The Frog-Hop-Leaper

by Sherrie Johnson

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    Jason Johnson had a peculiar talent. In fact, it was so peculiar that many people, including Jason’s mother, weren’t at all sure it really was a talent. Jason could hop-leap exactly like a frog. He practiced in the hall, up and down the stairs, and he spent hours dreaming of becoming the greatest frog-hop-leaper in the world.

    “Jason, the magnificent frog-hop-leaper!” he’d shout as he flew across the room.

    “Do you have to do that?” Mrs. Johnson sighed.

    “When a person has a talent, he should use it,” Jason answered. “It isn’t everyone who can hop-leap like a frog. Someday someone will need my special talent.”

    Mrs. Johnson shook her head and went back to folding the clothes. “But you also have a musical talent. There are more people who like to listen to music than there are who like to see a human frog.”

    Jason went on hop-leaping and dreaming.

    The very next week an amazing thing happened. Jason ran home from school, threw open the door, and shouted, “Mother, Mother! I’m going to be in our school play!” He panted hard to catch his breath.

    “That’s very good,” Mrs. Johnson replied. “And now you can do something besides hop-leap around the house.”

    “But you don’t understand,” Jason answered. “They need that special talent. Miss Kimper said I was exactly what they needed for the star of the play.”

    Mrs. Johnson smiled. “What part is it?”

    “I’m going to be the frog that turns into a prince. I’m going to hop-leap all over the stage so I must keep in practice,” and Jason hop-leaped into the next room to put his books away.

    For three weeks Jason hop-leaped everywhere! His friends laughed at him when he practiced; his brothers and sisters were embarrassed to be seen with him, and strangers stared as they tried to figure out what he was doing. It made Jason sad, but he kept on practicing. I hope they’ll change their minds when they see the play. And maybe they will not think it is so silly when people all over the world are asking for me to perform, he thought as he went on practicing.

    The night arrived for the play. Jason walked onto the stage and crouched down behind a cardboard tree. His green costume was tight, and he could barely see through the tiny holes in the mask, but he knew his part perfectly. All he had to do was hop-leap around the cardboard scenery until it was time for him to turn into a prince.

    Slowly the curtains opened and the play began. The narrator began to talk and Jason began to hop-leap. But with every leap his costume seemed tighter and his mask fell down a little more. Hop-leap, hop-leap! He went around the huge paper flowers and over the tiny bridge. Hop-leap, hop-leap, gracefully and perfectly he performed. Twice around the tree. Hop-leap, hop-leap! Once more he circled the flowers and then he jumped onto the bridge for his one final hop-leap. By now the mask had slipped down so far he could not see at all and his costume felt like a giant elastic that was squeezing him.

    This is a special talent, he thought. I’ve practiced and practiced. I can jump even with my eyes closed!

    He crouched down and with all his strength he pushed off from the bridge and flew skillfully through the air. But he flew too far! Thump, thump, THUMP! He bounced down the few stairs at the front of the stage and into the audience.

    Jason still could not see, but he could tell his tight frog costume had ripped all the way up the back.

    “Are you all right?” he heard his mother whisper.

    “Sure.” Jason tried to smile as he pulled his mask off, but he hurt.

    Miss Kimper announced an intermission and the room grew noisy as Jason’s mother tried to pin the frog costume back together.

    “I’ve been thinking,” Jason said as he rubbed his sore legs. “Maybe my jumping isn’t important enough to have my friends laugh at me. Besides, there really isn’t much of a future for a talented frog-hop-leaper. I think I’d like to take piano lessons and start to practice music.”

    Jason’s mother only smiled as she fastened the last safety pin in his frog costume. “There,” she said, “that will do for the rest of the play.”

    Jason walked back onto the stage and finished the play, but all the while he was dreaming of what it would be like to be a great piano player. After all, it isn’t everyone who can play the piano, he thought.

    Illustrated by Sherry Thompson