I can’t really say we got arrested. We were nine years old. Well, Jessi was. You couldn’t handcuff a couple of girls our age anway. The cuffs would just fall off. But we ended up in the back seat of Sheriff Thompson’s car because there wasn’t enough room for us both in the front.
“Did Jessi put you up to this?” Mama asked when he delivered me to the door, glaring suspiciously at Jessi who was waving politely from the back seat.
“No, Mama.” I shook my head.
It was a silly question. Of course Jessi put me up to it, as much as she ever put me up to anything. I’d learned by then, however, that answering yes to that question meant I wouldn’t get to play with Jessi for a while.
“You’ll have to have a talk with her,” Sheriff Thompson said apologetically. “Maybe you can sit down with the Warrens and talk it over together, whatever makes the most sense. We just can’t have the kids selling things in the park without a public permit. There’s an ordinance. You understand.”
“Of course, Ralph,” Mama said, waving back at Jessi with a fake smile of her own. “What exactly were they selling?”
Sheriff Thompson looked uncomfortable. With most kids, it’s probably something like lemonade. “I better let your daughter explain that. I’m sure it’ll make more sense coming from her. There’ll be the matter of the $24.75 too. You’ll have to sign for that at the station.”
After he’d gone, I stared at my toes. The temperature in our house went up several degrees while I waited for it.
“The sheriff said he had to let at least a hundred frogs go. Were you selling frogs?”
Wow, it was hot in there! “No, the frogs were free.”
“Then what exactly were you selling?”
“Kisses.” It had sounded a whole lot better when Jessi suggested it.
“Kisses! Eight years old and kissing boys? What will your father say?”
“Ew!” I looked up in alarm. “Not boys! They were kissing the frogs. Five frogs for a dollar.”
“Kiss five frogs?” Mama’s skin threatened to turn as green as the frogs’.
“That way you don’t have to kiss a thousand.” My logic was suddenly sounding shaky even to me.
“Why on Earth would anyone kiss a thousand frogs?”
“Mrs. Warren said some people will kiss a thousand frogs to find one prince.”
That’s where we got the idea. We had no idea she was talking about a friend’s long string of ugly boyfriends. Jessi thought it wouldn’t be so bad to kiss one frog if you just knew which one was the right one. I might have suggested pretending we were smart enough to tell. Charging money for it was Jessi’s idea, though. That’s the truth.
We made up little hand-written advertisements and handed them out in school. Okay, I made them up, complete with a little frog princess I got pretty good at drawing by the fourth or fifth one, but Jessi helped hand them out. That’s how we got caught. Someone’s parents found one of our ads and sent Sheriff Thompson out to the park in the center of town where Jessi and I had caught as many frogs as we could and erected a frog-kissing booth at the edge of the pond. A long line of kids all ran away when the sheriff showed up to make us take down the booth and let the frogs go.
Reluctantly, I explained all this as Mama listened patiently.
“Please don’t tell Daddy,” I begged.
“Your father’s sure to hear about this,” she answered with a sigh, “but we can deal with it then I suppose. There’s something I don’t understand. If it was a dollar even to kiss five frogs, what was the seventy-five cents for?”
“Jimmy Cathcart said you get warts from kissing frogs, so we sold him wart insurance.”
“Seventy-five cents insurance, on a dollar!”
“No,” I scowled. “Insurance was only a quarter. Jimmy went three times.”
© 2013 Anne Schilde