Grimm’s for Grown-Ups by Kotzwinkle

It was summer in Seal Harbor and Cassie Heathcote had grown tired of her cousins and aunts at Rockledge, the family house. Certainly, the talk of her aunts was always instructive. They were models of what she herself was expected to be — at ease with her social position, caring for others up to a point, and aware of those alliances thought proper and those that were not. But in need of some quiet time, she got on her bicycle and struck out for the nearby carriage trail.
It ran through Rockefeller property but the Rockefellers had generously opened this part to the public. The carriage trail ran past the old Rockefeller boathouse and here she pulled off, for the boathouse maintained the charming aura of the past. Looking through its windows, she could imagine young people from the bygone era enjoying life in a way no longer possible. The ukuleles, straw hats, and quaint courtships of those days were passé. Something harshly modern and cynical prevailed over things now.
To underscore the point, her cell phone rang. As it was going through its internal gyrations, she held it in her hand, staring at this instrument of intrusion. Without stopping to reflect on the consequences, she flung the cell phone with all her strength into the pond. A momentary feeling of satisfaction ran through her.
Then she remembered all the stored phone numbers which she would have to reenter.
“I guess that was dumb.”
She remained seated on the shoreline, trying to enjoy her isolation while staring at the expanding ripples where the the cell phone had sunk. Then another disturbance of the water began.
It was a frog, carrying her cell phone in its hands. The frog swam toward the shore, and held the phone out toward her. “Want it?” The voice was a rich baritone. “You may have it, if I may have lunch with you.”
“Yes, of course, any time you like.”
“And you must let me sleep in your bed.”
“Certainly. That won’t be a problem.”
She took her cell phone back and walked away, thinking to herself that it had been quite a ridiculous suggestion, that a frog should expect to be invited to lunch and then sleep in her bed.
That afternoon she and Aunt Emilia were having tea on the porch of their cottage. The cottage had twenty rooms, and the porch faced harbor, where the fleet of summer sailboats and yachts were anchored.
Engaged in animated conversation, neither Cassie nor her aunt heard the moist footsteps coming up the stairs. Only when the frog cleared his throat did they look toward him. He was now as large as a man, but quite green and moist. “Forgive me if I drip.”
“I beg your pardon?” Aunt Emilia’s voice was temperature controlled to every situation. The amount of frost clinging to it now would have sent scurrying any confused tourist who had blundered onto the property. But the frog appeared unaffected by her tone.
“I retain a certain degree of moisture on my skin at all times. Hence the moisture on your floor.” He pointed with his webbed fingers toward the puddles at his feet.
Aunt Emilia gazed at him, her consternation veiled by icy formality. “I’m quite certain you have mistaken the address. Who are you looking for?”
“There’s no mistake,” said the frog in his rich baritone. He looked at Cassie. “Tell her.”
“He… found my cell phone,” said Cassie, uncomfortably.
“Tell her the rest.”
“I told him he could have lunch with me. Anytime he liked.”
“I see,” said Aunt Emilia. “Well, then you’d better sit down.”
The frog chose a wicker chair which moisture would not harm. He sat as a man does, crossing his green legs. “Very nice,” he said, indicating by a gesture of his webbed hand the entirety of the mansion.
Aunt Emilia said, “Please introduce us, Cassie.”
“This is, Mister… Mister…”
“Frogga. It’s old English.”
This eased Aunt Emilia’s misgivings to a degree. An old English family connection was something, at least. “I’m Emilia Featherston.” She held out her hand.
“I’m delighted to meet you,” he said.
“And are you visiting here for the summer?”
“I’m a year-round resident.”
Cassie extended the serving plate toward him. “Care for a scone?”
“Have you got any worms?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Leeches?”
“No.”
At that moment, the frog’s tongue shot out, neatly capturing a housefly. The tongue curled back into his mouth. “Hors d’oeuvre,” he said, swallowing audibly.
“You’re very resourceful, Mister Frogga.” Aunt Emilia could not help being impressed by his brutal virility.
“There are few flies faster than I. And I include dragonflies, whose evasive flight I’m sure you’re familiar with.”
“Their habits are not known to me, I’m afraid,” said Aunt Emilia.
“Then you’ll never be able to catch one with your tongue.”
“I daresay.”
“Spiders move more slowly. You should have no trouble with them.”
“How very reassuring.” Aunt Emilia was treading water here, no longer certain of the appropriate response. But she took seriously the responsibility of rank. One must show interest. One must listen.
“How are you at jumping?” asked the frog.
“I seldom have the need to do so.”
“Proper jumping requires elongated metatarsals.” The frog’s tongue shot out again. “Blue tail fly. Tried to use fast evasive reaction. Did you notice?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t.”
“I can improve your performance.”
“I think I shall continue as I have,” said Aunt Emilia.
“Just as you wish,” said the frog.
Cassie’s mother joined them on the porch. Aunt Emilia turned toward her and said, “Muriel, I’ve been having such an interesting conversation with Mister Frogga. He’s a friend of Cassie’s.”
The frog stood and performed a slight bow. Muriel Heathcote stared at him. Cassie was going through a rebellious stage, but this was a bit much. Nonetheless Muriel held out her hand. “Muriel Heathcote. I’m Cassie’s mother.”
The frog took her hand in his. “Enchanted.”
“Cassie has kept you a secret from us.”
“We’ve only just met,” said the frog.
Cassie added, “By the pond. He found my cell phone and returned it to me.”
“That was very kind of you,” said Muriel, then asked one of the usual Seal Harbor questions: “Do you sail?”
“I’d like to,” said the frog, with enthusiasm.
“So many boats in the harbor this year,” said Muriel, as if one were just waiting for him to come aboard. Not hers, of course.
“We’re going to go for a walk, Mother,” said Cassie.
“Do that, dear. It was a pleasure to meet you, Mister Frogga.”
Cassie and the frog went down the stairs and across the lawn as Muriel and Emilia watched. “He didn’t have a thingy,” said Muriel.
“I noticed that. Of course one doesn’t wish to comment.”
“But can we assume that since he hasn’t got one he is harmless?”
“I think so,” said Emilia.
“Young women have so little restraint these days. I lay it down to suggestive advertising.” Muriel watched her daughter and Mister Frogga walk toward the rocky shoreline.
“His color…”
“Green, yes, I know.”
“With yellow highlights.”
The two women fell into serious reflection on the nuances of political correctness.

The frog and Cassie were now walking along the shore path. “You know why I’ve come,” he said.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t have you in my bedroom.”
“That was the deal.”
“I wasn’t thinking.”
“Doesn’t matter.”
“A girl should be allowed change her mind.” This said coquettishly.
The frog took her by the shoulders and turned her toward him. “What’s wrong, don’t you find me attractive?”
She looked into his bulging eyes, then let her gaze drift down to his huge mouth. “It’s not that.”
“You think I’m ugly.”
“Not at all.”
“Warts. Skinfolds.”
“I try to see what’s inside a person.”
“A pretty sentiment. But you can’t see what’s inside me.” The frog released his grip on her shoulders.
“I can tell you’re upset.”
“Of course I’m upset. We made a deal.”
“I thought you were joking.”
The frog turned his gaze toward the sea. She saw that he was suffering. He turned back to her and said, “How about a little kiss? Can you handle that? In spite of my huge green lips?”
“All right.”
She closed her eyes to lessen her repulsion. His lips met hers. She tasted the life of the pond and hoped there were no nasty little parasites being transmitted. When she opened her eyes she was looking at the most handsome young man she’d ever seen.
“You’ve saved me,” he said
She stared at him in astonishment, the taste of the pond still on her lips.
He said, “In nineteen twenty-eight, I was turned into a frog.”
He wore a straw hat, white slacks and shirt, and carried a ukulele. He was the embodiment of the era she loved.
He said, “From that time to this, I’ve lived in the pond beside the Rockefeller boathouse.”
“Who enchanted you?”
“I have no idea. One day I was strumming my ukulele in a canoe and the next thing I knew I was sitting on a lily pad catching flies.”
“How dreadful.”
“There’s something we must do immediately. Have you got a large knapsack?”

Carrying the empty knapsack, she followed him up the hill overlooking Seal Harbor and along the road which wound past all the oldest mansions. He stopped in front of one of them. “Grandfather’s house. But they won’t know me. It doesn’t matter.”
He led her into the manicured forest that surrounded the mansion. “Grandfather was eccentric. He didn’t trust anyone. But he cared for me.” In the middle of it was a weatherbeaten old grotto of stone. He loosened one of the mossy stones, and then another and another. Hidden behind them was a huge strongbox. He took a key from his pocket. As the strongbox creaked open, Cassie saw neatly wrapped bundles of hundred dollar bills. Below them were brightly colored stock certificates. The stocks purchased for him by his grandfather in nineteen twenty-eight included Standard Oil and Coca-Cola. As the young man riffled through them, Cassie realized that even in today’s market, they were worth many millions.
“I love you,” she said.
Thus was she rewarded for the selfless kiss she had given. Her mother and Aunt Emilia were delighted when she returned with a wealthy young man instead of a frog. They saw at a glance that he came from the right sort of family. To add to their pleasure, he played nice old-fashioned songs for them on his ukulele. He turned his head abruptly when a house fly passed, but that was the last remnant of his enchantment.