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Torbay Tale
This short story was created by the children attending story hour at the library in 1976, under the supervision of Mr. Peter Thomas. 

Once upon a time, (as usual) there was a fisherman …

                        Every day he went fishing on a huge pond covered with lily pads that lay hear his house in Torbay. He called it Lake Lily Pad, which probably wasn’t its real name, but we’re not sure. It was so old that nobody really knew what it was called anyways.

                        The fisherman’s name was Jack. He was very old, and very poor, and scarcely ever caught enough fish to feed his family. Every day, as he went to the pond, his wife would stand on the doorstep by the kitchen and scream, “Don’t you have anything better to do than go to that pond?” And he wouldn’t say anything. He would just walk on down through the wood to the pond. There his boat rested on the sand between big rocks where the little waves sparkled like snow-flakes and splish-splashed on the boat’s side. In the pond, frogs jumped off the lily pads, teaching their tadpoles to swim.

                        Now, the tadpoles really didn’t like swimming, but they had to learn in order to go to school.

                        The tadpoles’ school was on the other side of the pond, behind some rocks, beneath the swishy, ticklish weeds below the water’s edge. There they learnt their frog A B Cs, and the four ways of catching flies:

1.      stick out your sticky tongue

2.      the fly swatter leap

3.      the gluey weed trap

4.      the dead pole lure

Their teacher for all of this was an old bull frog, immensely fat and with bulging eyes, who always roared, “Sit down on your pebbles or I’ll eat you up!” and then added, “Ribbit, ribbitt,” in a stern, croaky voice.

            The fisherman would put his lunch (which consisted of left over scraps from the last night’s supper – fish-head sandwiches and frog-leg cookies) all in a box where the frogs wouldn’t get to it (now, remember that box). He would then make sure he had his nets, the bait, and his fishing rod. Finally, when everything was in order, he would push off the boat, step into it, and row slowly out to the middle of the pond so as not to get home too early. And this he did every day.

            (For some reason, you are also to remember the fisherman’s cookies!)

            On the other side of the pond he stopped rowing, and went to the bow to get the anchor. Being rather near-sighted, he tripped over his lunch. He grabbed for the anchor to save himself, but it slipped out of his hand. Over went the boat and over went the fisherman, down, down into the pond, through the lily pads, slithering between the weeds, and …

            On a rock below, the fat bull frog had been just about to commence exercises. The tadpoles were standing on their back legs, mostly because their front legs hadn’t grown yet. The bull frog had his front leg stretched out for the tadpoles to do their regulation nineteen jumps when the anchor arrived. It was followed by the fisherman, and the bull frog teacher -- who was also very proud of being the principal -- was suddenly squashed into the gooey mud.

            The fisherman was very wet. His eyes were full of frog-school mush. He felt squooshy (so did the bull frog beneath him), and the tadpoles were left in mid-jump.

            There was silence except for the pitter-patter of water drops falling back into the pond, and a bubbling sort of sound that came from beneath the fisherman.

            Then, suddenly, from the school canteen, a shriek began. Mrs. Diddle Baum-Goldfish – large, fat, and black-haired, with bulbous eyes bulging – flopped frantically through the water lily arch, her apron (made with such beautiful fishy triangles) covered with fly soup.

            “Help!” she screamed. “I’m drying up. The pond fell out of the kitchen.” There was a gurgle as she ran out of water. Then, “I’ll sue the principal!”

            There was only a, “Blurrup, blurrub” from beneath the struggling fisherman, who was by now entangled in the net, which had also fallen out of the boat.

            Meanwhile, one of the smartest of the tadpoles had swum quickly over to the mud-hole where the eel police were having their eel-gazzo candy for lunch.

            “Ring the bell!” the tadpole cried. “The kitchen soup as blown up and the pond fell in!”

            The eel chief called the eel squad to attention, but the squad got entangled in its gazzoo candy, and what a dreadful mess of tails and moustaches there was. (Yes, they had moustaches. Particularly the chief, who had been trying to impress all the lady eels with his one foot moustache.)

            Finally, after they had disentangled, leaving the chief’s moustache in the cash register drawer, the squad galloped off, up and down, down and up, towards the school.

            Back at the school Mrs. Diddle-Baum was again swimming around screaming. Fly soup was everywhere. Twenty-five tadpoles from the kindergarten grade were all pulling hard on the principal’s right leg, which was sticking out from beneath the fisherman. Brown mud was everywhere, and as the eel police arrived a mud cake hit the chief.

            “Arrest everybody!” raged the chief.

            “They’re all guilty!” The eel police looked very confused, bit each other’s tails, and wrapped themselves under a rock.

            “Not yourself, you stupid eels!” the chief howled, bouncing up and down like an excited ribbon. They immediately clutched the chief and squashed him in the mud. Wriggling frantically he found himself nose to nose with the principal.

            “What’s going on here?” the chief bubbled. But with a loud sucking noise, the principal suddenly disappeared backwards, pulled by the twenty-five tadpoles, and the eel chief found himself in the hole beneath the fisherman.

            Above, the eel police were grabbing everyone. At last they discovered the bursting fisherman tangled in the net.

            “Arrest the net!” they yelled, tugging it in the opposite directions.

            The fisherman inside, covered with mush and mud, could only emit some loud “bloops.”

            “Oh me sons, shockin’ that is. Disgraceful, now it’s insulting the police. Teach it a lesson we will.”

            With this the eels all fell into arguing until it was finally suggested that the net be pulled out of the pond and tied in a tree.

            But they couldn’t move the net. They heaved and pulled. Finally, with the help of all the tadpoles, the bull frog, and Mrs. Diddle-Baum (who was swimming round repeating to anyone and everyone, “Oh, my heroes! My Heroes!”), they rolled the net, the struggling fisherman, and the eel chief up onto the bank of the pond.

            “And, you are under arrest,” the police puffed victoriously.

            “You’re fired!” howled the eel police chief inside the net.

            “You can’t fire us! Only the pond council can fire us, or our police chief.”

            “But I am your chief!” the net cried.

            “Double arrest the net for imitating a chief or police!” screamed the enraged eels who were struggling to tie the net to a tree, using weeds, bits of netting, twine, and the very slippery end of the chief’s tail.

            From the pond Mrs. Diddle-Baum sobbed, “And sue it for drying up my kitchen!”

            The court had been convened on the bank around the tree. The judge sat on his apple dandy lawn chair behind the fisherman’s fly sandwich, (you weren’t told about that one because it was really the other sandwiches dipped in fly soup) which served as a desk. He was an elderly crayfish, wearing a red and blue suit with a long grey wig made from tea bags. His gavel was made out of the fisherman’s apple impaled on a stick. He wore glasses. The clerk of the court, a seagull, sat below the judge’s desk (which was called a bench in court) on a pile of sticks. The jury, which sat to the judge’s right, consisted of twelve snapping turtles, each with a cookie in its mouth.

            “Order in the court!” called the crayfish in a cranky voice.

            “Call the first witness,” grumbled the clerk, who had just arrived back from a vacation on a beach in P.E.I.

            “But what’s the charge?” protested the judge.

            The eel police all stamped forward at once, and fell over each other’s tails. “This net is charged with impersonating a chief of eel police, disturbing a place of learning, and willfully, woefully emptying a kitchen and …”

            “Call a witness,” the clerk hastily interrupted, fluttering his feathers as he threatened the jury with his beak.

            An elderly snail, who had been in the mud at the time of the incident, wriggled up. The clerk ate him, and licking his beak thoughtfully, called for the second witness.

            The principal stepped forward. “Umm …” he was immediately interrupted by the prosecutor, a fat beaver with beady eyes and long teeth that reached to his knees.

            “Swing your feet up and down!”

            “What?” said the judge querulously, and a muskrat band appeared and started playing a square dance.

            When order was restored, the principal started his testimony in a quavering voice. “On the 4th day of June, nineteen hundred and fourteen, I went to war … “

            “Get on with the evidence,” cried the judge.

            “Rubbish! Rubbish!” This came from a well-dressed Turr who was lawyer for the defense.

            When the judge and the Turr had finished arguing the principal continued sadly. “The tadpoles were about to do their exercises when Anne-Marie had a birthday party …”

            “Nonsense!” the prosecutor was on his feet waving his tail.

            “But it is her birthday!” called Kim.

            “Order! Order in the court!” screeched the clerk, biting a bit out of the judge’s desk.

            Order was again restored and the principal finished hastily. “And the pond fell in a ker-plopped me in the mud.”

            “Is that all?” snapped the judge, hitting the clerk smartly on the beak with his gavel. “Has the defense anything to add?”

            “Hogwash!” said the Turr.

            “Rather like it,” replied the principal sadly.

            “Nest witness,” squawked the clerk, eyeing the principal, who hastily jumped behind the judge.

            “Next witness,” echoed an usher, who was, of course, a newt.

            “Next witness, next witness,” echoed down a chain of ushers to the pond’s edge.

            Four eel police appeared over the edge bearing the lunch box full of water. The judge adjusted his glasses. “Oh, mmm, err, oh snittletops. Just where is the witness?”

            “Mrs. Diddle-Baum-Goldfish,” announced the usher, and Mrs. Diddle-Baum’s head appeared over the side of the can.

            “You see M’lad, it was the water you know. Have to have it in or out of the kitchen. I do.” Her nose was powdered and her hair was done up in a plastic bag tied with strands of grass.

            The jury snapped their cookies in appreciated. The judge creaked with irritation, “Oh, get on with the case.”

            “On June twenty-second, eighteen sixty-five …” began Mrs. Diddle-Baum.

            “That’s far too long ago,” the Turr interrupted, looking at his job watch.

            “On. Well. On second thought, it was April the first, seventy-six. I was in the kitchen at the fly-soup and the pond fell in and the eel police drank all the soup.” She finished this is quite a rush and jumped beneath the water in the lunch box to get her breath back.

            When her nose re-appeared, quite pink, over the edge of the can, the puzzled judge asked, “Are you blaming the police now?”

            She ignored him. “And there is no janitor so I have to clean up their candy.”

            “Arrest her!” howled the police. Mrs. Diddle-Baum-Goldfish hastily dived back into the lunch box.

            Once more order was restored and the judge ordered Mrs. Diddle-Baum to go on.

            “When I came out of the kitchen,” she sobbed, “the net was there and it wasn’t before so it must have been the net’s fault or it would have been very angry,” and quite confused, she his herself below the water in the box.

            “Now, the eel police chief was very angry. With one last push and one last pull, he freed his tail. Down fell the net onto the lunch box. There was a splash as Mrs. Diddle-Baum lept from the box. The judge started arguing with the clerk, who promptly ate him. The beaver at once turned into a prince and said, “Please.” So the whole muskrat band player “Home, Home on the Range” on a single piano. Mrs. Diddle-Baum-Goldfish and the principal started to do a tap dance while the jury snapped the rhythm on the tails of the eel police and the Turr conducted. The music got faster and faster. The fisherman danced in the net entangling the clerk, and the beaver’s teeth got caught in the float, until finally, with a huge splash, the whole court fell into the pond …

            Johnny Tadpole woke with a start, his mouth full of water, and scrambled back onto his lily pad.

            “Oh dear, I’ve overslept again and I’m late for school. Oh dear, on no, oh bother.”

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If you have any comments about this story, or can remember attending the 1976 storytime, please email our Community Access Program (CAP) Intern @ trying_not_to_breathe@hotmail.com


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