David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “The Other Side of the Covers”

Princess Hannah and the Pink Frog (Part 1 of 2)

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess named Hannah. Princess Hannah grew up in a magnificent castle set in the thick forests of the Kingdom of Northern Barberry, where she lived with her father the King, her mother the Queen and five rambunctious younger brothers who were nothing but trouble and stunk like a heap of rotting socks.

Because she enjoyed the silence of the wilderness over the echoing din of her five rollicking siblings, Hannah often played by herself in the woods surrounding the castle. The tall oaks and dense firs provided a habitat perfect for imaginative adventures like catching fairies in snare traps and boiling witches—along with Hannah’s brothers—in large, black pots of smoking oil.

One fine summer day, the princess fancied herself as a daring maiden hunting the wild, one-eyed, big toe monster of Northern Barberry. As she followed a set of deer tracks deep into the woods, she came upon a frog as wide as a dinner plate and as tall as a cow pie crouched upon the path. But this was no ordinary frog—its skin radiated a blinding shade of pink, forcing Hannah to shade her eyes until they could adjust to the amphibian’s brilliant complexion.

After her eyes had adapted to the bright light, she bent to peruse this most uncommon animal. The flamboyant amphibian hopped toward her, appearing not to mind the intrusion. Gazing up at her with bulging, amber eyes flecked with gold, the frog asked Hannah if she’d like to play a rousing game of Hide and Seek.

“Why, yes, of course!” cried Princess Hannah. She jumped and clapped and spun around in wide circles, then froze as she realized the frog had just spoken to her. “How can you talk?” she demanded, crossing her arms. “Frogs only talk in uninspired fairy tales and in my imagination. Tell me, frog, are you in a fairy tale or in my imagination? Or are you real?”

The odd-looking creature cleared his throat with a hearty burp. “Your Majesty the Princess, I am quite real.” The frog then swept one splayed foot under his chin and bowed reverently, eyes closed. “And as a subject of the Kingdom of Northern Barberry,” he continued, “I humbly offer you my services.”

Princess Hannah knelt on the pine needles, cocked her head and leaned toward the frog. Other than its size, color and ability to hold a conversation better than her brothers, the animal resembled any other frog, with thick legs, a fat belly and bulbous eyes. The princess thought the frog’s pink hue made it look perfectly pleasant and harmless. “Thank you, then, my friend,” Hannah said, nodding in appreciation. “I shall take you up on your most generous proposal.”

The frog opened his eyes. “Excellent!” he croaked, clapping his palms together. “Hide and Seek, then?”

Hannah stood and tapped a finger against her lips. “Yes,” she replied. “I would be most thrilled to join you in a game of Hide and Seek.”

“Then follow me to my modest hut,” said the frog. He hopped off the path and into the thick underbrush.

Delighted, the princess forgot about hunting the wild, one-eyed, big toe monster of Northern Barberry, and she joined the frog as he leapt deeper into the forest.

Before long the sun hid behind the clouds and the woods fell into a deepening murkiness. The princess soon found she was quite lost. After what seemed like hours, they came upon another path, this one unkempt and overgrown with brambles that swiped at her skirt as she walked past. The trail led not to a modest hut but to a tumbledown house next to a roaring stream. Hannah noticed the structure was almost as large as her father’s hunting lodge, its windows hidden with rough-cut boards, its sunken roof blanketed with a dense layer of moss. The front door stood open, hanging by a single rusted hinge.

Without hesitation, the frog hopped across the threshold, spun around and commanded, “You count first and I’ll hide. In here.”

Leaning against a scratchy tree trunk she designated as “base,” the princess began to count as the frog hopped into the shadows of the looming structure. Princess Hannah hid her eyes so as to give the frog a fair start, and when she reached 50 she began to search.

Finding the frog was easy. Even though he hid in a very dark corner near the back of the great room, his skin shone like a beacon, illuminating the cobweb-strewn chamber filled with oversized furniture covered with torn, filthy canvas. She stood, awed by the sheer bulk of the massive chairs, seats constructed for someone much larger than even her father’s burly guards. Princess Hannah shuddered.

“Found me,” the frog called. “But now you have to catch me!” The radiant frog leapt deeper into the gloom, his soft belly slapping the worn floorboards. Without warning, the amphibian’s light snuffed out.

Princess Hannah stumbled in the darkness, attempting to track the frog by the green impression he’d left on her eyes. She moved further into the blackness, stirring up ancient dust which swirled into her nose. She sneezed once, twice. As frustration and a hint of fear wrestled with her enjoyment of the game, the frog’s light snapped back on like a humungous firefly on a warm summer’s eve.

“Found you!” the princess squealed. Suddenly, a heavy metal door clanked shut behind her, sealing her and the frog inside a rusting cage that smelled like her father’s dungeon. The frog hopped to the bars and slipped through, leaving the princess locked up alone. He belched an evil laugh, and then hopped away. The princess thought she saw a smile ply across his face as his glow faded into the recesses of the house.

With tears rolling down her cheek, she shook the bars. They would not give. Hannah then ran her hands over the floor and across the cold metal plate above her head, searching for an escape. Nothing yielded except her will. She slumped into a corner and released a soft, pitiful cry.

By and by she heard a rattle, then the shriek of a tired door hinge as something heavy tromped into the room, shaking the walls with each footfall. A foul odor twenty times more pungent than her brothers after a meal of pork knuckles and boiled cabbage assaulted her delicate nose. She gagged. The footsteps pounded the floor, edging closer to the cage. Princess Hannah groped around the enclosure and pressed herself into a corner to evade whatever creature emitted such dreadful smells. Sitting there, with knees drawn to her chest, she closed her eyes and whimpered. Hot breath rolled over the back of her neck, like a wave of swamp gas.  A deep, rumbling laugh shook the cage and her with it, and she closed her eyes even tighter, wishing to awaken from the nightmare.


Copyright © 2015 David C. Hughes


Bunny Slippers (Part 2 of 2)

Three more times that week Brianna woke up with the two floppy-eared bunnies with bright blue eyes perched on her chest, staring at her.

“Okay, now I’m mad,” she announced Saturday morning.  She stood in the kitchen holding the slippers at arm’s length, scrunching her face in disgust, as if she was carrying two dead skunks.

“They were on your bed again?” her mom asked.

Dad looked up from his tablet computer and set his coffee cup on the table. “Bring those to me, sweet pea.”

Brianna obeyed.

“Hmm,” Dad said as he turned the slippers over and examined the soles. “No legs, no feet.” He held them up to his ear, one at a time. “And no heartbeats. I declare these slippers to be inanimate objects, incapable of moving without the aid of two stinky, little feet thrust through the backs of their heads. You know, toe jam for brains.”

“Thanks for that assessment, Dr. Brilliance,” Mom said, placing a steaming bowl of scrambled eggs in the middle of the table.

“Dad, what’s ‘inanimate’ mean?”

“Not alive,” he replied. “Never were, never will be.” He looked at her over the top of his glasses. “Wanna take care of this once and for all?”

Brianna nodded.

“Okay, get your shoes on.” Dad looked at Mom and winked. “We’ll be in the back yard for a few minutes, okay?”

Mom nodded. “Okay.” She sipped her coffee. “Go take care of them. I’ll reheat the eggs when you get back.”

Outside, Brianna and her dad walked to the garden shed. Dad pulled out his keys. “Part of my uniform, remember?”

“Yep,” Brianna said.

“Hand me the slippers, sweet pea,” said Dad. “You still want to keep them, right?”

“Uh-huh. But I’ll wear them only in winter, when it’s cold.” She hesitated. “What are you gonna do with them?”

“I’m going to put them up for now,” he answered.

“Okay, sounds like a plan.” She handed over the slippers.

He snapped open the padlock, unbolted the shed door and stepped inside. Brianna watched him set a stepladder under the hole in the attic floor. He then scaled the ladder, bunny slippers in hand, and disappeared into the darkness. Moments later, he climbed back down.

“There,” he said, brushing his hands. “Safely hidden away. We’ll get them back down in the fall, when you start third grade.”

“Yippee!” squealed Brianna. “Third grade—I can’t wait.”

“I bet you can’t,” said Dad. He folded the step ladder and hung it back on the shed wall. “Now let’s go inside and gobble up those eggs Mom made.”

“Yeah,” Brianna said. “After you pour sugar on them.”

“Not funny, sweat pea,” Dad said with a smirk. He pulled the shed door closed, shut the latch and snapped the lock into place. He jerked on it a couple times for good measure.

Relief settled over her. “Whew,” she sighed.

“You okay now?”

Brianna nodded. “Yup, all good.” And she forgot all about the bunny slippers hidden in the shed’s attic behind the locked door.

Until the next morning.




Sunday, Brianna thought. Can’t wait to see Nana and Grandpa. But Brianna’s happy thought was quickly displaced by terror as she awoke to find four bright blue, plastic eyes glaring at her from their perch on the top shelf of the bookcase. A purple flip flop decorated with yellow bunnies hung below the slippers, Dad’s pearl-handled pocket knife impaling the flip flop’s sole. She didn’t feel her feet touch the floor as she raced to her parents’ bedroom, screaming.




Dad put down the hammer and inspected the stout wooden box. “That should do it,” he said, turning his attention to Brianna. “You’re still sure you want to keep these things?”

She offered a half-hearted smile and nodded.

“’Cuz, seriously, sweet pea, they’re really starting to creep me out. I think we need to take them to a priest. Or incinerate them.”

“No!” Brianna moaned. “I know they’re weird. … But I still love them. I just don’t want to wear them when it’s hot outside. They’re winter slippers, not summer play shoes. Besides, I like wearing my flip flops now.”

“Okay.” Dad sighed. He shook his head. “I don’t think keeping them is a good idea, but I’ll hide them where no one else can find them. Let me know when you want them back and I’ll retrieve them.”

She watched Dad climb the stairs to the second floor and turn the corner. Brianna sighed. The pink slippers creeped her out, too, but they were still her favorites, even if they did have a death wish against her flip flops.

Her thoughts drifted back to last Christmas—how excited she’d been, opening the box and wearing the slippers to church, the grocery store and to school. People had complimented her choice of footwear wherever she went. Those pink, fuzzy, floppy-eared, bright-eyed bunnies made her feel good. Yeah, they were a bit strange, in a freak show sort of way, yet fascinating, too.

After five minutes Dad reappeared at the top of the staircase, snapped off the light and hustled down the stairs. “There,” he declared. “Hidden away. Again.”

“Thanks, Dad,” she said, grabbing his sweaty hand. “You’re the best dad in the whole wide world.”




The next day, Brianna’s heart beat a little faster than normal as she climbed out of the car and flung her backpack over her shoulder. “Bye, Mom,” she said.

Her mother leaned out the window. “Have fun on your last day of second grade.” She wiped a tear from her cheek.

“I will.”

Brianna waved as her mom pulled out of the school driveway, then she headed up the sidewalk and into the building with Ariel and Anna. They chattered like three squirrels under a pecan tree, talking about everything and nothing as they walked down the hallway toward their cubbies, flip flops slapping.

“Hey, look!” Ariel said, pointing at Brianna’s coat rack. “Why’d you bring your bunny slippers to school? I thought you said your dad put them up.”

Brianna gasped. Her backpack slid to the floor. Four bright blue eyes stared at her from the shadows of the cubby. She stepped back.

“Are you okay?” Anna asked.

“No …” Brianna whispered.

“What the‒?” Ariel screamed as one slipper, then the other, wiggled out of the cubby and dropped to the floor. Arial took off, running down the hallway, still screaming.

A heartbeat later, Anna followed her sister’s lead, filling the hallway with echoing screeches as she sprinted after Ariel.

Brianna couldn’t move. She watched the fuzzy pink bunnies slide across the floor and nuzzle up to her ankles, like two soft kittens wanting affection. White spots swirled behind her eyes and her knees buckled. She sat—hard—on the cool floor.

The left slipper moved first, nudging the flip flop off her foot and smacking it away from her. The right one did the same. Sharing a comfortable sigh, the two fuzzy, pink bunnies shimmied themselves onto her feet.

Regaining control of her body, Brianna gently wiggled her toes and then, like the slippers, let out a sigh. “Amazing. …”  She felt the slippers adjust, ever so slightly, conforming to her feet. “Yes,” she encouraged, “that’s it.” Brianna stood up, placed her backpack in the cubby, retrieved the discarded flip flops, and walked into the classroom. On the way in, she tossed the flip flops into the trashcan by the door.

Brianna sat sideways in her chair and looked down at the pink fuzzy faces. They gazed up at her, bright blue eyes filled with contentment. “I missed you, too,” she said. “I missed you, too.”




Copyright © 2015 by David C. Hughes

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