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Jeremiah

By Stephanie McLellan

Illustrated by Ron Berg

Listen to this story HERE

Jeremiah isn’t a book that you can buy at a book store. I was asked to write a summer story for the 1st Annual “Fiction for Kids” pullout section in the August 2003 issue of Today’s Parent Magazine. I’ve reproduced the story here for you to read:

JEREMIAH

Jeremiah

Jeremiah

Jeremiah grew up in a bucket in my back yard, but he didn’t start there. The place he started was two streets over and two streets up, behind the ball field and around the old oak, down the narrow dirt path and through the bulrushes, in a swampy little area called Polliwog Pond.

Polliwog Pond wasn’t a big place. Not nearly as big as the ball field or even half a ball field, but it had a certain something that called a lot of us there when summer set us loose.

The boys would go down to Polliwog Pond with an eye to conquer it. They’d collect up scraps of wood and whatever else they could find to build a raft to see who could make it to the other side. Polliwog Pond wasn’t very deep. You could easily make it to the other side by wading, and most of their boats ended up at the bottom of the middle somewhere.

Jeremiah and the bucketBut I made my way two streets over and two streets up, behind the ball field and around the old oak, down the narrow dirt path and through the bulrushes for a different reason. I went with a bucket because, as you might guess, Polliwog Pond was alive with polliwogs, or tadpoles as you may have heard them called.

It was easy to catch the tiny little black tadpoles. All you had to do was make a swoop with your bucket and you’d catch about a thousand. The bullfrogs were tougher. They were bigger and sneakier, and there were fewer of them. It was a prize if you caught a bullfrog tadpole, so when I saw the dull green shape wiggling through the murky water at the bottom of my bucket, I let out a whoop. I called him Jeremiah after a song my Dad used to sing me.

When Jeremiah rode in my big blue bucket through the bulrushes and up the narrow dirt path, I thought I heard a soft chorus of frog voices behind me, repeating the name I’d just given this fat green polliwog. But by the time I’d rounded the old oak and made it across the ball field, all I could hear was little bits of pond water sloshing over the sides of my bucket. And by the time I’d made it two streets down and two streets over, I’d forgotten all about the singing.

A giant maple towered over Jeremiah’s new home in our back yard and I used one of it’s leaves as a lily pad. If you’ve ever caught a polliwog, you’ll know the fun part is watching its little arms and legs grow and its tail disappear.

Now even though Jeremiah had been a big polliwog, once he’d done his growing, he sure looked tiny — about the size of a peanut without the shell. He’d hop between my hands like a little cricket, and ride on my shoulder and sometimes my head. When Jeremiah croaked . . . well, the world seemed simple and good.

I wanted to do something for Jeremiah — get him a bigger bucket or something. But sometimes, as he sat on his maple leaf blinking his eyes, Jeremiah looked like he was thinking some deep green thoughts, and I wondered if he missed his pond. Late one afternoon, I made the decision to take Jeremiah back to Polliwog Pond the next morning. I never got the chance.

I snuck out late that night to the bucket by the maple tree because I had a feeling there was something on Jeremiah’s mind. He croaked something to me I didn’t understand, and hopped up and down impatiently. When I first heard the singing, I thought it must have been the wind in the trees or my imagination. But then I distinctly heard Jeremiah’s name and I knew something was up.

I heard “Jeremiah, Jeremiah, please come home . . . “, very softly at first, like it was just the thought of a sound and not a sound itself. But then it got a little louder:

Jeremiah, Jeremiah, please come home,

Your Momma is worried with you on your own . . .

Jeremiah climbing out of the bucketI strained my ears and squinted in the darkness. There was a full bright moon and lots of stars, but everything still looked shadowy. I looked over at Jeremiah, and he’d propped his little front legs against the side of the bucket and was stretched out on his tippy toes with his head to one side.

At last, I saw some silvery movement bouncing around the side of my house and I heard:

Jeremiah, Jeremiah, please come home

Your Momma is worried with you on your own

Your Papa’s been looking. Oh where did you roam . . .

Now I could make out dozens of little shadowy smudges hopping closer and closer. And then I could see what they were. They were bullfrogs! Lots of bullfrogs! Big ones and little ones, hopping and chanting in the moonlight:

Jeremiah, Jeremiah please come home

Your Momma is worried with you on your own

Your Papa’s been looking. Oh where did you roam?

Jeremiah, Jeremiah please come home

And I understood that Jeremiah’s momma and papa and all his many brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins had hopped through the bulrushes and up the narrow dirt path, across the ball field and around the old oak, two streets down and two streets over to fetch their Jeremiah home.

Jeremiah’s papa made a deep, throaty noise which sounded like it came from the bottom of the pond, but Jeremiah’s momma sounded a little shrill and worried.

“My how you have grown,” they said.

Jeremiah leapingJeremiah hopped onto the lip of the blue bucket. He took one look at me looking at him and winked. I think he even smiled although it’s hard to tell with frog’s lips. Then, with a leap and a wave, he joined his momma and papa, his sisters and brothers, his aunts and uncles and cousins, and together they hopped back around the side of my house, two streets over and two streets up, across the ball field and around the old oak, down the narrow path and through the bulrushes to Polliwog Pond. The bumpy echo of their bullfrog chorus floated on the night air long after they were gone, and although I was glad for Jeremiah, I also missed him.

But sometimes, on warm summer nights, a deep green song will drift up to my window. It seems to come from the base of the maple tree, and at those times . . . my, but the world feels simple and good.

Jeremiah home