It started out like a typical Monday. I woke up, got dressed, and came downstairs to get to work. After an hour or so, I wandered out to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. Along the way, I encountered Leilani, the four-year-old, staring quizzically at The Frog.
The Frog was discovered a few years back in the bargain bin at our local grocery store. It's difficult to describe the sheer, vast wrongness of The Frog, but I'll give it a whirl. Picture, if you will, a frog approximately a foot tall. Now, imagine that said frog is wearing a cowboy hat and holding a guitar. Finally, surround the frog with a sort of cardboard platform, on which is printed in large, frightening letters, "The Gambler! He sings!" and other such pithy slogans. At the base of The Frog is a button which, when pressed, causes The Frog to croak a few times and then sing a rather poorly done rendition of Kenny Rogers' classic country song, "The Gambler," after which The Frog croaks once again and goes silent.
If you've ever seen the famous Warner Brothers cartoon "One Froggy Evening" with the frog that sings "Hello, My Baby," then you will still have no conception of what this particular frog involves. The only similarities are A) it is a singing frog and B) it croaks at the end of its performance with a sound like a malformed belch.
The thing really is an abomination. So, of course, we had to buy it.
The Frog had been hidden in the dining room on a marble buffet table for long enough for me to have forgotten about it. A value pack of paper towels and large stacks of unopened junkmail had hidden it from sight and that part of the brain which protects one from trauma had written off The Frog into the "does not exist category."
But it did exist. Oh, how it did exist. And further, its existence could no longer be ignored much as I would have liked it to.
The four-year-old whirled as she heard me approach and shyly asked, "What's that?" She nodded toward The Frog.
I smiled indulgently at her and said, simply, "Push that button."
(What can I say? I become brain-dead about such dangers as The Frog when the amusement of little kids is involved. Sometimes, in the presence of children words like, "Dahlings, let's ALL be fairy princesses" and "Here, check this out -- it's a kazoo" come out of my mouth. It's true!)
She regarded me for a moment as if making sure that it would be safe, then did as I instructed.
Suddenly, the frog came to life! It croaked. It sang. It bobbed back and forth in place while playing its guitar. Leilani burst out laughing, and I grinned back at her. Sure, the frog was an unholy combination of all that is wrong in this world, but hey, if it makes a kid laugh, it can't be all bad, right?
I left her to play with the frog and went back to work.
Around lunch time, I emerged from my office again. This time, Leilani and her brother Albert were both at the buffet, staring at it intently. "Ah, how nice," I thought, "she's sharing The Frog with her brother."
Sadly, horrifyingly, I was incorrect. Suddenly, I heard the strains of "How Sweet it is to be Loved by You" emerging from the dining room and I realized with a sinking feeling that the children had not stopped with The Frog but somehow had discovered the singing and saxophone-playing gorilla duo.
I suppose I should explain the gorillas. You see, a few years ago, back when I was married, I was wandering around wondering what to get my husband for Valentine's Day. Again, I was in our local grocery store when what should I see but a little box containing a fuzzy gorilla couple! A button, when pressed, caused the girl gorilla to sing "How Sweet is Is" whilst the boy gorilla accompanied her on a saxophone.
It was wrong. It was really, really wrong.
So, of course, I bought it for my beloved spouse because, hey, singing gorillas! I'm sure you've all been there.
Hm. I wonder if that's why I'm no longer married?
But I digress. So, I noticed the children enjoying the singing gorillas and for a moment, I was frightened. But this passed shortly. After all, children have short attention spans, right? Surely they'd get tired of the pair soon and go on to something else.
Sadly, the "something else" was a stick horse. Now, you may say, "What's wrong with a stick horse?" And certainly, this would, in general, not be a problem at all. After all, a stick horse is pretty quiet. It just sits there and thus it is incumbent upon its rider to make any accompaniment of sound effects necessary.
You'd think that. But you'd be wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. For this was no ordinary stick horse: oh no. This was a Deluxe Stick Horse. And it was the deluxity of the horse that would lead to the sheer horror that was to come.
(To be continued here.)