her hand for Glen to shake.

Glen's eyes twinkled, he reached to take her hand, a look on his face that seemed to say this the most marvelous act he had ever done.

After their hands parted, Glen asked, "I suppose you want riches now?"

Zora nodded, cocking her head to the side, contemplating him. There was something dis-tinguished and vulnerable about him that made her want to make sure he would be all right. She felt drawn to him in a way she could not completely pinpoint.

Pursing her lips thoughtfully she inquired, "You got any people, old man?"

Glen's eyes widened briefly, then he shrugged, "After all this time, probably not. I didn't realize it had been so long. Long, long ago, I'm sure my younger brother was crowned king. If I were to claim the throne now, I know there would be war." He shook his head, stared down at the grass. "No. I'm old. I want to send the rest of my days in peace."

When his gaze moved back to Zora, Glen started fiddling with his hands. "I can still give you something." There were rings with large precious stones in the settings. He struggled to twist one of the rings off. When it was freed he handed it over to Zora.

Zora took it, staring with awe at the large sparkling stone embedded in the ring.

Glen pointed at it. "That diamond ought to give you enough to live very comfortably for the rest of your days."

Nodding, Zora pocketed the ring. "Thank you. But what will you do now that your're human again?"

Glen brushed strands of white hair off his forehead, "Oh, I don't know." He gazed around. "Do you know of any old places I could buy around here? I got used to the swamp. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else anymore"

Suddenly a fly buzzed in front of Glen's nose. His tongue, thin, too long and forked like a snake's flickered out. Quick as a thought, the tongue snapped the fly up and gulped it down. Croaking loud, like a burp, he admitted after chuckling contritely, "I guess I still have a somewhat of the frog in me."

Zora snorted, "No. I don't think you probably would like to live anywhere else."

Digging one of her big toes into the sand, Zora asked in a shy, hesitant voice, "Well you could stay with me in my cottage until you find a place of your own."

When he turned to face her again, his eyes were filled with tears. Zora was shocked to real-ize he hadn't been laughing but weeping.

Glen's tears quickly turned to laughter when he saw the horrified look on the old woman's face. When Glen accidentally croaked as he laughed, it caused him to guffaw even harder. Zora couldn't help it, she began gut-belly chuckling right along with him.

After a while, Glen swiped at laughter-tears, stating , "Zora, I will stay with you. I have no one, at least no one that would know me anymore." His expression sobered. "I've been so lonely for so long. I'm relieved you'll have me, even if it might only be just a little while." He hesitantly moved closer toward the old witch, his slightly rheumy, but still strikingly blue eyes peering into her ancient, wise brown ones. Taking her weathered hands in his equally aged hands, he confessed, "I would love to stay with you Zora."

Feeling breathless, lighthearted, Zora slowly and shyly pulled her hands out of his, and then swiped at a tear herself. She had lived alone next to the swamp a very long time too.

Abruptly coming back to herself, Zora placed her hands on her big hips, half-smiling, half-frowning at Glen, then harrumphed, "Well, come on then, old man. Let's take you home. We'll have boiled crawfish, good wine and cheese to go with me bread tonight." Picking up the handle on the basket with the squirming crawfish inside, Zora gently took Glen's arm with her other arm and began to guide him on the path toward home.

Abruptly Glen squatted down and hopped once. When he stood again, his face was vivid red with embarrassment, and he looked at Zora as if he was afraid she would disapprove.

Zora patted his arm reassuringly, "Don't worry about it Glen, I can barely light a candle with my magic anymore, so I gots my things too, old man." Zora snapped her fingers to prove it. A harmless trickle of black smoke trailed up in a little spiral in the air before their faced.

Chuckling, she added, "Used to be that fire would shoot from my fingers quick and danger-ous as dragon's fire." Shrugging, she grinned, "Oh well. At least I don't accidentally burn down part of the forest anymore."

Glen laughed, his wrinkled face had an adoring on it as he gazed upon Zora, admitting in a soft voice, "I think I'm going to enjoy living with you, old witch."

"Shush, or we'll never get home if we keep jabbering like this."

Surprizingly quick for qn old man, and before Zora realized what he was doing, Glen pulled her close, kissing her.

The kiss was nothing like the transforming kiss she'd given Glen the first time when he was a frog. This kiss caused everything to tingle inside her and she was afraid she was going faint. Instead of frog spit, he tasted faintly of mint.

Finally Glen pulled back from her, gazed lovingly into her eyes. Zora frowned and said, "Harrumph!" But there was the merriest twinkle in her eyes that you've ever seen.

Without needing to say anything further, the former frog prince and the former witch, arm in arm continued to support each other as they strolled slowly, geniatrically, but happily down the forest path home, to begin the remainder of their lives together.

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