Submitted for your consideration. Donald Jacobs, a doer of odd jobs who survives on the margins. A man with a thousand tiny stains on his soul and very little glimmers. In his work, he has stolen the odd dollar, but kept himself from stealing anything important until he found something he couldn't pass up.
"Where are you going with that?" asked the old man, one Walter Grey.
Donald held it behind his back. "Taking what?" Already excuses ran through his mind. The old man doesn't know what a gold mine he has. He won't miss one little-
"Put him down," Walter gave as an offhand command. "He doesn't like being squeezed."
Donald thought to deny again, then placed the small pet on the table. It made a noise that was nothing like what Donald had heard him make earlier.
Walter didn't even raise from his chair. "He likes his aquarium. Go ahead and get it."
Donald froze, unsure of what to do. "What?"
"I'm not stupid, son," explained Walter. "He's yours now, you might as well treat him right... Well! Go get it!."
Donald hurried off to collect the aquarium, nothing more than a glass box with a rock and some twigs. When he came back, he asked "Is this it?"
Walter shrugged. "He likes it. You heard what he can do when he's happy."
"You've heard him? Then why leave him in a dingy glass box? You could-"
"I could what? Put him on stage? Show him on vaudeville and work my way up to Broadway?" Walter laughed. "I tried, kid. I spent most of the thirties trying... I lost everything trying."
Donald looked over at... the pet. He didn't know how long this creature lasted, but definitely not that long.
"Oh, he's older than the both of us," Walter answered Donald's unasked question. "I found him at a construction site. He'd been buried for God knows how long. It was The Depression and I didn't even think to ask it. I heard him and I had dollar signs in my eyes... Blinded me to everything else."
Donald looked around at the old man's unimpressive home. "Even during the Depression, people would pay to see this."
Walter chuckled mirthlessly. "Oh, they paid. And, when he just sat there, as sad faced and as dull as he is right now, they demanded their money back. I was lucky they only thought I tried to pull a scam. They could have had me locked up."
Fear crawled over Donald's face, but he drew on his good sense. "That was then. People these days will pay millions to put him in a movie. They'll work around-"
"He'll never sing for them!" Walter shouted. The small pet responded only with a sound every bit as rough and dreary as his appearance would suggest. "You'll go mad trying to make him! For money, for love, for just convincing yourself you haven't dreamed all of it, he'll never sing for anybody but you... not until it's time for him to move on."
"Then why keep him?" Donald asked. "Why do you torture yourself all this time?"
Walter smiled. "He still sings, boy. He used to sing for me. Now he sings for you. If he was still mine, I'd keep him and be grateful. Don't throw him away. Take my advice, just enjoy the happy song."
Donald looked over at the green, lumpy thing. It's appearance suggested nothing impressive or out of the ordinary. But, in it, Donald saw wealth, fame, fortune, women. He saw all of the American Dream and more. "You gave up," Donald declared. "You could have had it all and you gave up."
"I gave up on the quick buck and getting rich quick. Quick never came and I learned that I'd die of old age waiting for it to happen. So, I got a job, a wife, a family, all of the real American Dream. And, in some quiet moments, with a bit of privacy, I had joyful music that made me smile. That's what you have, right there is joyful music to make you smile."
Donald sneered down at the old man. "You gave up. You could have had it all. I'll show you. I'll get him to sing for the cameras. And, you? You'll still just be an old man who gave up."
Walter sighed and shook his head. It was like looking into the past. Nobody could have told him otherwise, either. "Fine. Go. Best of luck to you."
Donald scooped up the slimy, lumpy thing with the smooth, golden voice and deposited it in the aquarium. He thought about saying some kind of goodbye to the old man, but just left instead.
When Donald left, Walter picked up an old photo and began to sing. "Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime doll." It was the song he was humming to himself when he caught the ear of a pretty lady who could swear she'd heard the song but didn't remember the words.
Donald looked left and right, shielding the aquarium from view.
"Send me a kiss by wire. Darling my heart's on fire." This was the song he'd sing when his children really were children, keeping them smiling at bath time.
Donald slipped into an alley to avoid detection.
"Don't refuse me or, darling, you'll lose me, and then I'll be left alone."
Donald felt ear's prying all around him. He moved quickly on his toes, hunched over, to protect his new goldmine.
"Telephone and tell me I'm your man." Towards the end, when his wife was losing herself to dementia, she could still remember this song and smile. The last of the tune from his lips, Walter slumped down, dropping the photo of his family, the first picture of them all in their new home. In the corner of the photo, in a new glass aquarium, there was the sad looking frog.
Donald tip-toed along. Somewhere, in some nearby apartment, someone tapped the keys on a piano.
Is he a trickster? Is he a muse? Is he a god of music? Perhaps he's something beyond human imagination. Maybe, just maybe, he is just a singing frog. Only he knows for certain, and he won't talk. Is he a blessing or a curse? That is a decision made by those souls who come into possession of Michigan J. Frog.