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The Toad Road

The Toad Road

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The Toad Road

171 pages
2 heures
Dec 9, 2019


Even the oldest frogs could not recall a time the creek had dried up. Although unusual, this did not concern the frogs at first. It had been an exceptionally wet spring and the frogs expected the creek would flow again with the next rain. But the next rain never comes. With the fate of the entire frog pond at stake, four volunteers agree to make an unprecedented journey up the creek in search of water. The journey sorely tests the four frogs, and to the surprise of all, the least likely among them rises to the challenge, and finds within himself a strength none of them expected
Dec 9, 2019

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The Toad Road - Daryl Sherfey

Copyright © Daryl A Sherfey Jr. 2019

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written permission of the author. except for use of brief quotations in a book review.

Original Cover Art © Gary Bilodeau

ISBN (Print): 978-1-54399-694-4

ISBN (eBook): 978-1-54399-695-1


For my wife Randi, my four children and twelve grandchildren.

Special Thanks

To my daughter Heather who inspired this story when she was nine years old, and my grandson Noah and granddaughter Jordan for their encouragement to finish the story.

Table of Contents

Prologue: And Then There Was None

Chapter One: Wart and Ratchet

Chapter Two: Tummy Trouble

Chapter Three: Natterjack

Chapter Four: Tumbled Jumbles

Chapter Five: Meshach’s Meeting

Chapter Six: Splash

Chapter Seven: Four Girls and a Gorgon

Chapter Eight: A Day at the River

Chapter Nine: The Journey Begins

Chapter Ten: Dark Matters

Chapter Eleven: A Mouthful of Pepper

Chapter Twelve: Out on a Limb

Chapter Thirteen: A Bird in the Hand

Chapter Fourteen: Then There Were Two

Chapter Fifteen: Wart Takes the High Road

Chapter Sixteen: Taken by Toads

Chapter Seventeen: Wart on His Own

Chapter Eighteen: Toads and More Toads

Chapter Nineteen: Frogs in a Cage

Chapter Twenty: Ratchet’s Midnight Ride

Chapter Twenty-One: A New Day Dawns

Chapter Twenty-Two: Peace in the Pond


And Then There Was None

A small nameless creek flows down out of the hills to the green pastures in the valley some five hundred feet below. The creek flows west past an abandoned dairy barn, then crosses beneath a narrow country road through a two-foot-wide metal pipe. After meandering midway into the pasture, the creek turns back to the road as if on a leash. There, it follows a drainage ditch due south along the edge of the road, straight as a pin, and spills out into river on the south edge of the valley.

There are two natural ponds along the creek’s course. The first pond is in the pasture midway across the valley and is nothing more than an oblong pool about ten feet in width and as deep as it is wide. The second pond is larger and lies next to the road less than a quarter mile from where the creek finally spills out into the river. The creek has no official name, but even so, it shows up as a faint blue line on most maps of the area. The simple reason is the stream has water in it all year round. That is why what happened was so odd.

It had been an exceptionally wet spring. The rainfall had broken records. By the beginning of summer, the creek was high and the water level of both ponds stood well above their high-water marks. The foxgloves were in full bloom, the oat grass was tall and lush, and the warm summer days had grown longer than the nights. Then, abruptly, the water in the creek disappeared. One moment it was there, flowing full, and the next moment it was not there at all. The water did not disappear gradually, over time. No, the water just vanished. As though some evil magician had waved a wand over it. Presto! The water was gone.

At first, this did not concern the frogs that called the pond at the south end of the stream home. Their pond was full, and they truly believed the water would flow again with the next rain. For a time, life went on as usual. But twenty-four thirsty days staggered by without the slightest hint of rain. The summer sun broiled and blistered the mud in the empty creek until the mud cracked and curled at the edges like dry scales on an abandoned snakeskin. By the middle of summer, the level of the water in the pond got so low that six feet of barren mud separated the water’s edge from the old shoreline. The frogs knew then, they had to do something.

Chapter One

Wart and Ratchet

Wart sat alone in the silent shade of a small willow, guarding the creek at the north end of the pond. He had never before done something so important. He had no illusions, though. He would like to believe his status had gone up a notch in the eyes of the other frogs, but he knew better. Wart had no status. Only the water level of the pond had changed. A six-foot stretch of mud now separated the shore from the water. Wart guessed it would take three, maybe four jumps in the open, through the mud, to reach the water. To be safe, the number of guards around the pond had been increased. This, as Wart understood it, provided earlier warning of danger and gave frogs more time to get to the water and safety. Every frog had to share the increased workload. How had Meshach said it? "Drastic times call for drastic measures." Wart was nothing more than a drastic measure.

If Ratchet doesn’t get here soon, I’ll never get another chance, drastic measure or not, Wart said, speaking to himself in half a whisper. "Where is he?" Wart looked down the long, narrow muddy creek between him and the pond. He did not see Ratchet.

He’d better not mess this up.

Wart had just this one shot to prove himself. Jumbles, the frog who usually stood guard with Ratchet, would return tomorrow. Wart’s help would no longer be needed. Jumbles had volunteered to travel upstream today to persuade the old toad Natterjack to share some water from his pond. If Wart were to prove himself, it had to be today. That is, of course, unless Ratchet ruined it for him. "What is Ratchet up to?"

Wart had been friends with Ratchet most of his life. Well, really, all of his life. Ratchet had known Wart’s parents. He had been a close friend of Wart’s father. Wart’s parents had died before Wart had hatched, so Wart never knew them. Ratchet had even been present when the old nursemaid, Hajji, gave Wart his name—his silly name. His life might have been different if he had had a normal name. In all fairness, though, his name had been an accident. The moment Hajji saw him, she had clapped her hands in delight, thinking him so small and cute, and said, Why, he’s no bigger than a Wart! She had meant it kindly, but as soon as she said it she wished to take it back. Wart had learned one thing for sure in his short life. Wishes do not count, and words, once spoken, cannot be taken back. The name stuck to him like pollen to the nose of a bee, and he had lived with it ever since.

Wart never grew to normal bullfrog size. Standing on tiptoes, he did not look much bigger than a dragonfly. This bothered him most of all. For you see, he did not need to tell anyone his name unless they asked. But he could not hide his size, unless of course he stayed indoors and never went outside, which is generally not a healthy way to live. Everyone knows not to judge a book, or a frog, by its cover, yet everyone always does. Frogs, being the polite amphibians they are, seldom said anything out loud, but the look in their eyes when they first met Wart gave away their thoughts.

If his name was not humiliating enough, Wart’s friend Ratchet took up the slack. Ratchet had a knack for getting Wart into some embarrassing situations. For one, Ratchet always fell asleep—sometimes right in the middle of a conversation. Since Wart and Ratchet spent most of their time together, whenever someone made fun of Ratchet, most of it rubbed off onto Wart. But really, without Ratchet, Wart’s life would be lonely indeed. Still, Ratchet could be a bother—like now. If Ratchet did not get here soon, Wart could find himself in some real trouble.

Guards worked in pairs for a reason. The job was dangerous. Wart thought he had the most dangerous guard post of all. He was not just bragging, either. He could see no escape route from where he sat. If he had to sound a warning, it would not only alert the other frogs, it would also give his position away. The guard must jump into the water at the exact moment he cries out. Here, where the stream enters the pond, there was no water. It would be a race to the pond with a coyote or raccoon hot on his tail. A scary thought. Wart stared down the open stretch of mud between him and the pond. As he did, he saw Ratchet climbing out of the water.

It’s about time, Wart said as Ratchet hopped up to him. If Jumbles had come by before you got here, I would have been in real trouble.

Sorry, Wart, Ratchet said and looked down at the ground. Is this a soft spot?

Don’t change the subject, Ratchet. You know Jumbles will be here any moment. If I had been alone, it would have gotten back to Meshach. I’d never get another chance to do anything.

Sorry. I overslept.

Wart rolled his eyes. Ratchet, oblivious to Wart’s expression, sat down in the shade.

To stay alert, Wart inspected his surroundings, starting first to his left, southward, toward the pond. He let his eyes wander down the muddy creek bed, noting every detail along the way. Even though the water level in the pond had fallen, the mud between the old shoreline and the water had not dried. Willows hugged the pond edge and kept the creek shaded. To his right, northward, where the stream entered the pond from the pasture, Wart could not see the creek due to a dense wall of willows. Here too the mud was moist. In the pasture beyond, though, Wart knew the creek bed had dried and cracked. Wart did not envy Jumbles who would soon head out into the open pasture heat in search of the mysterious toad pool.

Ratchet shook his head.

What’s the matter, Ratchet?

My head itches, Ratchet said as he raised his right back leg, the leg closest to Wart, and stretched it forward along the top of his back, much like a dog scratching its ear. As Wart watched, Ratchet struggled to get his rear leg far enough forward to reach the back of his head, sliding it along the top of his back. At the same time, Ratchet twisted his head back toward his foot. Wart smiled watching Ratchet struggle. Then, without warning, Ratchet’s foot slipped from his back and snapped quick as a willow whip sideways. His foot smacked Wart full in the face. Wart tumbled head-over-legs backwards.

A moment later, Wart crawled out from the grass behind Ratchet, shaking his

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