The frog prince

2010-04-26 00:00

“NKOSAZANE!” hollered my gardener, charging wide-eyed down the driveway and wielding his garden fork like a crazed Zulu warrior. “You got it a beeg frock.”

Now some women might take offence at such an impertinent insinuation as to their dress size, but fortunately I’ve become accustomed to Richard’s exuberant outbursts whenever he happens upon something in the garden that either offends him, amuses him or just plain frightens the life out of him. And I’m not referring to items of my apparel either.

Over the years I’ve been summoned to view, and otherwise dispose of, a variety of miscreants ranging from bats under the eaves, to a swarm of bees in the garden wall and the occasional snake in the shrubbery.

On the day in question though, a tiny golf ball-size frog had taken refuge among the cool, damp foliage of an overgrown succulent that Richard had been giving a yearly “haircut”.

Clutching his fork for protection and with his nose wrinkled in disgust, he retreated to a safe distance while I scooped up the offending amphibian and conveyed it to the garden pond.

With the crisis averted, I was amazed when barely 10 minutes later he was hopping up and down outside the back door again — my gardener that is, not the frog.

“Nkosazane! You got it nader one frock.”

Intrigued as to how something so harmless could induce such panic, I trooped outside with a mind to allaying his fears once and for all.

This time the “frock” turned out to be a fat, gimlet-eyed toad that was paddling merrily about in our swimming pool.

“This is a bull frog,” I explained, holding up the bloated cretin, who by promptly letting out a strangled croak and a copious burst of urine didn’t endear itself any.

Richard’s face registered a mixture of repulsion and terror so I decided to humour him.

Lips puckered, I peered closely at the slimy creature and said that if I kissed it, chances were it could turn into a handsome prince. Richard looked about to faint and insisted it was more likely to bite me.

His concern was understandable given that only days before he’d witnessed my skirmish with a ferocious freshwater crab that had also taken a fancy to our pool and then to one of my fingers.

Despite an impromptu biology lesson, nothing could convince the man that frogs are toothless (and indeed pincerless) and therefore unable to set about one like a rabid Rottweiler. Nor was he buying the handsome- prince story.

Undeterred, I proceeded to regale him with The Frog Prince fairy tale where a lonely princess kisses a frog, magically breaking an evil spell and causing a dashing prince to appear. Actually, the original version of the story has her throwing the poor frog against a wall, thereby affecting the miraculous transformation, but sensing Richard might be tempted to test the theory, I desisting from mentioning it.

Instead, I went on to say that in real life most women are obliged to kiss several frogs before they find their prince, but I fear the meaning was lost in translation because he gave me a look previously reserved for the toad.

Undoubtedly, the final straw was my shocking revelation that some people like to eat frogs, particularly their legs. But before I could blame this disgusting culinary quirk on the French, Richard stomped off, shaking his head in disbelief. That I’d earlier admitted to eating crabs was bad enough.

A week or so went by before the alarm was raised once again.

“Nkosazane! You got it beeg crap in da pool.”

Ordinarily an announcement of this nature would be cause for concern to say the least, but if experience has taught me anything, it’s to look before I freak.

This time a large and well-armed crab was making use of the facilities.

And as I wrestled the reluctant creature into the pool net, ever mindful of my last painful encounter, my gardener watched with morbid fascination.

I suspect he was keen to see whether I was going to kiss it or eat it.

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