One day in summer Frog was not feeling well.
Toad said, “Frog, you are looking quite green.”
“But I always look green,” said Frog. “I am a frog.”
And Toad turned his head and said nothing, and Frog knew that he had said the wrong thing.
“I’m sorry,” Frog said.
“This is why people don’t like helping you,” Toad said.
“People don’t like helping me?” Frog asked.
“They do not,” Toad said. “That is why you are so lucky to have me.”
“I didn’t know that,” Frog said.
“You’re lucky I am here to tell you these things,” Toad said.
Frog said, “Perhaps I am very sick.”
Toad said, “Why don’t you get into my bed and rest? I don’t mind if you use it.”
And Frog thought, How lucky I am that Toad puts up with me, since no one else wants to.
Toad made Frog a cup of hot tea. Frog said, “Oh, thank you, but I don’t drink tea,” and Toad sighed a long and heavy sigh.
“Frog, this is why people don’t like helping you. Do you want people to like helping you?”
And Frog forgot that he had not asked Toad to help him, and he said “Yes, I do.”
“Then drink your tea,” Toad said. “Why do you make me regret doing nice things for you?”
Frog burnt his tongue a little but didn’t say anything. He couldn’t sleep. The room felt like it needed an apology from him.
And Frog said, “Tell me a story while I am resting?” But what he was really saying was: I’m sorry. What he was really saying was: Please like helping me.
“All right,” said Toad. “Let me think of a story to tell you.”
Toad thought and thought.”I can’t think of a story to tell you, Frog.”
“It’s not important,” Frog said.
Toad shook his head. “Obviously it is. You’ve already asked for one, and now I won’t be able to concentrate until I tell you a story, because I care about you so much. I’m not going to be able to get any of the things done I wanted to today, because of this.”
“I’m sorry,” Frog said. “I didn’t mean it.”
“Don’t lie on top of everything else,” Toad said.
“I’m sorry,” Frog said. “I’m very lucky that you put up with me.”
“I will go out on the front porch and walk up and down,” said Toad. “Perhaps that will help me to think of a story. Even though it is very cold outside, and snowing, and I have no coat. I will do this for you.”
“Please don’t,” Frog said.
“Why are you making me feel guilty for trying to do something nice for you?” Toad said.
“I don’t know how not to hurt you,” Frog cried. “I must be doing something very wrong.”
Toad walked up and down on the porch for a long time. He shivered and he stamped. Frog could hear him chattering his teeth and Frog could not sleep.
Then Toad went into the house and stood on his head.
“Why are you standing on your head?” asked Frog.
“I’m doing this for you,” Toad said. “I hope that it will help me think of a story.” But he could not think of a story to tell Frog.
Then Toad began to bang his head against the wall.
“Why are you banging your head against the wall?” asked Frog.
“I hope that if I bang my head against the wall hard enough, it will help me to think of a story,” said Toad.
“I am feeling much better now, Toad,” said Frog. Frog’s cheeks were pale and warm. “I do not think I need a story anymore. I do not need anything. I do not need anything, I promise.”
“Then you get out of bed and let me get into it,” said Toad, “because now I feel terrible. Helping you has made me sick, because I am the only one who wants to do it.”
So Frog got out of bed and Toad got in. Frog leaned against the wall for a minute, and Toad said, “Please get me a cup of tea. I got one for you. I shouldn’t have to ask.”
Frog said, “I’m sorry,” and he fixed Toad a cup of tea.
Toad said, “That’s the problem with always helping other people. No one ever wants to help you.”
Frog said, “It’s my fault.”
Toad said, “Don’t sulk. You’re so unpleasant when you sulk. Everybody says so.”
Frog said, “Would you like me to tell you a story, Toad?”
“Yes,” said Toad, “if you know one.”
“Once upon a time,” said Frog, “there were two good friends, a frog and a toad. Two…good friends.” Frog swayed a little, and then Frog puddled into a little heap on the ground.
“Frog,” Toad said from the bed, “stop being so dramatic. My tea has gotten cold.”
“I don’t think I’m very much better after all,” Frog said in a small voice.
Toad sighed. “Do I really ask you for that much, Frog? Is it really that hard for you to care for me just a little, just once, when I’ve worn myself out caring for you? If it is, tell me.”
“I’m sorry,” said Frog. “I’m sorry, Toad.”
“You’re always sorry,” Toad said. And Frog got up and hugged the wall as he went into the kitchen to get another cup of tea.
“And don’t just heat up the old tea,” Toad called out after him. “Bring me a fresh cup. My head aches from beating it against the wall for you.”
“How’s this, Toad?” Frog asked, carrying the steaming cup back into the room cupped between his two hands.
But Toad did not answer.
He had fallen asleep.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.