Volume 1 of the "Home, and About" trilogy. The one about Zaba falling in love.
The first story “To Kiss a Frog” is about Zaba: a racy, crossed-eye frog with a short temper and bad manners, who embarks on the mission of finding a prince she has dreamt up. In her quest, she is confronted with a multitude of obstacles. She sails the Seven Seas as a stowaway aboard the Titanic. She follows her heart to Venice where she resorts to begging, is arrested for vagabonding and meets the Two Hundred and Eighty Eighth Doge of Venice. Will she find her prince, or will she come to a sticky end?
Chapter 5: Zaba gets herself into a pickle
There was a commotion, a racket, a rumpus! The homeless bunch sleeping rough under a bridge were being arrested, and that included Zaba. She was picked up unceremoniously by the scruff of her neck and despite her spitting venom and screaming blue murder, she was taken to prison.
“I am innocent!” Zaba cried. “Ask Prince Alfonso! He will vouch for me!” But no one was listening. The Carabinieri cast Zaba into a damp, dark cell and threw away the key.
As she listened to the footsteps of the Carabinieri receding along the winding corridor, Zaba shook with terror. There were voices of convicts around her: crying for mercy, cursing their cruel fate and demanding release. Tin plates were being banged against the doors, scraping noises resounded as tunnels were dug to escape below the ground. But there was no escape...
Zaba wedged herself into the tiniest corner of her cell and wept. Maybe the Frog Prince was just a dream? Maybe he didn’t exist? And worst yet: what where the odds of breakfast being served in this God forsaken place!
Suddenly, a key screeched in the keyhole. Zaba flew to the door. It opened. A bright shaft or sunlight entered Zaba’s cell, and in stepped the towering shadow of the Two Hundred and Eighty Eighth Doge of Venice.
It has to be mentioned here that by the time Zaba had been arrested, Theodore’s telegram reached his cousin, the Doge. A search began for a silly old purple frog. All Venetians looked high and low and at last Zaba was tracked down to her lonely cell.
The Two Hundred and Eighty Eighth Doge of Venice was exceptionally courteous towards Zaba, though he narrowed his eyes with suspicion as he looked at the state she was in. He wined and dined her, mostly with fresh-water tadpoles and lemonade, but at the same time would not touch her other than with a barge pole in case Zaba did something silly, like an assassination of his person.
“I am looking for Prince Alfonso who has romanced me in my dream, “ Zaba told the Doge.
“So I am told, “ the Two Hundred and Eighty Eighth Doge replied slowly. “You are in love with him, I presume?”
“Very much so,” Zaba leaped in her chair. “Does he live in your neighbourhood?”
The Doge mumbled something under his breath. It was not a proper answer to Zaba’s question. It was neither yes nor no. It wasn’t even a maybe. It was something about mad frogs and imaginary princes. Zaba’s head wobbled in confusion.
“Zaba, my friend,” the Doge spoke at last with some clarity. “I think you should rest now. Tomorrow, I will personally pack you in a comfortable parcel and send you by overnight express courier to my dear cousin Theodore who awaits your arrival with great concern. Prince Alfonso can wait.”
“But I can’t!”Zaba stomped her webbed foot and it made a slapping noise on the marble floor. She had to bite her tongue to stop
herself from yelling abuse at that wicked, good for nothing Theodore! She would not abandon her quest, but she had to be clever and conniving. She would lull the Two Hundred and Eighty Eighth Doge into thinking that she would go along with his plan, and then she would escape.
“Oh, all right then, I will rest. Good night!” and she flipped backwards and pretended to snore loudly, giving out an occasional grunt here and there for good measure. The Doge looked at her with distaste and hurried away.
As soon as the door closed behind him and Zaba was well and truly alone in the room, she got to her webbed-feet. Stealthily, like a thief in the night, she flip-flapped across the marble floors and dived down the stairs. Out of breath, she stopped halfway and looked down: the staircase seemed to have no end.
Zaba had a solution. She lay flat on the banister and just as she used to do back home, she slid down with a huge “Yaha-ba-dooo!!!”
It would have been a pleasant ride if it had not been for the column at the end which had knocked out one of Zaba’s front teeth. She spat the tooth into the palm of her webbed foot and made a mental note to put it under a pillow for the Tooth Fairy as soon as she could of course find a bed with a pillow to it.
At the bottom of the stairs she was confronted by the Doge’s two guards. They were enormous and packed with bulging muscles; their hands alone were twice the size of Zaba and their faces were bearded, stern and unforgiving. Zaba froze. This wasn’t the time to get away with murder, she thought. Good thing she didn’t have to.
On closer inspection, she realised two things: firstly, the guards were very skimpily dressed (which gave Zaba a giggle) and secondly, they could not move as their feet were glued to great big pedestals with Prit-stick and besides they were made out of stone. Zaba grinned, shouted a cheeky “na-na-na-naaa-na”, pulled out her tongue for good measure, and ran.