Author’s note: Apologies in advance for the silliness. This was intended for my own amusement and dedicated to my undying love of Pixar movies. But I hope you enjoy.
Henry the chicken stood behind the yellow line. He lifted one trembling foot up, then lowered it down, the tip touching the asphalt. He turned to the left, and then to the right. No cars.
This is it.
His claws flattened onto the pebbly surface and then Zoooooommmmppph! a truck drove by.
Henry squawked, flapping his wings, leaping backwards, stumbling into the weed.
“Aah!” He squawked again. “Who’s there?”
Henry peered into the weed. Two bulgy eyes stared back at him on a slimy mocking face. “Ribbit!” the face said.
Henry jumped. “Don’t scare me like that, frog.”
“Yes, yes. I heard you the first time,” said flustered Henry.
“My name is Ribbit, you silly old chicken,” said the frog.
“Oh, my apologies. I thought you were complaining.” Henry pushed his right wing forward. “My name is Henry.”
Ribbit the frog leaped out of the weed and slapped Henry’s wing with a high-five. “Nice to meet you, Henry.”
“How long… have you been hiding in that weed?” Henry asked, slightly embarrassed.
“Long enough to watch you back and forth, back and forth onto the yellow line. You’ve been gawking at the humans across the road for hours. I know what you’re thinking.” The frog leaned forward, excitement transparent on his face. “You’re planning an ambush, aren’t you?”
“No, I’m not!” Henry retorted, horrified.
“That’s okay, chicken, I’ll help you if you’ll help me kidnap the girl.”
“I will certainly not!”
“Chicken!” Ribbit cried, as if it was an insult. “You don’t even have the guts to cross that road, do you?”
“I do n–” Henry paused and glared menacingly at Ribbit.
Ribbit chuckled, although it sounded more like repetitions of his name. “You’re a nervous old chicken. That’s understandable. You’re nervous because you want something from the humans. Well, we both want something from the humans. What is it you want?”
Henry craned his neck, peering through the traffic, gazing at the humans longingly. They were camping by the creek, their yellow tent looked like a golden mountain between the greens.
“I want my eggs,” Henry declared. “Farmer Joe took my wife’s clutch to the market and I followed him. I saw him sell my dozen to that hippy family across the road.” He paused, utterly distressed. “It’s Pancake day today. Oh no! Pancake day!”
“Calm down, chicken. No need to panic. We’ll save your eggs.” Henry felt comforted by the serenity in Ribbit’s tone. “I used to be in the military, you know, I’ve impeccable combat training.” He showed Henry a few moves, although he thought they looked more like some late 80’s breakdance.
The show finished, Ribbit leaped across to the edge of the road. Henry squawked in terror. “Frog, you’ll get squashed! Come–”
“Sssh!” Ribbit hissed, suddenly serious. He pulled a device out of his pocket – which looked like two cannelloni shells stuck together – and peered through the holes. “Basket located. Two o’clock.”
“You can see that through pasta?”
Ribbit raised his hand, shutting Henry up. His face scrunched up in hard concentration. “They’re removing something. It looks like… a box. I see a box.”
“Does it–does it have Farmer Joe’s face on it?” Henry asked hopefully.
“I see a bald geriatric with a twisted smile.”
“That’s Farmer Joe!” Henry squawked his happy squawk.
Ribbit removed the device and nodded at Henry. “Your eggs are safe, comrade. Let’s go. I’ll help you get ‘em.”
Henry was suspicious. “Why do you want to help?”
It was then that a girl, wearing a pink dress and sparkly crown, skipped out of the tent into view. The adult woman leaned forward to kiss the girl. “Supper is almost ready, cheeky princess, you better go and wash your hands.”
Ribbit tensed. His two bulgy eyes opened even wider. In a split second, the pasta was back on his face.
Henry walked to him, looked at the girl, then looked at Ribbit. “That’s the girl you want to kidnap.”
“She’s not just a girl, she’s a princess!” Ribbit corrected. “She’s the key to my freedom.”
“She’s a princess, idiot!” Ribbit repeated, as if that should explain everything. “Her kiss will turn me into a handsome prince.”
Henry the chicken blinked. “You’re a frog. That’s genetically impossible.”
Ribbit clucked his tongue. “Watch me!”
Before Henry could reply, the frog high-jumped into the traffic. A car screeched and swayed to the left, but Ribbit did not stop, determined to get across. He kept leaping forward, causing two more cars to go into haywire swerves and missing a few more by inches. Henry squawked and squealed in panic, flapping his wings and crying obscenities just like the humans in the cars. But he could not help be impressed by Ribbit’s enviable reckless confidence.
When Ribbit made it to the other side, it was Henry who squawked in joy. Ribbit maintained his serious composure, waving at him. “Come on, chicken. Your turn.”
Henry’s eyes opened wide. “What? No! I can’t pull a stunt like that!”
“Yes you can, you saw me. Don’t think, just do. Come on!” Ribbit cried encouragingly, his slimy fists curled up like he was off to a punching match.
Henry sighed and placed his trembling claws on the yellow line, the line that marked his life and death. He looked to the right, one red Ferrari approaching. He stepped back. The Ferrari zoomed by.
“Stupid chicken! You could have made it then,” Ribbit complained.
Henry sighed and tried again. He was shaking all over. Too many cars. Too much risk. He couldn’t do this.
“Close your eyes,” Ribbit suggested.
“Are you crazy?”
“Trust me, close your eyes, make some noise, and run forward.”
Henry sighed the third time. He must try. If he was to save his eggs, he must get to the other side. Slowly, he scuffled forward. He closed his eyes. Squawking and flapping his wings, Henry merged into the traffic.
The cars zoomed past him. The wind rushed through his feathers. The tyres screeched like blades against stone. The acrid slap of carbondioxide residues smacked against his tongue…
And then there was nothing.
Henry opened his eyes and looked down. White line scrawled beneath his feet. He made it to the middle of the road! Henry cheered.
“Yes! Almost there, chicken, come on!” Ribbit cried.
“Aaaah!” Henry screamed as a car came out of nowhere, zooming past him, making him swivel a three-sixty-degree. Ribbit held his breath audibly. Henry squawked in desperate terror, but he could not rest, a truck was already coming from his left.
“Now, chicken! Now now now!” Ribbit shouted.
Without thinking, Henry rushed towards Ribbit.
“Back back back!” Ribbit instructed.
Henry stepped back and watched a black round thing zoom past him, so close it almost grazed his chest. He gasped, oddly seeing the details as if the world suddenly slowed down. He felt the rubber brush against the tip of his feathers like a shadow playing tag-you’re-it.
“H…e…l…p…” he could hear his own cry, two pitches lower and muddled by the swooshing traffic. Henry looked up–even the act of craning up was slow–as if somebody had stretched this very frame of life for dramatic effect.
There, up along the rusty pipe of the truck’s belly, hung a bug, legs curled about the metal, smiling at Henry.
The bug waved, also in slow motion, clearly having the ride of his life. One of his six legs made a thumb-up. “G…o…o…d l…u…ck, b…u…dd…y!” the bug bellowed.
Zoom! Within seconds, the truck, the tyre, the bug were all gone.
“Now, Henry! Now!” Ribbit screamed.
Three leaps and Henry was atop Ribbit, stumbling and rolling down the hill, taking the frog with him. They hit a small boulder. Henry cried on impact.
He remained a daze for a while until it hit him: he made it! “I made it!”
“Hmepdf kashdas lshddff!” said the frog.
Henry rolled over to one side and Ribbit leaped free. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Henry said repeatedly.
But Ribbit only waved his skinny hand at him. “Come on, we’ve much to do.”
* * *
Henry and Ribbit hid behind the boulder, watching the humans eat their stew by the fire. The humans looked happy, chattering and laughing as they shoved the gooey lumpy liquidy stuff into their mouths. They had a funny accent which Ribbit claimed to be French.
Henry was terrified. “Do French stews have eggs in them?” he asked Ribbit, who seemed to know a great deal more about life than him.
Ribbit sniffed the air. “Smells like rabbit stew. I doubt it. Don’t worry, chicken, your eggs are safe. The French don’t celebrate Pancake day.”
Henry sighed. He did not know how many times he had sighed today, it was getting close to palilalia. “But what to do? We’re no match against the humans. My heart’s still pounding from fighting the traffic, and look, I’m losing my feathers. The stress! The stress! Ah!”
Ribbit slapped him across the beak. “Pull yourself together. We will make it because I’ve got a plan.”
Henry had always been a pessimist chicken. He was not convinced.
But Ribbit did have a plan. He groped into his pocket and produced two pills: one red, the other blue. Henry glared at the pills. They looked like M&M’s.
“I have two pills.” Ribbit showed him the blue. “If you take the blue, the story ends, you wake up in your shed, and forever lose your eggs.” Ribbit leaned forward, putting his best persuasive measure and showed him the red. “If you take the red, you stay in Adventureland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
From the way he offered the pills, it was obvious he wanted Henry to take the red. But the chicken was never a courageous sort; his eyes were fixed at the blue. The image of Sarah, his wife, scolding him for returning empty-handed, clouded his mind. Henry reluctantly turned his eyes to the red.
The frog pushed his fists forward: the one holding the red already touching Henry’s chest, somehow the blue was hidden behind his fingers. “Hmmm?” he coaxed, the red pill nudging at Henry.
“Oh alright,” Henry grumbled and took the red pill.
It even tasted like M&M’s.
“Congratulations, my friend, you have chosen the courage pill!” Ribbit said proudly. “You’re a brave chicken now and that means you can face anything.”
Henry did not feel the least bit more courageous.
“Anything?” he asked suspiciously and… peed.
* * *
The humans gathered by the fire, singing Light My Fire with their merry selves. Henry watched as Ribbit leaped onto the table and crawled to the Chateau Beychevelle. The frog stretched his body to reach the cork and with a pop, he pulled it out skilfully.
Henry held his breath, heart beating faster. The humans would catch him! But the humans were too wrapped up in their best attempt at Jim Morrison.
Ribbit’s pupils darted side to side as he crawled across to the basket, climbed up the side and paused at the edge. The frog made complicated hand signals at Henry but Henry had never been in the military, he had no idea what Ribbit meant.
Ribbit looked frustrated, glaring at Henry before repeating his signals. When Henry did not move, he groaned and finally resorted to a simpler gesture: pointing at the humans.
Ah the humans! Yes. Henry nodded. That meant affirmative.
Ribbit rolled his eyes and disappeared into the basket. Henry waited for a few seconds before stepping out into view. He squawked at the humans, but they were now singing Imagine, which meant they had to use emotions to concentrate.
Henry stepped closer and squawked again. “I’m here! Look at me! Look at me!”
A few minutes earlier
Ribbit mixed the mud with water and painted Henry’s feathers with streaks of brown.
“Why do I have to be the bait?” Henry complained.
“Because you’re bigger than me. They’ll notice you. Besides, if they see me, they make Les Cuisses De Grenouilles out of me.”
“Sautéed Frogs’ legs.”
Henry made a face.
“Alright, you’re done,” Ribbit said, slapping his slimy fingers on the chicken’s feathers.
Henry walked to the puddle and glared at his own reflection. He looked like Rambo, but without the muscles. “My goodness, what am I supposed to be?”
Ribbit grinned. “Why, a peacock, of course!”
Back to present
“Look, a chicken!” the adult human with the guitar cried, pointing at Henry.
Henry squirmed. Oh no! the disguise had not worked. But it didn’t matter. He had been noticed and that was the cue to run. Henry turned around and dashed to the car. The humans chased after him. One mentioned Colonel Sanders and his special recipe, another spoke about some horrifying headless chicken simile.
All Henry could think about was how deep the rabbit hole went.
What rabbit hole? This was stupid! He was a meek old chicken, never meant for adventures!
When would the red pill begin to work?
He kept squawking, running about in circles and missing the humans’ swipes by mere inches. They were laughing. This was all a game to them. Henry stole glances at the table. He wished Ribbit would hurry up.
It was then that Ribbit emerged, a wire lined between his teeth linked to the box of eggs. He pulled and he pulled and he pulled and the basket tumbled to the side, spilling its contents onto the table.
The humans’ attention shifted to the noise and they all paused, staring at Ribbit. “Don’t look! I’m here!” cried Henry. “Chase me!” But the humans ignored him, while Ribbit ignored the humans, already crawling to the wine.
Ribbit smirked and placed his slimy palm against the bottle.
“Oh no you don’t!” one of the humans cried and they scurried to save the wine.
Ribbit released a maniacal laugh and pushed the bottle, sending it rolling to the edge. The red flowy liquid streamed down the ground and the humans wailed: “Not the wine…”
Ribbit had been right. The wine was perfect. It was the holy liquid for humans.
Leaving them to drown in their anguish, Ribbit and the box of eggs leaped off the table, floating in the air.
“Wun! Wun!” Ribbit cried to the clouds.
Henry understood that one, but he remained. He must cushion the impact of their fall. Henry swayed left to right and back to left, calculating the projection. It was then that the girl swooped across and caught Ribbit in her hands.
Ribbit released the eggs and Henry screeched to a stop, just in time to catch the box with his puffy chest. He sighed (again) in relief.
“Hello, princess,” the frog said, looking ridiculously shy as he blushed at the little girl.
“You’re so cute!” the girl squealed.
“Ribbit!” Henry called. Thankfully, Ribbit understood the urgency of the situation. He jumped off her palm and kissed her lips.
“Ewwww!” the girl complained, spitting and wiping her mouth with her hand. “Eww! Eww! Eww!”
“Ribbit, quick!” Henry urged. He already reached the car. Henry jumped through the open window and searched for the jiggly silver thing behind the wheel. He found it and pecked at it once, twice, thrice, before the car growled to life.
Ribbit caught up and joined him. As soon as he was in the car, he crawled down to the floor. “The brake, chicken, the brake!” he cried, bumping his entire body against the accelerator.
Henry pushed the handbrake down–he had no idea how he knew which one–and the car rolled forward.
“The car!” the humans shouted. “What’s going on?”
It zoomed forward into the woods and the two jumped out of the window, running as fast as they could the other direction. The humans ran to save their car, cursing and grumbling at the duo disappearing into the darkness.
* * *
Henry could not believe it.Missionaccomplished! He was so excited, he couldn’t stop chattering.
But Ribbit was silent and gloomy.
“What’s wrong, frog?” Henry asked.
The frog slumped deeper into his shoulders but said nothing. It was then that Henry calmed down. He understood. He got his eggs, but Ribbit did not get his freedom.
“Oh, Ribbit, don’t be so glum. Is it so bad being a frog?”
Ribbit took his time to perform a long dramatic exhalation. “A frog is the ugliest creature on earth. Look at me.” He stretched his slimy hands forward and watched them flip in disgust. “I should be handsome. A prince.”
“You don’t look too bad. Besides, it doesn’t matter how you look. It’s what’s inside that counts,” Henry said. “You’re cool. Magical. The pill you gave me–”
“–was M&M,” Ribbit confessed.
“A placebo?” Henry was surprised. That meant…
“Not only am I ugly, I’m cunning too.” Ribbit seemed utterly distressed.
“Clever, Ribbit, there’s a difference,” Henry said, smiling. It did not cheer Ribbit up, so he tried again. “Look, Ribbit, if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have made it to the other side. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have dared attempt a peacock. If it weren’t for you, my eggs would have been pancakes.” Henry pecked at the frog lovingly. “If my opinion counts at all, you’re the best ever and pretty handsome too, for a frog.”
Ribbit pouted. “Did you just flirt with me?” But a smidgen of joy lathered in his voice.
Henry laughed. “No, but you can come to my place if you want.”
“That is the worst pick-up line ever!” Ribbit said, beaming and tapping Henry’s back in an affable gesture.
Henry smiled, tracing the route back to Farmer Joe’s farm, recounting the adventure over and over to Ribbit even though the frog had been there. Ribbit joined in anyway, occasionally adding exaggerated heroics on his part but Henry didn’t mind.
Because he had been brave today. That was all that mattered.
* END *