Orlinda was right of course. Shelly loved her. Why wouldn’t a three-legged frog hidden in her cupboard, behind all the clothes, in a box with punched-in holes do that? It longed for fresh air. And every time she let it out to play, it got just that. It was a wonder that the squishy, bouncy creature didn’t just fly out the window and hop back to the brook behind the dorm.
Shelly didn’t croak. Either it didn’t know how to, for want of similar four-legged companions, or just didn’t think it was worth its while to chat with the overbearing Ollie, who just loved it to bits. Like it wasn’t an ugly, green frog, but the prettiest doll in the room.
Mollie cracked a smile. She could already think of a hundred wicked pranks to pull on all the unsuspecting dwellers of the dorm.
“Why not stuff it in that Long Hair’s bed and see what happens?” she said.
But Ollie would have none of it. “Dear Shelly” was not to be toyed with—bounced off the walls or fed to a neighbor, stuck between two slices of bread. Though, she was not averse to the idea of parading her in a tiara and a sparkly Ms. Black Fort Ridge sash. The reason became obvious soon enough.
“Why so?” asked Mollie, not particularly interested in knowing the reason. Her eyes eagerly scanning the room for any sign of a bobbing head doll. Or a jumping jack.
“There,” she said and grabbed two pens from Ollie’s pen stand. She quickly unscrewed them to get to the springs inside.
“What are you doing?” said Ollie aghast. “Do stop! I have only a handful to last me the whole year!”
“The frog,” said Mollie matter-of-factly.
Ollie blinked — “Why?” — and held the frog even more protectively in her palms.
“Just …” said Mollie and took it from her, not listening to the protests.
“Oh, please be careful,” said Ollie peering over Mollie’s shoulder, as she sat operating on the frog. Glue flew everywhere as Shelly refused to settle down and scampered about.
“Hurry, get me one of the laces on the biscuit box in my bag.”
Ollie rushed about and finally returned with the entire box.
Mollie frowned. “The green one, please.”
Ollie ripped the lace off. And in another minute they had a wobbly four-legged frog jumping about on the desk, testing out its new springing leg.
“See,” said Mollie, “no harm done.”
Ollie clapped her hands with delight and hugged Mollie, who tried to wriggle out of it, but without much success.
“Leap, Shelly, leap,” they cheered. And watched the frog as it tried bravely to explore new surfaces in the room. Hopping about awkwardly from one end to another, making a squeaking sound as it did.
Then Mollie had a fabulous idea and hurried to make a sash out of some red glaze paper, stencil, and glitter that she’d found on Ollie’s desk. Ollie, inspired, fashioned a crown out of the remaining pieces. And soon had Shelly dressed as a crowned princess.
“Strut, Shelly, strut,” they cheered now.
So engrossed they were in this leap-hop-strut that when the door opened and a large girl filled the doorway, and their room with her shadow, they didn’t even notice her.
“Hey Orlinda,” said the girl who had two braided buns stuck to the sides of her head. “It’s TV time. Want to come? Your favorite cartoon is on.” She chuckled and then quickly stopped. “Did you hear me?” she asked as she stepped in, leaving the door ajar behind her. “What are you doing anyways?”
Ollie, startled, turned to see who it was. “Tank,” she said, moving back, trying to shield Shelly. No one knew she had a pet. And no pets were allowed in the dorm.
Mollie frowned questioningly at the girl. Something in her manner did remind her of a tank out in the battlefield ready to attack. Hands on hips, feet well apart. Ready to shoot and reload.
“You, the new girl?” she asked. And then: “Wait, is that a frog?” She shoved Mollie aside and leaned in closer to inspect.
This was not the wisest of moves as Shelly, scared at being accosted by an enormous stranger, made for the door. It hopped through Tank’s solid legs and was soon out the door.
“By golly …” she yelped.
“After it,” shot Mollie.
“Down the corridor,” said Ollie as they followed it out the door.
A ripple of shrieks ran down the corridor as students jumped, screamed, and parted to give way to a leaping four-legged — were those springs? — frog as green as the grass outside.
They lost track of it near the pantry.
“Where could it have gone?” cried Ollie. She was well on the verge of tears when they heard a hair-raising scream and dashed to the TV room.
“Don’t you dare hit me with that broomstick, I warn you,” someone was shouting. It was Ina. In pink pajamas. With hearts all over. The frog was sitting on her chest, croaking. She could only reel back so much in the armchair, the only one in the room, to get away from it. Her face was right up against its big eyes and expanding throat and sash. The sash!
“Ms. Junior Black Fort Ridge!” she yelled as she read the sparkly text on the sash and everybody, even those giggling at the back, cowered. “Whose idea was this? Seriously, when I find out who did this, it won’t be pleasant I tell you. Quick, though,” she pleaded. “Somebody get it off me. I can’t stand the smell.”
Mollie eyed Ollie who looked more miserable than moldy stale bread.
“Why,” said Mollie, “I think I can help you with that.”
She swooped in and grabbed the frog off her chest. And Ina leapt out of the armchair that very instant.
“Is that yours?” she asked, furious. “You think it’s funny? Dress it up like me and parade it all over the school? You know who I am?”
Mollie smiled her crooked smile at her. “Right now you look like its double. Would you like to keep it? It certainly has taken a liking to you. Are you twins by any chance?”
“It does look like her, now that you mention it,” Tank laughed hard, clutching her belly. “Flaring nostrils and all.”
“Why, you …” said Ina, fisting her hands, and stormed out of the room, before anybody else could draw the same unflattering comparison. “This is not the last of it,” her words of warning trailing behind her. “You’ll see.”
A girl with the broomstick followed her out, accompanied by a similar-looking girl without a broomstick. Her gang of clones from the cafeteria!
“Now that was fun,” said Mollie and chuckled.
“By golly,” said Tank. “You’ve done the unthinkable. Made an enemy of Ina Malik. You better watch your back, friend. By the way, I am Harpreet. They call me Hardy the Tank. Tank because I look solid and Hardy because I love Hardy boys. You can call me either.”
Mollie laughed. “That’s all good. But we better find this frog a safe hiding place. And myself, Mollie.”
After much thought and discussion, they put the frog in a cloth hamper and dangled it from the window ledge of Mollie and Ollie’s dorm room.
So when the “other frog” croaked and Sister Maria did a surprise inspection after dinner, their room turned up nothing but paper cuttings and vandalized pens. And a medley of croaks and other night sounds from the stream nearby. The frog was nowhere to be found.