Mottle the Purple Frog
In an ordinary forest sat an unremarkable pond brimming with countless identical tadpoles.
Mottle did not like blending in. “Someday, I’m going to stand out,” she said to no one in particular.
“Why? Do you want to get eaten?” exclaimed Spish… or was it Bloit?
Wub swam up, “Mottle wants to ‘stand out?’ Good luck with that. I’ll be hiding in the mud.”
As their tails shrank and their legs grew, Mottle still secretly hoped to be different, unique.
They became frogs, brown and green with black spots. Perfect for blending in and staying safe.
All except for Mottle.
Mottle was purple. Not just the dark purple of deep water, or even the soft purple of an iris, but a mighty, iridescent purple.
“Stay away from Mottle!”
“I bet hawks can see her from the air.”
“She’s like a great big beacon for predators.”
Not welcome in the water, Mottle spent most of her time climbing in the weeds and singing, her bright skin blazing amongst the greenery.
Her song was entrancing, and even though the other frogs enjoyed listening, they would not accept her. Bloit yelled, “I hope you get eaten!” before diving back into the pond, brown swirls following him into the murk below.
Mottle sighed and kept singing. She chirped and barked and croaked and whistled and whined weaving music like no frog before her.
Every cottonmouth or raccoon that saw her couldn’t bring themselves to eat anything with such a talent for song.
Still, no one was happy. Spish complained, “Thanks to Mottle, more of us are getting eaten just because everybody comes to hear her singing.” Wub added, “If I weren’t so good at burying myself, I’d have been someone’s lunch months ago.”
Finally, the eldest frog, Glergle took action, calling Mottle down.
She swam in front of him full of worry.
“Mottle, you have consistently brought danger to the entire pond. Your ridiculous skin is a distraction and your incessant singing is bringing predators far and wide.”
She was silent.
“We have no choice but to banish you. Get out and don’t ever come back.”
Mottle was motionless, stunned, but managed to eke out, “I could stop singing, I could sit in the middle of the pond all—”
Glergle interrupted her with a single, “No.”
“But you are my family,” Mottle insisted.
“Some things are more important than family,” Glergle intoned. “Now get out.”
Mottle dashed away in a cloud of bubbles, crying to herself as she hopped through the mud and weeds, dryer ground, brown leaves, tiny stones until she was further from home than she had ever been. Climbing the nearest tree, she sang and cried. She sang of loneliness and friendships lost, of trusts broken and promises forgotten, of childhood fantasies giving way to cruel realities.
She vowed to sing until she could sing no longer, to keep going day and night.
Weary and weak, she sang on through sunsets and sunrises, barely aware of her surroundings, slowly starving herself and becoming dangerously dry and brittle.
Until, at once she was blinded by a brilliant flash of light and fell. But not to the ground, to some sort of slippery translucent cave. She was so tired, she resolved to simply fall asleep expecting to never wake up.
After an unknown time, she opened her eyes. She felt moist and could hear flowing water. In front of her was a live cricket with no legs that she quickly ate.
“Am I in heaven?”
“No,” said a deep voice. “But it might as well be.”
She focused further out and saw a frog larger than she thought possible.
“Ah!” she tried to jump away but was still too worn out.
“Hey! Relax! I’m not going to eat you. There’s no need for that here.”
Leery, but with little choice, she settled down, “Where am I? Who are you?”
The huge frog continued, “I’m Dom and this is our little paradise. Humans feed us, make sure we are healthy, and come by to tell us how amazing we are all day long.”
Mottle crooked her head, “Why don’t they eat us?”
Dom laughed, “Eat us? They love us!”
She noticed Dom’s coloring, “You’re very… orange.”
He nodded, “Yep. And Urdip is blue, Pic is yellow, and Kree is red. We’re like a rainbow.”
She finally noticed the other smaller frogs behind Dom.
“What’s your name?”
She smiled, “Mottle. My name is Mottle.”
“Well, Mottle, we welcome you.”
Mottle inched out of the safety of the small indention she’d been placed in, “Don’t you think my color is a bit much?”
Urdip, a very skinny frog with long legs and eyes that seemed to never stop moving skipped forward, “No. Why would I?”
Pic, a tiny frog no larger than a cicada added, “Where I’m from, a color like mine is a signal that I am a frog of great importance. People would gently pick us up and make sure that our homes were safe.”
Kree seemed slower than the other frogs and added, “You must have been pretty special, too with a polish like that. It’s like… so… shiny.” He continued to stare at Mottle without saying another word.
Mottle tilted her eyes back and looked over herself: still so purple she was almost glowing.
Dom groaned, “Don’t mind Kree. He’s eaten a few too many strange mushrooms if you know what I mean.”
Mottle felt the ground shake and could hear a commotion somewhere nearby. Scuttling back to her hole, Dom called after her, “No! Don’t worry!”
Urdip was already beside her, “Mottle. These are our fans. It’s time to give them a show.”
She was confused, “What do you mean?” She was still inching toward safety.
Pic, while scurrying toward a stick to climb yelled to her, “The people who love us, they take flashes of us and ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over us every day. It’s why we get the good crickets, my dear.”
Kree was shuffling toward a leaf to stand on and Dom just stayed right in the middle. Nobody could miss Dom.
Urdip beamed, “Come with me, Mottle. We’ll dazzle ‘em!”
Mottle decided to follow her and see what all of this was about. Urdip bounded toward the glass and jumped right up on it, sticking in place.
She studied Urdip and wondered if her color was a mistake or if all of her kind were like that. The vivid blue reminded her of the way the sky looked from under the pond where she used to live.
She didn’t think she could stick to the glass, so she climbed up a nearby branch and held on.
People began filing by. Mottle held her breath but the others had been truthful. There were startled sighs and tapping of glass and murmured words and many, many flashes.
No one tried to eat them or capture them. All they had to do was be themselves.
She was so happy that she closed her eyes and began to sing. She chirped and croaked and whistled and told a story of being lost then found, of being afraid then safe, of being alone then accepted, of being ashamed then free, of being an outcast then loved, of loss and new friends, of no longer hiding.
Mottle sang for hours and did not notice the other frogs circling around her or the people calling friends on their phones to tell them about the amazing frog they just saw.
She stopped her song and looked around, “Oh! Sorry, I’m sorry! Did I do something wrong?”
Urdip was wiping a tear away from her still twitching eye, “Wrong? No, honey, that was fantastic.”
Dom bellowed, “A new star attraction is born.”
Pic was licking her lips, “We might get snails to eat if she keeps this up!”
Even Kree was impressed, “I totally felt what you were doing there. Deep. Truly deep.”
And so, thanks to Mottle, they became a wildly successful exhibit. Researchers came from around the globe to study Mottle and try to determine what drove her ability to out-sing her peers.
And the people, they just liked hearing it.
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