Toad’s Mouth – Pam Booth

“Brothers, we are here to talk about our rights”   Terence stood in front of a small motley crowd by the side of the road.   Traffic hurtled past and ignored them as they ignored it.   “We have used this route for centuries.  Our fathers and grandfathers and many before them have used this way to get to our home ground,  long before the so called Motor Car came into existence.”    There was a grumbled answer to this.   “We should refuse to change.  Agreed?”   One or two of the crowd shook their heads, but others croaked in agreement.   Terence puffed his chest out.  “I will lead a protest we should refuse to use this monstrosity!”

A small female hopped to the front and shyly said “I  think you are wrong.”  Terence looked aghast at this cheek.   She continued “We should use it.   Have you lost any  your family on the road?   My uncle was killed last year and several other friends.   These motor cars won’t stop for us.   There lives are full of hurry, they have no time for the natural world and its timing.   I think the humans are trying to be  kind.   Besides last year one of the humans was so upset at taking our lives that she crashed her car and squashed a whole tribe.”

The crowd began to croakily  grumble “Perhaps she is right”

“We could try it”

“It’s probably very dark in there”

“What a load of rubbish” Terence moved to a grassy mound.  “You don’t know what you are talking about”

“Well”  Tony, looking smart and lively,  jumped up “I think we should try it.   I know it seems a long way in the dark, but now that it is finished you can just see light at the end of the tunnel .  I will volunteer to go first and try it”   This was quite a good ploy as it showed him as a brave and manly toad who would make a good father to the spring babies.    The girls all gathered giggling round him,  stroking him “You are brave” they screeched.

“Well done Tony”

“We’re all behind you”

“Not all of us”  Terence started again. “How can you let down your ancestors at this time?   Toads who have used this path for centuries”

Tony said “I am not worried about my ancestors, but I am worried about my tadpoles and my children.   They will thank us for this in the future”

There was a fence at the side of the road to prevent the toads crossing, unless they made a long diversion, but underneath was a football sized round hole leading to the Tunnel.

It had been difficult for the cars having to either wait or drive over the migrating toads who were moving for several days to their familiar  breeding ground.  It had been very upsetting in many cases, and so the local council had devised the Tunnel, to help everyone.   The toads were still unsure especially Terence.   “It could be a trap, and we could all die underground, I don’t think we should risk it.  Who’s with me?”  There was a small squeak, but mostly silence.   Terence grew very large and bulbous and shouted at the assembled crowd “Be it on your own heads”.

Tony went to the mouth of the tunnel and took a deep breath.   There was a reasonable amount of room but he did wonder how the larger toads would fare.   There was just room for him to hop along in comfort.   It was a long tunnel dark and damp, but that was good, and  he could just see the light at the other end as the engineiers  had build it very straight.  “Are you alright?”  a cry came.   He just couldn’t turn round so couldn’t reply, he just kept on bravely waddling slowly forward.

“There you are” Terence spoke triumphantly, “he’s gone and we’ll never see him again, I told you so”.  He hopped off with his nose in the air, a smile on his face.    Everyone looked worried.  “Do you think he is right?   It was a little foolish to try wasn’t it?”

Suddenly one of the girls heard a sound through the tunnel.  “Listen”.   Tony had finally reached the other side and was hopping gleefully around.   He tried to shout back through the tunnel to the others.   “It’s fine and lovely here, we’re right by the water.  Come on”    One by one the toads made their way through and joined Tony of the other side, until the only ones left behind were Terence and his cronies.  “Perhaps we should try it” one of them ventured.   “I will” boldly said another, and disappeared from view.   “Better than being squashed” said another and also vanished.   Terence puffed himself up.  “I see, you are all deserting me, forgetting your ancestors eh?”    “O shut your mouth Toad” was the answer.

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