Pond Lake's Newest Face
Mr. Toad, mayor of Pond Lake, prided himself on knowing every member of his community. There wasn’t a chap or lady with whom Mr. Toad hadn’t shared a spot of tea or a smoke, thank you very much. In fact, one could even go so far as to suggest that this was Mr. Toad’s defining feature. His gregariousness led to his being re-elected thrice and to a reputation that preceded him well beyond the small confines of Pond Lake.
One early morning, while swimming on his way to Downing Lily Pad, Margaret Toadstool stopped Mr. Toad.
“You’re looking good this morning, Mr. Mayor,” she said. “How do you stay so young and vibrant?”
“Well, a very good morning to you, Ms. Toadstool,” he replied. “It’s the cigars, I say. They breathe new life into these old lungs.”
“Why yes of course, Mr. Mayor. That must be it.”
“Well I must be on my way now. But we simply must get together for tea one day. I’ll have Antony arrange it.”
“Very good Mr. Mayor,” said Ms. Toadstool.
These exchanges were a frequent occurrence for Mr. Toad. The ladies often hid smiles bashfully when he walked by and the blokes lined up to shake his webbed hand. Although these remarks did not contribute to Mr. Toad's ego, he couldn't help but to let such compliments skew his perception of himself.
Upon arrival at Downing Lily Pad, Mr. Toad went about his business as usual. He read through the day’s news and finalized his agenda for his trip across the pond. Around midday, Mr. Toad walked to the edge of the water to enjoy a cup of tea. While stirring in his sugar cubes, he dropped his spoon into the water below.
“Oh, bloody hell,” he sighed. He leaned over the pad when he was suddenly taken aback by the face looking back at him. Directly beneath the water was the face of a toad, with deep wrinkles, fat cheeks, and a spattering of warts.
“My lord,” Mr. Toad exclaimed, hopping back in surprise. That was perhaps the ugliest amphibian Mr. Toad had ever seen. Mr. Toad could not place that face for the life of him which he found rather troubling.
It must be a slip of the mind, he thought. Mr. Toad concluded the best solution was to strike up a conversation with the unfortunate gentleman and remember his name in the process.
Mr. Toad strode back to the edge of the pad and looked down in hopes of seeing the mystery toad. Sure enough, when looked down, there he was. Mr. Toad opened his mouth, but could not find the right words. He stepped back and took a breath.
This was unusual for Mr. Toad. As a politician, making small talk was a second nature to him. But something about that face made the task almost impossible. He found the grotesqueness of the face quite unnerving.
“Very well, I’ll just phone Sybil,” said Mr. Toad. “She’ll know.”
Sybil, Mr. Toad’s private secretary, picked up on the second ring, “Hello?”
“Yes, hello Sybil, it’s Toad.”
“Oh Mr. Toad, good afternoon. How are you?”
“Good, good. Listen, Sybil, so sorry to bother you on you day off, but you wouldn’t happen to know of any new toads in pond lake, would you?”
“Toads? Oh gosh, I don’t know. Maybe if I could access my files. I’ll check first thing tomorrow, sir.”
“Oh no need, no need. You see, I saw a face today that I could not place for the life of me. I thought perhaps he was a new resident. But on second thought, my mind not being what it was, I must’ve forgotten the poor bloke.”
“Forgetting a face? That doesn’t sound like you, sir.”
“Yes, quite right. Regardless, the face to which I’m referring seems quite old, wrinkled, and sports quite the array of warts.”
“Oh, dear. Sir, where did you see this new face?”
“Well it’s actually the queerest thing. I had dropped my tea spoon in the lake and when I looked into the water, I saw the chap.”
“Sir, I’m not sure…”
The call cut off.
“Oh, hell,” said Mr. Toad.
Mr. Toad paced the lily pad a few times, eventually lighting a cigar to help clear his thoughts. Who was that fellow? Why had he never seen him before? Why was he staring up at him?
It is just one toad, Mr. Toad tried to tell himself. Surely it is impossible for the mayor to know every single one of his citizens. Yet, knowing everyone was what Toad built his entire career upon.
He must have voted for Mr. Nishikigoi in that last cycle, Mr. Toad conjectured. Surely that explains it.
Mr. Toad’s feet and thoughts went back and forth like this all day, and eventually the sun began to set. Deciding that his family would soon worry, Mr. Toad decided to act.
Enough of this nonsense. I’m going home. But on his way out, Mr. Toad couldn’t help but peer over the edge of the pad one last time. Sure enough, there was the face, albeit less defined.
“Alright chap, I’ve had about enough of this! What is the cause of all this lingering?”
The face mouthed words back, but Mr. Toad could not comprehend them. He leaned in closer to try to decipher them and…splash! Mr. Toad fell right into the pond. Turning around wildly, Mr. Toad tried to find the face that evaded him all day. But there wasn’t a soul around. And then Mr. Toad had a realization.
Mr. Toad climbed back onto the lily pad and peered over the edge once more. There was the face. No, not the face. His face. For years, everyone Mr. Toad knew, and that was truly everyone, told him how dashing he looked. And yet, the face looking back at him was anything but dashing. And so, it seemed that Mr. Toad knew every face with the exception of his own.