“Oyez, I call Frog Court into session,” rumbled Chief Justice Jeremiah, himself a very large bullfrog.
“Bailiff, read the opening Declaration.”
The impossibly tall Bailiff stood and began reading:
“In accordance with resolution of a civil suit involving a Reagan cabinet member and prescription drugs, The Department of Fish and Wildlife established Frog Court to protect native frogs in the Western United States.”
“Since then we’ve held Court in a surplus building left from WPA days, dubbed the Mystery House because of its so called, mystical properties. Because of this property’s unusual gravitational features, readers who cannot suspend disbelief may become dizzy, and are free to leave this text at any time.”
“The Court’s unusual features include the use of electromagnetic “translators” that can interpret grunts and chirps, through which creatures themselves can “testify” to the Court. Since these hearings often pit creatures from the top of the food chain, against creatures rated as “biomass,” the activities in these proceedings include some red tooth and claw, which may be triggering for readers more used to kitties with yarn.”
“The current proceeding is a preliminary assessment whether a Great Blue Heron has committed a Capital Crime against a native frog.”
“Thank you Bailiff. District Attorney Hamilton Berger, please call your first witness.”
“I call Red Woodman to the stand.”
“Please describe the site of the events in question.”
“Ten years ago I dug a 10 x 20 fish pond in my backyard one Saturday. My wife was gone all one day so I rented a backhoe and dug until she came home and stopped me from digging.
“Later I added three more ponds. I put lots of goldfish in one of the ponds, and just a few in a second pond, but kept two ponds fish-free so the native peeper frogs could mate and the tadpoles could mature without the fish eating them. The frogs colonized 3 of the 4 ponds. The Heron was free to eat goldfish out of any pond.”
“But after a few years, non native bullfrogs invaded. I removed some pond vegetation, and that made it much easier for the herons to dispatch the bullfrogs.” The Judges, who were all bullfrogs, frowned.
“This ecosystem now supports native frog habitat and provides the heron with easy fish and bullfrog pickings. The tadpoles even ate pears that fell into the pond, and the grown frogs munched on the fruit flies that sought out fallen pears.”
“Red,” district attorney Berger questioned,” In other words there are strict rules about who can eat whom out of which pond, correct?”
“And you saw Billy Heron eat a native chorus frog out of the Lily Pond, where there is a handshake agreement that the heron will eat fish from that pond, but not frogs.”
“You are excused. Next witness!”
Woodman walked behind the judges’ bench after he left the witness chair. He bent slightly and laughed as he passed behind Judge Jeremiah. District Attorney Berger watched, scowling.
“Red, what are you doing back there?”
Judge Jeremiah responded, holding up a paper bag. “Red’s a friends of mine, and he’s sharing some mighty fine wine.”
Berger bristled,”You have to give that back, that’s a bribe!”
Judge Tom Moloney, sitting next to Judge Jeremiah, spoke up,”I say the other side also gives each judge a bottle of good wine, and then it’s even and we can settle the case on its merits.”
Jeremiah scowled back at Berger.
“Don’t you have a witness, a Ms …. Camille Grenouille?”
The Courtroom hushed. The seating pews were covered with aquariums, insects, birds and small mammals, all drawn to the drama, and allowed to cheep in with their translated testimony at any time. One of the Baliffs was a red-tailed hawk (some say a sharp-shinned) and he would periodically glide over the court room to scare the little brown birds into quiet.
This was the moment. The creatures crowded closer. Camille!
And there she was.
The courtroom exploded in cheeps,chatters, ribbets, and squeaks. Camille had her own myths. Some say she was two years old!
“In your own croaks and ribbets, please tell us about Dapper Dan, a frog so tan.”
“Danny?’ Camille breathed,”Danny was a nice kid. Headstrong. I tried to pull on his coat but he knew it all. Six months old and he knew it all. “
“He said it was boring at Pear Pond, where we first met and where I mate.”
“I’m gonna go to Lily Pond and get me some fresh amplexus, he said”
“I said sugar I could break your back any night,” Camille continued.
The Court room burst into ribald laughs and tweets. The hawk bailiff flew over the court room until his shadow had quieted the little birds.
“You know as an amphibian, I’m genetically incapable of any emotional connection to my dozens of mates and my thousands of children,” Camille mused, “But I felt something for Danny. He could have been a contender. You know, an Alpha.”
Berger turned to the defense lawyer’s table.
“Orly Tates for the defense. Camille, isn’t it true that you your self have killed smaller creatures than you, in cold blood?”
“Of course I killed them in cold blood,” Camille raged,”I’m an amphibian!”
“Did you ever have amplexus with Dapper Dan?”
“No. NO. NO.”
Orly thrust a file onto the Judges’ desks.
“Entering Exhibit A,” she barked. Orly handed photos to Camille.
“Isn’t it true,” Orly persisted,”That one of your other suitors was jealous of Dan, and hired the Heron to put a “contract” out on Dapper Dan?”
“Yes that is true,” Camille pounced,”And that jealous frog is your client, Moe Green!” Moe leapt from his seat next to Orly.
The Bailiffs grabbed Moe, but then the back doors to the courtroom blew open. Everyone turned. It was Billy the Great Blue Heron.
GACK ARCK ACKK, he heron spewed, which translated to “let him go.”
“I didn’t need a chump teenage frog’s help. Yeh, it was me. We should all be glad that the Lily Pond has been restored to fecund habitat and it supports Heron predation on native frogs.”
GACKKAGC the heron coughed.
“I shit on your handshake agreements. I don’t even have a hand to shake. See you at the Lily Pond.”
The Heron lifted its claws threateningly. then shit on the floor and slowly rose and flew out the window.
Chief Justice Jeremiah took advantage of the stunned silence that followed. He swigged his fine wine and perused the State’s exhibits.
“Any intervenors in this case?” The Judge called out.
“Flea Bailey, appearing for Concerned Cats of America. Our group urges that the fences around these ponds be removed. Our members would love the chance to amuse ourselves with small frogs, and there’s a few of us who’d like a crack at the heron, too.”
A heron rose from the back of the court room.
“Bring it, furball,” the Heron called out.
“Order! Order! Next intervenor?”
“Willliam Borah for the Angry Neighbors United Against Natural Sounds. Our members would like to see the frogs evicted. Why, oh why must our families suffer from the crescendo of croaking every evening. Will we ever get to sleep with our windows open?”
At this point Judge Jeremiah closed public comments.
The long line of angry people lined up to speak in this case began yelling for their own turn. Jeremiah looked at some of their placards about electromagnetic pollution and contrails and decided he’s heard enough for awhile.
“I’m sorry,” He opined in his deepest voice,”In administrative proceedings of this sort we only allow 30 seconds total for public testimony.”
The Judges retreated to their chambers. They all hated herons. Herons had decimated every bullfrogs’ efforts to take over Lily Pond. You risked your life to rule against the herons. But the Judge Jeremiah hated those mouthy native frogs, too. It was like Texas v. Oklahoma if you lived in Nebraska.
Thinking about football made the Judge think of punting this case.
He pounded the gavel.
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