Frog crouched down behind the couch in the dark apartment, the sunlight that shimmied into the apartment through the small cracks in the blinds illuminated the round, chocolate cake in his hands that’s finished off with cricket and mealworm confetti. His cool, green toes anxiously dug into the cherry-wood floor and fat beads of sweat, ignited by the eager flames, raced down his face. He heard the doorknob twist. Then he saw a long, green foot, then a leg, then the rest of the birthday boy. His body lit up inside at the sight of his best friend. Toad was humming, and had a short, but big-bellied, package the color of his brown trousers snugged tight under the pit of his arm.
“Happy birthday, Toad!” Frog screamed, springing up from behind the couch.
“Frog! You scared me,” Toad said, jumping, dropping the big-bellied piece of mail in his hand.
“Mail? You got mail? You never get mail unless I send you mail. I didn’t send you mail today, or did I? Who is it from?” Frog said, curious, leaning in to read the tag.
“It’s a birthday present from my great grandfather,” Toad smiled.
“Great grandfather? No offense Toad, but you’re old. Your great grandfather is still alive?” Frog asked, with innocent curiosity.
“Yes, Frog. Us toads live a very long time.”
“I got you a present too. Two presents. Me, and this cake,” Frog said, shoving the cake in Toad’s face. The candles lit up Toad’s face, and the delicious crickets and mealworms spread across the top spelling “happy birthday” made his tongue dance. He leaned forward to blow out the candles out, but he had no luck. Was he that old that he could no longer blow candles out? He leaned in closer, breaking into a sweat from the heat ignited by the flames, and he blew harder. Small drops of saliva put out the candles, but then they came back to life.
“Got you!” Frog laughed. They were trick candles!
“Frog! That’s not funny. You’re not supposed to trick me on my birthday!”
“That’s what friends do,” Frog smiled. He sat the cake down and gave Toad a great, big hug.
“That cake smells so delicious. Do you mind cutting me a corner slice please?”
“It’s a round cake, there are no corners, Toad.”
“Ah, I see. Just cut me a large slice then.”
“No problem, best friend.”
“Thank you,” Toad said, grabbing the slice.
“What did your great grandpa get you?” Frog asked taking nibbles of his slice of cake.
“Let’s open it and find out.”
They sat on the loveseat that resided in Toad’s living room, that Frog found himself sleeping on most nights because he didn’t want to go home and be apart, and Frog leaned in and watched as Toad clawed the brown wrapping paper off of the mysterious square. He ripped every small square of paper off and revealed a book called Other Selves: Philosophers on Friendship.
“What is this book?” Frog asked leaning in closer, squinting at the cursive black letters and the scratchy gray men on the cover.
“I’m not sure,” Toad said caressing the cover before flipping through the pages curiously. Then a note fell out. It read:
Happy birthday, Toad. With the relationship, you and Frog have (that I have finally learned to understand and accept), I thought you would enjoy this book and all the insight it offers. I’m sure you two will read it together, and you can both become enlightened on your homosexuality and your friendship. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ring me. Enjoy your day, and enjoy this book! I wish I could say pass it down to your great grandchild in the future, but with your homosexuality and not continuing our lineage and bloodline, just keep it.
“He always has to inject his snarky comments at the end of his letters,” Toad said rolling his eyes.
“Homosexuality! What’s homosexuality?” Frog asked, confused.
“I’m not sure.”
“He says that’s what we are, yet we don’t even know what it is. How does he even know what it is?”
“My great granddad lives in the forest in the outskirts of San Francisco, so he sees a lot of interesting things. And, he reads a lot so he’s very wise.”
“Maybe we need to start reading more.”
“Well if it’s something that we are, we should be able to figure it out with a book. We just have to look at ourselves and try to figure out what is homosexual about us.”
“That sounds hard. Maybe we can try the book first.”
Frog grabbed a book, the only book Toad owned, from off of the dusty and neglected shelf and brought it over to the comfortable brown couch. Brown trousers, brown pants, brown package. Toad loves brown. He went to the words that started with “h” and flipped through the thin, crisp pages until he landed on homosexuality. The definition gave him clarity, but more confusion at the same time.
“Homosexuality means when you love someone of the same sex,” Frog said, confused.
“I guess we practice homosexuality then. I love you,” Toad smiled.
“I love you too!”
“Then we’re homosexuals.”
“I guess so!”
Frog agreed, yet he was still confused and was not sure how he felt about this label being tattooed on him and Toad. How Toad’s great-grandfather made it sound, it’s bad to be homosexual. Does love for another male-identified being make him homosexual? Could he and Toad be homosexual if they didn’t know what it was. They just found out what it means today. It’s not like they are mating, they just have a deep friendship. They have been friends for twenty-five years, of course there’s some deep, vulnerable, genuine, particular, and unreplicable love braided into it. But, love is love. How can you define it as homosexual or heterosexual? Frog guessed there were just categories of love that he had not comprehended yet. He liked it better when love was just love and was less complex. It used to be something you just did, now everyone is trying to define it and it’s become difficult and unattainable instead of effortless and diving in.
He never thought of himself as a homosexual. But then again, he never knew about the word until today. But if this book and Toad’s wise great grandfather believe they are homosexuals, then it must be true. Maybe that’s why their friendship is so strong. He put the dictionary away on the dusty, starving shelf and returned to the couch and sat next to Toad. The name Montaigne was bolded in black at the top of the page. He squinted to read along with Toad. Montaigne had a strong friendship with his friend La Boetie. They could be homosexual because it reminded Frog exactly how he felt about his friendship with Toad.
“Plato says homosexual friendships are powerful friendships,” Toad smiled.
Frog silently agreed with a smile back. He and Toad do have a powerful and everlasting friendship. He leaned back on the couch and shut his eyes, and traveled back in time to the day they first met. It was a sticky and hot summer twenty-five years ago, and everyone was at the pools. As Frog cannon-balled into the small, swishing waves restrained by the square frame of the pool, he noticed a toad in the distance. The toad was hidden by the shadow of a tree, but Frog saw that he had his arms crossed and was sweating profusely. It didn’t seem like sweat from the heat though, the toad was nervous about something. So, Frog got out of the water and strolled over to the toad to see what was wrong and invite him to swim with him.
When he got over to the toad he noticed the toad trembling. He remembered asking what was wrong, and the toad said he hated how he looked in his bathing suit. Frog had convinced the then stranger to show him. The toad stepped out from the protection and darkness of the shadow and revealed a long and striped bathing suit covering every inch of his figure but his head and feet. Laughter traveled from deep in Frog’s belly and belched out of his mouth. Toad frowned and hid back behind the tree. Frog convinced him that even though he does look funny, it’s okay. Frog had no bathing suit, so he looked funny too. But, Frog convinced him that they can look funny together and it’ll make the laughter from strangers mean nothing.
Toad remembered the story differently though. That is the thing about what we endure (people, places, things, experiences, art, books, music, etc.) with our five bodily senses– it’s different for each person, especially memories. They’re told from our perspective and our logic and intuition. And, from Toad’s perspective, the day they met was not quite how Frog remembered. Toad remembered that day like it was yesterday, even though it was 9,125 yesterdays ago. He was sweating from the wrath of the shining sun, and he was heading to the pool when he noticed a naked frog trying to gather a bunch of leaves to make swimming trunks.
Toad convinced the frog that he should not be ashamed of his body and that if he wants to swim without a bathing suit, to do it. Then he showed him that his bathing suit was funny-looking and he did not care about the eyes and giggles of the people at the pool, and he convinced the frog to do the same. Then they went to swim together, one naked frog and one toad in a funny-looking bathing suit, and all the animals around laughed but the laughter crumbled and blew away with the wind before reaching their ears because they were not enduring it alone and were unbothered by the world around them because of each other. And that’s how it’s been ever since, their exclusive and particular and special friendship that existed within the great, big world. But their friendship was so powerful that it felt like a texture of wine and dreams, and it felt bigger than the world.
Mentally traveling back in time to the start of their friendship made Frog realize their friendship is true and profound. Even Plato said so. There’s extra care in their friendship because of their love for each other whether it’s reading a book until one falls asleep, caring for one when the other becomes ill, or baking a cake for the other’s birthday with their favorite snack covering the top.
Frog still did not see how he and Toad could be viewed as homosexual, but their everlasting friendships warmed him up to this label stamped upon their foreheads. But, if his love for Toad is considered homosexual, then so be it. It will not obstruct him from continuing to love him, and it will not assassinate their friendship. Their friendship possesses the art of love, like Frog read from Plato, so it is rare, special, and never-ending.
“Thank you for the gift,” Toad smiled, yawning, pooped from all the reading and cake.
“You’re welcome. I’m glad you liked the cake.”
“I don’t mean the cake. I mean you.”
“Yes, you’re the best gift I could ever receive.”
“Aw, Toad! You and our friendship is the greatest gift I could ever have too.”
“So, I don’t have to get you anything for your birthday next month?” Toad laughed, teasing.
“Well, I cherish and care deeply about our friendship, but I already made a wish list for my birthday. I was going to ask for–”
“You know me so well.”
“That’s what friends are for.”
“You can call it whatever you want. A label does not dictate the essence.”
“Best friends forever.”
“We have a soul friendship that is so perfect and so entire.”
“Wow! You should be in this book!” Frog laughed.
“To be honest, I got that from this book.”
“I just got what the title of the book means. It’s called Other Selves because a true friend is like another self,” Toad said, a bright and mighty light bulb glistening right above his head.
“I couldn’t agree with you more, except I’m younger and look better in a bathing suit than you,” Frog smiled.
“But you don’t wear a bathing suit!” Toad laughed, putting his face in his palms.
Frog looked at toad and smiled to himself. His great grandpa could think what he wanted. Heck, philosophers and the whole world could too if they felt the urge to think about and label something they are not a part of. definitions don’t matter. He knew who they were and what they were to each other, and the answer lived within his heart. In Toad’s, too. Friendship is the fiber of the human heart (in this case frogs and toads). And outside of those two hearts (Frog’s and Toad’s) involved in the friendship no definitions, analysis, or anything mattered. The answers existed within his heart, within his gut, his intuition. He couldn’t find the definition of friendship in a book or from philosophers or teachers or anyone. Friendship is friendship. Friendship for Frog is Toad– the old and green guy in front of him, looking at him with a smile. And Frog could see his small green figure reflected in Toad’s eyes, and he knew friendship for Toad was him. And this is the best gift anyone could ever have, even if they didn’t ask for it.
Love is love. Friendship is friendship. Frog is frog. Toad is toad. And that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
A Page of Clarity.
This short story was inspired by a thesis of homosexuality in Frog and Toad (and also in some of the philosopher friendships we read about) and what that means. Most of the dialogue between the two is me arguing for what I believe to be the case of homosexuality and friendship (which follows my outline). I also extend it from just the “profoundness” of friendship within the realm of homosexuality and also dive into what makes a friendship homosexual, or the actions within a friendship that can make two males homosexual. And I decide to have this labeling as invalid. Frog and Toad did not even know what it was, just like they did not before the term was coined in the nineteenth century. It was just effortless love between two men, and is it still homosexual if there’s no sex? It depends on how you personally define it.
I incorporated a few thoughts from philosophers throughout the paper: Plato and homosexuality, Montaigne and La Boetie, Symposium, Emerson, and a few others. And, although I have where Toad and Frog are reading through these different thoughts and analysis from philosophers, Frog concludes that none of it really matters. Friendship is a “fiber of the heart” and the definition exists in there only. Frog realizes it does not matter who defines it or how they define it, the only true definition of his relationship with Toad lies in the heart-it cannot be defined. Only felt and experienced. And that’s how friendship works.
So, it is kind of circular like the class has been. We do not really get a concrete definition of homosexuality and we do not get a concrete definition of friendship, or friendship and homosexuality. And that’s because there is none. It all just depends on who you ask. For Toad’s great grandfather, he sees homosexuality as something unacceptable that prevents the continuation of lineage. For Frog, it’s a deep and particular love for someone. So, that’s what this short story is about– two male-identified beings trying to grapple with this definition and label that is tattooed on their existence and in the end taking ownership over it using their intuition, heart, experience, and each other. And then I used my Keats memorization of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” to conclude and embody the prominence and fluidity and circularity of friendship and humanity and labels.
Thanks for reading everyone! And, this was not affiliated with the original story or author, this was a paper for class. This was my final paper for my Ethics class which focused specifically on friendship. We examined friendship in children books, from a philosophical perspective, and more. I really enjoyed the professor and the professor, he was an amazing individual and professor. He also let us write our final paper in any form we wanted, he told me I should write mine as a short story since I love creative writing. I am not used to sweet and happy stories, but it was fun to write, and hopefully it was fun to read. My topic was homosexuality in Frog and Toad, and so I used that to drive the paper. Be sure to comment your thoughts below! I would love to hear if you’ve read Frog and Toad before, or about your favorite children’s book. And subscribe right below!