Another college assignment story. This one I based on two girls I knew my senior year of high school. One was…a weirdo. The other was unfortunately targeted, one of those victims of kids who are carelessly mean. My professor also didn’t like this story. Got only a B for it.
Orchestra was a world unto itself in a school where the student body matched up roughly three thousand. We orch dorks didn’t pay much attention to them, and they didn’t pay much attention to us. Thusly, I’m not sure anyone else outside of the string circle knew much, or anything, of Frog Girl.
I can’t remember Frog Girl’s actual name. I’m sure it’s been told to me countless times, though. She was a first violinist, the section nearest to the door. I was a second violinist, so I can’t remember if she was much good or not, but that was how we knew each other in there—by section. So-and-so was a cellist, some girl whosey-whatsie had a crush on the second bass—and stereotypes went along with that. The reason Frog Girl was unique, however, had nothing to do with her section. In fact, it had nothing to do with orchestra at all. It had to do with her little, purple, rubber, toy frog.
His name was Froggert– I can remember that well enough. She had him with her at all times, and she’d never speak directly to you, but through the frog. If she ever introduced herself to you or greeted you, she would do so by first sticking Froggert in your face, introducing him, than requesting you to pet him before she giggled happily and trotted off back to her violin, (or to some other unsuspecting soul to add to the frog’s fortunes of petting). Of course, we all thought her bonkers. But, as I said, we were a world unto ourselves; which means we got used to her.
A friend of mine, however, (another second violinist like myself), never really did get used to her. I think she just didn’t let herself. Rather tight pantied, if you know what I mean. We’d just be chatting away in the morning by the instrument lockers, stuffing our backpacks away and unzipping our strings, when Froggert would appear, as usual. Malory would instantly clam up.
“Please, go away,” she’d say.
Frog Girl would smile plaintively, Froggert nested quietly in the cup of her hands.
“Froggert likes you. Why don’t you pet him?”
“I’m not going to pet your stupid frog.” She’d always reply stiffly, like a twig standing upright.
“Aww, but you know you want to.”
Froggert would turn to the rest of us and we’d all perform our ritual patting atop his tiny, purple head. Eventually, Mr. Newman, our orchestra teacher, would call us to our seats and Froggert would return to his usual post on Frog Girl’s music stand.
I believe we asked her why she had such a problem with Frog Girl—though rather tentatively, mind you. We didn’t want to make it sound as though we were accusing her of anything. She didn’t say much, other than that Frog Girl was just freaking annoying and the most immature person on the face of the planet. Then Katt—the first chair cellist and a good friend of hers—asked if they hadn’t’ve been good friends through middle school. What happened to make her hate her so much in High School?
We got pretty much the same answer. Frog Girl just became rude in her annoying fashions. I can’t remember quite the reason. Whatever it was, it became all somewhat clear to us that Frog Girl still thought of her as a friend. Or at least had no problem with Malory as Malory had with her. To be honest, I am still rather curious as to what exactly happened between the two of them to make Malory so ornery. I had no problem with Frog Girl. I just thought she was weird like the rest of us did. And Malory’s not one of those types who acted too busy to sit and tell you her life story. That may sound weird, but in High School, that’s the only story you have time to tell.
One day, however, Malory cracked. She had been overstressed by upcoming AP exams and probably didn’t have a good night sleep the night before, and when Froggert appeared–
“Get your damn frog out of my face!”
Frog Girl, as always, seemed unperturbed. That girl floats through life, I swear.
“Why?” she teased. “Pet him! He’s not hurting you. He likes you, Malory.”
“Because I said so! Now get the hell out of my face!”
Frog Girl unwisely jabbed her frog in, smiling. Malory’s hand came falling upon her own. Froggert went flying. Frog Girl’s eyes went wide.
“When will you get the message!” Malory cried. “I’m not your friend anymore!”
Frog Girl didn’t turn back when she picked up her frog. She left without a word.
Our eyes were on her. Then to Malory.
“Wow, dude,” said Truman, another first violinist. “Did you have to be so harsh?”
“Yeah, Mal, that was kinda mean,” I said.
“It was,” agreed Katt quietly, in her soft, sing song way.
“Well,” she didn’t meet our eyes, her expression angry, “she deserves it. She shouldn’t be sticking that thing in other people’s faces all the time.”
I guess we were all kind of worried about Frog Girl afterwards. But when she showed no signs of being permanently scarred by Malory’s explosion, we all shrugged it off and more or less forgot about it. Beethoven’s fifth movement takes all the concentration you can get, and we were working on memorizing it before our concert in two weeks. Mr. Newman always got his worst when we were nearing a performance.
Monday morning came with Malory screaming. The normally noisy orchestra room, full of chatter and tuning strings, fell dead quiet.
“My violin!” she wailed. “My—my violin!”
Of course, all us compassionate females rushed forward with concern etched on our faces.
“What happened? Are you all right?”
Meanwhile, a few boys crowded round the violin case open on the ground. Malory’s violin laid like a corpse in its coffin, a great crack shattering across its dark, auburn face; its neck cleanly snapped in two, and its strings flung into the air in curly cues. One boy whistled.
“There’s no recovering from that.”
“Yeah, you’ll just have to get a new one.”
“But I can’t!” moaned Malory, hugging her middle, her face growing puffy with grief. “That—that one was really, really expensive. How could she…how could she!” she drifted away into sobs, covering her face.
“She? What do you mean? Did somebody do this?” I asked.
Katt put her arms around Malory’s shaking shoulders. I couldn’t make out what she said through the noises she was making.
“Whaddid she say?” I asked Katt. Katt, in turn, looked up at me with her big, doleful eyes all confused and crinkled. And then she said it. Frog Girl. Frog Girl had done this.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I mean, did you see it happen? I haven’t even seen her yet today.”
In response to this, Malory pulled out one quivering finger to point towards her violin case. The boys were on it. A few seconds later, they extracted a bright, purple card from within the wreckage. On it was a little sticker of a frog.
Mr. Newman was skeptical at first. Frog Girl? He kept saying. Frog Girl do this? No no, she’d never hurt a fly! Or, at least, he thought so. Some of us had joked that Frog Girl ate flies as a hobby when she was bored. But, after Malory’s insistent complaints and tears, (I personally think he just wanted her to get off his desk, but we all knew Mr. Newman’s nicer than that), he finally agreed to talk to Frog Girl, maybe file up a report for the office, even though he was convinced that Malory had just accidently dropped her violin when she was opening her locker, or something along the lines of that.
Frog Girl came to class her usual self the next day, despite the accusations against her. Mr. Newman hushed us down enough to tell us that Frog Girl had not broken Malory’s violin. His reasoning’s were his trust for her word, and the fact that she had given the alibi of having breakfast in the cafeteria the whole morning. We said nothing to this until after orchestra, where curious whispers were exchanged, wondering if she had done it before the cafeteria had even open, or maybe even the night before. There were a few cellists and first violinists who banded up with the idea that Malory had just forgotten the card in her case. It had been in the second, almost never used rosin compartment. Not to mention they did use to be friends. I didn’t know what to think. I was too busy trying to enjoy my carrots during lunch with Malory ranting about it nonstop. Though deep inside, I believe Mr. Newman. Frog Girl was harmless. Wasn’t she?
Froggert had returned to collecting pettings by the next morning. Some were more reluctant than usual to pet him, as though the likelihood of your instrument breaking raised on contact with the rubber toy. I pet him, as usual, while talking to Katt and Truman. Malory had fled to the other side of the room when Frog Girl drew near.
“Are you doing all right?” asked Katt. Frog Girl cocked her head to the side, meeting her gaze.
“What do you mean?” Then a great smile broke across her face, “Froggert’s getting a new costume tomorrow—yep yep yep!”
“Well, with Malory saying you broke that violin and all…”she trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
“Nope! We’re just excited for Froggert’s new costume.” She stroked her cheek against her frog. Its tiny, black eyes popped against her olive skin. I couldn’t help but chuckle.
“You’re really making a costume for it?” I asked, smirking.
“Yep! It has a cape and everything!”
“That’s it! SUUUper Froggert!” She swooped her frog through the air, squeezing it. I laughed.
“Aw man, you’re so bizarre.”
“Though, don’t you think that’s why Malory doesn’t like you?” asked Truman. On Katt’s look he shrugged. “No really. Malory might have been really embarrassed around you. No offense, but…”
Frog Girl looked at him blankly. Katt lightly smacked him across the head.
“Don’t say that. It’s a matter of opinion.”
“Fine then, I would,” he mumbled. Frog Girl blinked, turned, and floated away, Froggert swooping about her. Malory appeared the moment she turned.
“I wouldn’t say those things about her,” she said darkly.
We ignored her. We, along with the rest of the orchestra, didn’t quite know how to treat her. The breaking of a violin was sacrilegious in our world, so none really knew how to react to the shock, especially since it was still in the air as to what exactly happened.
The shredded remains of the Truman’s copy of Beethoven’s fifth symphony greeted the orchestra next session, scattered about his seat like the first brushes of snow. The next thing to a shattered violin in horror had to be desecrated music sheets. He stared at them for a full two minutes before the first bass player pointed out something purple amongst the mess: a purple card, with the sticker of a frog on it.
“This is just too creepy.”
“Where’s Malory?” he said, holding a few pieces of his precious music.
“Malory! You heard her the other day, didn’t you Shay?”
I started at my name. “Heard what?”
“When she said ‘I wouldn’t say those things about her.’ She’s been angry with Froggert for years. She must’ve snapped and has been trying to frame her or something.”
“Truman,” said Katt, softly, “I know you’re hurt about your music, but we were supposed to memorize it anyways. If you have to, you could read off your stand partner’s take home copy.”
“But it makes sense,” I said, “where’s Frog Girl anyways?”
“I dunno, but Shay, Malory hasn’t been in all day. She’s been planning on going up north to get a new violin. How could she have done this if she’s a good few hours away as we speak? This had to have happened early this morning before we came in.”
Truman stared unseeingly into his stand.
“So…if it’s not Malory…”
“No one else would care to frame Frog Girl.” said Katt. Her long hair swept across her cheek as she bowed her head to help him gather up the white scraps. “She’s weird, yes, but not mean…at least, she was.”
A cello bow was the next target. We had gathered on the stage across campus for after school rehearsal to find the long, mahogany handle gutted of its fine, ivory hairs, which were spread out all around its orange cello. The kid in question rushed over at the sight, panic-stricken. Once he verified that his precious cello had received no harm, he picked up his frayed, useless bow. In his other hand he held a familiar purple card.
“This can’t be for real,” he muttered. Several of us crowded about him.
“What did you say to her?”
“Did you insult Froggert?”
At first, he merely twisted the frog card in his hands without a word before his stand partner spoke up.
“Actually, he did call her some choice names the other day. Thought she was stupid for dressing up that dumb frog in a cape.” He suddenly froze, glancing around nervously. “Not that…I said that…about her, um, thing.”
At that moment, Frog Girl bounced onto the stage, Froggert in hand. Sure enough, Froggert wore a miniscule red satin cape and a mask over his unblinking eyes.
“Hey there! Check it out! Suuuuper Froggert!” Froggert whisked passed us. We watched it quietly. I spotted the tiny bit of masking tape holding together his cape and felt the urge to pick it off as a corner of it fluttered in the light breeze of flight.
“Don’t you guys wanna pet him?”
Froggert’s bulging eyes watched us, waiting. We stared back into the rubber gaze.
“Uh, I have to get my viola still,” said a girl, before she turned and dashed off.
“Same here! I was chatting with her.” said Katt, following.
A few others followed after, not even bother to excuse themselves, leaving Truman and I alone with the accusing look of the purple frog. Truman glowered at her. I could feel an uncomfortable tickling crawling into my stomach. Frog Girl just smiled, oblivious.
Over the next two weeks, a bass went missing, a violist’s math book got dumped in a toilet, one girl’s white jacket got drenched in coke, a few more bows got ripped up, a music folder got glued together with fresh gum, and a plethora of music went missing. Around each of these were the claim of the presence of the now infamous purple card and bug eyed frog sticker. Even those who were unsure of what they had done to insult Frog Girl knew that at the least they had all teased, joked about, or called her names. When the day came that Mr. Newman looked out at an orchestra with hardly any of the right pages to play and tattered, second hand bows, he threw his baton down.
“Good god!” He put his hands to his head. “What is wrong with you people? Our concert is tomorrow night!”
No one said anything. There are not many excuses you can give to a stressed conductor. Nonetheless, he waited, glowering down at us.
“I mean, teh, it’s like you’ve all gone insane. Don’t any of you care? Losing your music, breaking your bows—“
“It’s not our fault!” cried a first violinist.
“Wha—not your fault? Then they just—fluttered away? You’re instruments just decided to gain a life of their own?”
Then, as though lightening had fallen upon his Jewish head, it clicked.
“Oh no…this can’t be about Frog Girl again, can it?”
The answer was all too apparent on our transparent faces. He leaned back on the wall with a quiet thump, running a hand down his face to pinch the bridge his nose.
“You’ve got to be joking.”
The orchestra protested.
“But her cards—they’re always there!”
“And she’s always around somehow—“
As the voices rose, I wondered how Mr. Newman would see their reasoning as I peeked through the section next to me for Frog Girl. His face turned all sorts of colors, and his tall forehead crinkled more and more, incredulous. Eventually, he hushed the class down. I couldn’t seem to find Frog Girl from my position. She was in a different section, after all.
“Look, Frog Girl has verified to me she had nothing to do with these…pranks. Now will you all please turn to measure thirty-six and pretend that you have practice the section I told you to? And cut the crap. Man, guys. I would’ve thought you moved on from 2nd grade a long time ago.”
There were several noises of protest before we lifted up our instruments.
Truman, Katt, Malory and I nearly ran to the door after period. As we crowded out the door with the rest of the orchestra, Frog Girl squeezed up to us. We exchanged a mixture of expressions. She smiled at us, Froggert held to her shoulder. Blessedly, his cape and mask were gone. In the place was a pen lid taped to his forehead.
“Look! Look!” she cried, beaming. “Look what I came up with this morning! It’s Uni-frog!”
“You know, if I didn’t think much on it,” said Truman as we sidled out into the courtyard for lunch. “I would say Uni-frog sounds slightly homosexual.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Homosexual? Honestly, Truman. It’s a rubber frog.”
“Just saying, if I don’t think about it and just hear it. You don’t think she’s—“
I pushed his curly hair underneath my arm, smirking.
“Dude, if anything, the only thing she has any romance with is her frog.”
Katt gave us both a shaky smile. “Guys, you need to be careful with what you say about other people.”
Malory nodded vigorously to this. I rolled my eyes.
“It’s nearly impossible not to offend anyone. If I watch everything I say, I’ll become a mime. Besides, Frog Girl calls him her boyfriend sometimes anyways—just as a joke, mind you. She’s actually pretty funny when she wants to be.”
“Yeah, once you get over her sticking her stupid toy up peoples noses,” said Malory, eyebrows furrowed.
I couldn’t help but give her a pitying look. “Malory, just get over it. I’m starting to think that it’s you that has the problem, not her.”
“Shay, when I want a shrink, I’ll ask for one.”
“Okay, okay. Sorry.”
Truman found me in the cafeteria the day after the concert with his color drained. Even though he casually began talking to me about some video that had to do with Doctor Who, I couldn’t ignore the troubled look on his face. He didn’t answer me at first, just poked at his soggy chicken nuggets.
“I don’t want it to be like I’m spreading rumors, or anything. It’s just something…”
“Spreading a rumor is spreading a lie, Truman. But if you don’t feel comfortable—“
“It’s Mr. Newman.”
Malory had stepped in. She dropped her tray on the table, shooting speaks of mash potato over the fake, wood surface. Katt followed quickly after.
Katt held the same, ashen troubled look as Truman. Malory, on the other hand, looked livid with indignity.
“Malory, don’t…” started Truman.
“He’s under inquiry for having an affair with a student.”
I dropped my fries, staring. Malory glared back, her lips pursed tightly over her braces. I looked to Katt who stood shaking her head slowly. Truman looked down at his plate.
“This can’t be real. I mean…honestly? Mr. Newman?” I said, stunned.
“That’s why I didn’t want to say anything,” said Truman, “It could just be a rumor. I think it is, because—“
“Because the girl in question,” Katt’s broke in, her soft, melodic voice quavering, “is Frog Girl.”
“Oh man, now this really couldn’t be true. Frog Girl? Newman?”
“Well it makes sense. What other reason would Newman have for defending Frog Girl even after all that evidence got piled against her?” It sounded as though this statement had just been waiting to burst out of him.
I quickly squashed an image in my mind of Frog Girl and Newman together, alone in the orchestra room. My insides clenched.
“But, really guys, Frog Girl? Newman?”
“That’s not it. He’s always been sort of…teasing and coy with her—“
“That’s because she’s just bizarre! I mean, really, what do you say to a girl who talks through her frog?”
Malory tore open her milk angrily. “You know that’s not the real problem, Shay.”
“Than what is?”
“If Mr. Newman get’s convicted of this, he’ll get kicked out of the school. And with that on his record, who would hire him?” she squished the cardboard cup so chocolate milk came squirting all over her wrist. “His whole career will be ruined. And our trip to Chicago.”
“Is that all you care about?” I said. “I wasn’t even going on that. I can’t afford a two thousand dollar trip.”
“You may have not been looking forward to it, but I have! You don’t know what it’s like.”
“Malory, calm down. We’ll be just fine. It’s just a rumor anyways, right?” said Katt in attempts to sooth her. I just glared at her. Could Malory really be this selfish?
Orchestra was unnaturally quiet when we got there. Players kept shuffling around Frog Girl’s seat as though it held a contagious disease. Their faces were constantly screwed in the indecision to pity her or be disgusted as they passed. Frog Girl, for once, sat still in her chair, her Frog in her lap and her face hidden behind a long curtain of black hair. Froggert wore no pen cap.
“Geese, she looks pathetic, doesn’t she?” said Truman.
“Yeah,” I said, without thinking. I felt like I should do something, but couldn’t figure out what. I was afraid that what was going on with Frog Girl was something I just simply could not understand.
The man that had come to replace Mr. Newman for the day while he was on suspension for inquiry was a lanky pale man with almost clear blond hair. For the rest of the period he merely jabbered and waved his baton stupidly, as though hoping that in some magical way we’d all pick up and play beautifully—not that we needed a conductor to play well anyways.
Half way through, however, a tall, balding man in a grey suit came in. He stood tall, radiating a sort of call to respect. We watched, our instruments resting on our knees, bows hanging off stands.
Remembering this, I feel worse than ever at not being able to remember Frog Girl’s real name, because of course he hadn’t called her ‘Frog Girl.’
She stood up so quietly, almost like a ghost, holding that tiny little frog in her hands as she followed him out the door. Before she left, however, she took Froggert in her right hand and placed him on the chalk tray on the black board. The door snapped shut with a certain tone of finality. Our eyes drew to the abandoned frog, it’s black, blank eyes staring pointlessly at the ceiling.
“Come come now, class,” said the substitute in his reedy voice, “Mr. Newman will not be pleased when he returns to hear you are still not fixing the, uh, triple notes.”
“He has no clue what he’s doing,” I muttered to my stand partner, drawing up my violin.
“No, he doesn’t.” she murmured.
Once the baton came down the notes were splayed across the room. Each section played their part at their own pace, minds not on the music. Cellos were slurring, first violins were out of tune, the seconds were unreadable, and the basses trudged along as though nothing were wrong, waiting for the moment when everyone would fall back into order. Yet the replacement conductor waved his arms around, frantically mixing the scrambled eggs that was our music. Half way through the song, we gave up, cringing and leaning our foreheads on the heads of our instruments. We sounded terrible. When had we gotten so terrible? Why couldn’t we just play the stupid song?
“Oh, come come now! You guys are supposed to be one of the best high school orchestras in the country! Carnegie Hall! You guys were asked to play at Carnegie Hall this year! I’m sure you don’t want to sound like this when we get there, am I right?”
No one answered. It was a rhetorical question.
When Frog Girl or Newman did not return after a few weeks, we grew uneasy under the unyielding gaze of Froggert, who no one had yet dared to touch. One by one, the orchestra gave in and wandered up to the office, heads bowed. I spotted a few ambling up one lunch period with Truman. Katt and Malory had vanished soon after class, so we sat alone.
“Why are they doing that?” I asked.
“Haven’t you heard?”
“I obviously hear very few things, Truman, so enlighten me.”
“They’re confessing that they’re the ones who did the pranks, not Frog Girl.”
“Really? Man, I can’t take any more weird stuff this week.”
He sighed, ripping down the wrappings on his sandwich with a grim expression.
“That’s where Malory and Katt are now too. They’re the ones who started it.”
“So Malory did break her own violin.”
“Yep.” He said. “I don’t get her. I didn’t think anyone could be that…”
“Then who tore up your music? Malory wasn’t there, remember?”
“It was Katt.”
This shocked me most of all. Katt? Sweet, beautiful, talented Katt? But why? On asking, however, Truman couldn’t say.
“Then…why did they all do those pranks? Against each other? Unlike Malory, Frog Girl had never done anything serious against them, did she? And even then, Malory’s just…a fwooper–crazy!”
“Well, Shay, I guess…sometimes people are just stupid. From what I got from one kid, though, it sounded as though he just wanted to get back at his ex-girlfriend for dumping him. He’s the one who snapped that one violinist girl’s bow completely in two. I’m guessing that’s why those others did the things they did.”
“Because someone said the wrong thing…”
“That, or were extremely bored.” He glanced down at the bite in his sandwich. “Man, this really sucks.”
I snorted. “Bored. But then again, revenge never makes a good face. We’re more courteous than that. On a different note, do you know when Mr. Newman is coming back? I don’t think I can stand anymore of the clear noodle up their directing us. My ears were bleeding!”
“His case went by clear, but the school thought it safer to release him just in case. There wasn’t enough evidence. Apparently, the rumor had started when a friend or whoever of Frog Girl’s posted it up on her Facebook page about Newman being… I think it was that one girl that had her shoulder rest messed up—that really shiny, European one, remember? I think she was just mad.”
Though Mr. Newman did indeed never return, Frog Girl did. However, she made no attempts to retrieve Froggert from his place where he sat, collecting chalk dust. The orchestra each tried in turns to bring the frog back to her as though it would make up for all that had happened. Froggert would land on her stand, her chair, her violin, even on top of her head, but she would not touch him. In fact, she would not even say a word whenever he’d come into her proximity. So, eventually, Froggert returned to his previous haunt, staring back at us and his purple skin growing lighter and lighter with dust. The noodle of a teacher became permanent, and the trip to Carnegie Hall fell through as our music never completed itself. By the end of the year we had just stopped caring. Some Hispanics in the back started to gab to each other and trade cards whenever it grew quiet enough, two of the kids that played bass started bringing their game boys, and Katt lost her position as first chair cellist to a boy named ‘Guy’. How generic can you get?
But I stayed in the same spot, doing the exact same thing as always. I still couldn’t see Frog Girl from where I was sitting, so she must not have changed chairs either. But I could always see Froggert on the dust tray while I played. No pats had graced his head since. I remembered the cape, the mask, and even the homosexual Uni-Frog. I thought of how I would never know what Frog Girl did to make Malory hate her so much.
But mostly, I just remembered how I had done nothing to stop it.