The sight of the grasshopper flitting about in the container forced Noah Chilton’s stomach to grumble and his lips to separate. His tongue was on the verge of becoming a major attraction for his classmates when Julia Harolds sneezed, lifting the curtain on his insect daydream. Noah snatched his tongue back into place and scanned the room for curious eyes. Mrs Harrington stood behind the desk with the grasshopper’s temporary home on it, attempting to apply her knowledge of how children think and act to get the semi-circle of students refocused on her science lesson. Most of the class were now assessing if Julia had to complete any critical post-sneeze activities, while the rest were either staring at their shoes or memorising the quotes on the out-dated posters on the wall behind Mrs Harrington’s head. Noah’s chuckle was so quiet, no one else heard it, and he wondered just how long it was going to take for anyone to put the pieces of the puzzle together and realise that he was half human, half frog.
The people who spent any significant amount of time around Noah – such as his mother and father – never offered him a reasonable explanation regarding the origins of his frogness. Therefore, at the age of five, Noah concluded that there were no reasonable explanations and that his life would have to be dedicated to learning about both aspects of his life: what he could show and what should be hidden; the skills that came naturally and those he would have to refine, and; the individuals he could keep close and those he should keep at a distance. Noah joked to his parents that, given how far he could leap, these people would have to be some distance away. At school, Noah habitually sat by the library window during recess pretending to read books about insects, but was, instead, watching the other students navigate the playground like ants in an ant farm. None of the playground equipment would present a challenge for Noah, and he was confident his strength and agility would send the town – not to mention the world – into a spin from which it could not return.
Noah had found school especially difficult over the past few days, as he and his classmates used posters and books to learn about the different types of insects and what makes them among the most fascinating, and delicious, of all the animals. Noah, therefore, understood that bringing in a grasshopper for the class to examine was a terrific touch to get the students engaged. It was a shame, then, to discover that Julia Harolds was not yet done sneezing – making a horrendous wallop of a sound while it was her turn to hold the container housing the grasshopper. The second her muscles spasmed, the lid to the container shot off; providing the perfect opportunity for the grasshopper to seek safety by jetting upwards, towards the exposed beams on the classroom ceiling.
The grasshopper didn’t make it. Noah’s tongue had unravelled itself in an instant, finding its mark with ease and ripping it back into his mouth with a slurp and a crunch. No one was looking at their shoes anymore. His classmate’s mouths were wide open as he slowly chewed and swallowed what was, only a few moments earlier, a perfectly valid specimen of a grasshopper. Recognising that his next move was crucial, Noah allowed everyone in the room to stare at him for as long as they needed. Using every ounce of her teaching experience, Mrs Harrington read the situation and interrupted the growing tension.
“Do you think you could go outside and find us another grasshopper, Noah?” she asked in a way that reminded everyone to remain calm. Noah nodded three times and went to walk outside.
“Wait.” Noah turned to see Julia Harolds boldly wanting to ask him something. “Can we… can we come and watch?”
Noah smiled. “Of course,” he said as he opened the classroom door and leapt towards the gardens at the opposite end of the school.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
Illustrations by Alisha Towers: FACEBOOK
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