"Frog Face"by Kat Heckenbach
(Originally published in Underneath the Juniper Tree)
Junie recognized them from school—Jason, the fat one with the buzzed head, and Denny, his ever-constant sidekick. The way they’d skulked over to the creek told her they were up to something. They couldn’t be here to swim; the air was hot for spring, but the water was still ice cold.
She crouched down, peeking around a tree. Mosquitoes buzzed by her ears and landed on her bare knees, but she ignored them, as well as the sweat that trickled from her scalp into the collar of her shirt. She smiled. The two boys hadn’t seen her, and their voices carried clearly from their spot next to the creek.
“This is the best April Fool’s joke you’ve ever come up with, Jay. Junie’s gonna freak when she opens her locker and finds this.” Denny snorted, and Jason grinned.
“Little Miss Priss is gonna pay for what she said the other day,” Jason said. “Calling me frog face. I’ll give her frog face!”
Junie stifled a laugh. You should have taken it as a compliment, you ugly freak.
Jason leaned over the edge of the creek, and lowered a net into the water. Denny stood beside him, holding a sack open with both hands. After a few minutes, Jason yelled, “Gotcha!” and swept the net toward Denny, dumping something into the sack. Immediately, the sack began to bounce around, and Denny clenched it shut.
“He’s huge!” Denny said, eyes bulging.
Junie covered her mouth with both hands. Maybe he’s the one I should have called frog face…
Denny held the sack at arm’s length as it lurched and twisted. “Ho-lee cow, Jay, that’s the biggest frog I ever seen.”
Jason smiled, puffing his doughy cheeks. “It’s gotta be. I want her really scared. Screamin’ scared, so she knows not to mess with me again.”
The boys started walking and Junie stood, pressing her back against the tree and holding her breath as they passed by. As the sound of crunching leaves faded, she exhaled. Never mess with you again, huh? Just wait and see who ends up screamin’ scared.
Junie arrived at school early the next morning, and hid in the alcove across the hall from her locker. Jason and Denny stalked toward it, the sack in Denny’s hand twitching. They stopped in front of her locker and Jay stomped his foot.
“You didn’t think it through too well, did ya?” Junie called from her hiding spot. “You have to get the locker open, frog face. And you don’t know my combination.” She stepped out as the boys turned around.
Jason’s faced burned fiery red. “Yeah, well, no one’s here yet. We can still give ya yer little gift.”
“Dang right ya will,” Junie said as she lunged forward and snatched the bag. She ran down the hall, and burst through the door at the end. She glanced over her shoulder to make sure the boys were following, and dived into the woods.
When the boys reached the creek, Junie was perched in a tree. The sack dangled inches above the edge of the water, held by a rope that swung and jerked with the movement of the squirming frog.
They eyed it curiously, and stepped closer, letting their gaze follow the rope up to the branch where Junie sat gripping the other end. “We see you up there!” Jason called. Denny snorted.
“Good,” Junie said.
She let go of the rope and the sack dropped into the creek with a splash.
The boys roared with laughter. “That’s it?” Jason said, and spread his arms out to the side. “Is that supposed ta get us back fer trickin’ ya?”
“First of all,” Junie said, “ya didn’t trick me, you moron. And second, I ain’t gettin’ ya back.” She cocked her head to the side and raised her eyebrows. “He is.”
Jason turned around just as the gator lunged at him. He screamed as it clamped its jaws down on his leg. Denny took off running as the gator yanked Jason from his feet and dragged him into the creek. Jason’s head snapped back suddenly and the screaming stopped.
His body slid until he was underwater…all except for his bloated, bulgy-eyed frog face.
Junie slipped down from the tree and ran until she caught up with Denny. He was standing frozen in front of a cluster of trees where banana spiders clung to massive webs.
She slung her arm across his shoulders. “How goes it, bug face?”