Two brown Columbia spotted frogs sat almost motionless on the flat, dry rock, baking in the sun. The smaller one of the two, Gambit, had placed himself with his toes and fingers crammed under his body and chin, attempting to conserve what little water he had left within him. His white throat ballooned and compressed with every desperate breath. The other one, Proctor, stared absently at the surrounding pine grass with protruding, gold-speckled eyes, seemingly unaware of their plight.
As Gambit continued to puff and deflate, he caught sight of a monarch butterfly riding a column of rising warm air. Carnivorously, and with upturned eyes, he watched her showy orange wings and relished her beauty for a moment. Then he flicked out his tongue, narrowly missing the flying specimen. Missing and missing again, but sensing something important, Gambit unfolded his legs from beneath him and jumped around on the flat, hot surface growing closer and closer to an opening in the pine grass.
He gripped the dry rock’s surface with his toe pads while the butterfly dipped and fluttered in the summer air just above the rock’s edge, beckoning him. Gambit hopped a little ways forward and discovered that down below trickled a clear, slow-moving stream. His upper white lip tightened when he smiled at the thought of leaping into water.
He hopped over to Proctor who appeared to have been staring at grass the entire time. “There’s an edge over there,” croaked Gambit.
“I’m gonna jump off. What do you think?”
Again, Proctor blinked indifferently.
“I’m gonna jump!” Gambit hopped back over to the edge. “I’m really gonna do it!”
Proctor emitted one small glottal noise.
Gambit turned to see the butterfly zigzag rapidly, flapping her wings, becoming a bright orange blur. The frog was ready. He coiled his tendons like springs, then released all at once, exerting a power that exceeded the capability of his muscles. His legs stretched out behind his body ungracefully, almost offensively, as he glided through the air.
The peaceful, cool stream was deep enough for him to swim and clear enough for him to notice the water spiders and the smooth, round pebbles. When he surfaced, all he could see was pine grass, and he thought of Proctor.
He made his way back onto the level rock. The other frog had not moved from his perch.
“I was so brave,” Gambit croaked, proudly, but his three-chambered heart began to pump harder. It beat more and more frantically until it clunked and hammered so noisily within him that he flipped completely over.
The monarch flew gently into view and alighted on the rock. A tinge of blue now glowed on the edges of her tired wings and Gambit observed her warily. The orange melted away and twenty brilliant pink spots appeared on her wings when she closed and opened them again.
Gambit admired her and then rubbed his wet, warty self up against Proctor’s thirsty skin to offer refreshment and glean some comfort.
Proctor closed his eyes and grinned.