The Toad and the Giant
By Julia Regan
My feud with Katie Ball started on the morning bus to school. She had rudely taken my designated place, next to my one friend Margaret O'Reilly. Everyday, I sat in the green comfort of the front seat on the way to St. Patrick's School, until the fateful day when the bus driver changed the route on me. It was now Katie who got on the bus first, and who could sit with Margaret. From that day forward, Katie Ball and I were sworn enemies.
Katie Ball was a large girl, with thick round cheeks that stuck out of her face like two swollen fruits, and hid her tiny black eyes. Her overzealous mother always put her stringy, white-blond hair into two perfect pigtails in the same, yellow hair ties. The hair ties matched our school uniform, which consisted of a green and yellow plaid skirt, and a white oxford. Katie's skirt stretched tight around her wide waist, and the pleats disappeared on her large hips. She was a Goliath for a 7-year-old—truly a giant. Her feet rounded her leather Mary Janes, and her knees sat fat, dough hanging over emerald knee socks. Katie Ball remained an intimidating girl—the tyrant on the bus.
Every day, Katie Ball threatened the sanctity of our bus ride. She stole lunches, she ripped notebooks, and she stuck gum on the back of the seats. She was the source of a popular rumor, which stated that because my last name was Regan, I was the wife of President Reagan. The rumor culminated when Katie Ball led the chorus of high-pitched voices in a classic rendition of "Julie and Ronald sitting in a tree." The event left me with nightmares, replaying the tune in my head for many nights to come. The reign of terror that Katie Ball imparted on our small school bus surpassed any I had ever, or would ever, know. I knew that there would be a time when she would have to be stopped.
Recess time at the St. Patrick's School in Smithtown occurred in a playground that was too small for all of the children to play on. The other options for playtime included picking daisies from the barren, uncut soccer field, and playing on the black tar of the parking lot. For most kids, nothing could beat playing in between the cars of the back parking lot next to the convent. The lot served as an ideal place for countless games of kickball and hopscotch.
During one of the recesses in the lot, I had made a point to go behind the shrubbery of the convent, in an attempt to find a suitable clubhouse. During this venture, I noticed, backed up against a wall in the far corner between the convent and the steps, a hideously squat toad. I stooped down to investigate the creature, and carefully picked up the obese amphibian with both of my hands. The mass of warty flesh hung limp off my fingers, with his gray legs dangling behind my thumbs. The animal seemed to have no problem as I brought him out into the sunlight of the schoolyard.
"Julie Regan is gross," Katie Ball pointed. "Look at her holding that frog. What are you, a princess?"
"No--" I started.
I looked at Katie Ball. I looked into her beady eyes, hidden behind peachy cheeks. I had taken her bullying for too long. It was time to fight—it was time for action.
"Do you want to touch the frog, Katie?" I asked innocently, clutching the bulbous animal tightly. "Do you want to kiss it?"
The giant screamed shrilly. A flow of hot adrenaline pumped through me, and as the colossal girl started to walk away, my little legs followed. Katie's steps grew faster, and right behind her I followed with the dumb animal.
Katie was running, and so was I. By this time, a crowd had gathered and was trying to catch up to see the outcome of the chase. Running blindly, holding the toad in front of me, I felt the leathery skin, coarse and bumpy, in my small hands. I heard the dreamlike chants and shouts of the children behind me.
Finally, I had her. Katie Ball, the terror of bus AJ, was up against a large oak, quivering from fear. A smile curled onto my face as I stepped towards her. She cringed at every step I took. She closed her eyes and strained her neck in vain. I had her, and there was nothing she could do about it. Holding the toad firmly, I pressed the blob up to her mouth and onto her lips. The creature squirmed out of my anxious fingers, but not before Katie Ball had kissed the frog for thirty beautiful seconds.
Katie screamed and spat as she ran to the lunch monitor's side. The spectators watched in silence, unable to comprehend what had just occurred. As I was led away, I watched the toad crawl to the safety of the convent bushes. He was free. I opened the door to Sister Muriel's office and smiled. I was free, too.