On a quiet Sunday afternoon, Celia took a road trip to investigate her inheritance, a small property in West Virginia. After passing it three times, Celia pulled up to a grassy field. A mailbox reading “20 Spruce Lane” was the only confirming marker. With a glint of excitement in her eye, she stepped out of the car and set out exploring.
She made her way across the field and into the woods. She expected to eventually come to some sort of house, but instead she happened upon a sulfur spring. One could not mistake the rotten-egg smell that emanated from it. Then, out of nowhere, she heard a man’s voice, and a shiver ran down her spine.
“I’ve heard it has magical powers that only humans can activate,” said the voice. Celia looked around, but saw no one.
“At your feet,” said the voice, and Celia peered down. There she saw a toad.
“Hi,” she said suspiciously.
“I am not just a toad,” it said, “I am an architect, and if you dip me in the sulfuric waters and give me a kiss, I will build you a house the likes of which have never been built before.” Celia thought on this for a while, and then came to the conclusion that if the toad could talk, there was no telling what else he could do. So, she bent down, scooped the toad up, and dipped him into the steaming water. A second later, she scooped him back up, and gave him a kiss. Immediately the toad transformed into a man with green hair, and a wart beneath his left ear.
“Thank you,” he said, “I will build your house right where you stand, and it will stand over the stream. You and it will be one with nature.” For days, the architect chopped trees, and molded them into support beams. He created makeshift cement out of mud, and used it to line the walls. When he was done, Celia was astounded.
“It is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined,” she said, practically in tears.
“I am glad you like it,” said the architect, “With my promise fulfilled, I will head out tomorrow in search of future projects.” Celia was not eager to lose the architects company, but she didn’t want him to squander his talent. The next day, Celia was awoken by a knock at her front door. She assumed it would be the architect saying “goodbye,” but instead a chipmunk greeted her.
“Hello,” it said in a squeaky voice, “I am not just a chipmunk, I am a baker, and if you dip me in the spring and give me a kiss, I will be your personal chef for a month.” This offer was too good for Celia to resist. She again performed the bathing ritual, and the chipmunk transformed into a man with brown, black, white streaks in his hair. He immediately set to work making a gourmet breakfast, and Celia couldn’t believe her luck.
As the days went on, Celia became accustom to being awoken by various talented animals. A bear became a twelve-fingered concert pianist, a stork gave stock tips, a deer was an herbalist, and the list goes on and on.
Celia felt blessed to have so many well-educated teachers in her life. Each new experience was a feast to the senses. So, when her best friend, Kim, stopped over for a visit, Celia was excited to have someone with whom to share her knowledge and good fortune.
Kim was not expecting to find Celia living in such a grand house with so many servants, and lightly broached the subject over an especially amazing dinner. Celia batted the question away at first, but after a few drinks she was feeling more honest, and she told Kim everything. All about the animals, and the magic water, and the kisses.
This was an awful mistake. When Celia fell asleep on the couch, Kim’s jealousy became apparent. She wandered outside and transformed as many animals as she could fit in her car.
The next morning, Celia slept far later than usual. There was no animal at her door to wake her up, and when she called out for Kim she received no response. It was on that day that Celia learned a valuable lesson the hard way: Don’t kiss and tell.
Written by Alex Schattner (8/23/12)