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A bellyache leads to a belly laugh

Rat hunched his shoulders and started back for the house on orders to call the doctor about Ally.

"Wait up, Rat," Frog called. "Take Mole and Cricket with you, and space them along the path so we can pass messages back and forth."

While they headed up the path Frog looked at Ally and could see he was sick.

He had become much greener than any alligator had a right to be. Meanwhile, a great clap of thunder broke, and the rain came down in sheets.

Finally Rat hollered, "I have the doctor on the telephone."

Mole heard Rat and hollered, "Rat has the doctor on the telephone."

Cricket heard Mole and yelled to Frog, "Rat has the doctor on the telephone."

Frog heard all three and croaked in an exasperated voice, "I heard Rat."

Cricket hollered back, "Frog heard Rat."

Then Mole called, "Frog heard Rat.

Rat said, "I know, dummy, I heard Frog."

Mole turned and shouted, "Rat heard Frog."

Frog was hot and at the end of his patience. He threw his arms toward the heavens and shouted, "No more! No more! Everybody just _ shut up!"

Suddenly everybody was quiet. The only sound was the rain beating on the back of the sick alligator. Frog reached over and took hold of Ally's foot and said, "Old friend, what's wrong?" Ally, with half-closed eyes, looked up at Frog and burped loud and long. Frog sprang back.

"Frog, in all my years (burp), I have never been so sick."

"You may be sick, Ally, but there is no reason for all that bellowing and carrying on. We all want to help you, but I will not tolerate your bad manners."

"It's kind of you to come and help little Jerry, but _ that crowd you brought with you _ why, they are always poking fun at me, calling me foul-smelling and anything that pops into their heads. You, Frog, being so educated and all, never have hurt my feelings _ but the rest of them . . ."

"Now, Ally," Frog said, ignoring the remarks about his other little friends. "Rat has the doctor on the telephone, and maybe he can tell us what to do. Where do you hurt?"

"It seems to me," Ally sniffed, "you could see that I can hardly move without pain (burp). My stomach feels like it is full of hot coals . . . and . . . you ask me what hurts!"

Frog turned and hollered all the way up to Rat, "Tell the doctor that Ally has a very bad bellyache and gas."

Just then, Ally let out a huge burp. "Make that a lot of gas."

Rat relayed the message and hollered back to Frog: "The doctor wants to know just what Ally has been eating."

Frog looked at Ally. His head was just under the water. He burped, and the bubble floated up and burst around his ears. Ally wouldn't 'fess up.

Little Jerry spoke up. He blushed, and his little eyes twinkled as he shyly said, "It is true that my dad was in the apple orchard for most of the morning."

Frog turned his voice toward Rat, nodded to Mole and Cricket and said, "Tell the doctor that he's full of green apples."

Everyone laughed except Ally _ he got really mad because the truth had come out _ and so did one last, very loud burp.

Then Ally realized he felt much better. He was glad everyone knew the truth and that all the animals had pitched in to help him.

"Mean old" Ally began to chuckle, and it grew into a belly laugh and he rolled over and over in the river.

But the animals didn't mind the ruckus this time. They knew Ally'd had a bellyful of stolen green apples and would never eat one again.

Not one.

Marie Rudisill is a writer and cookbook author who lives in Hudson. her books include "Sook's Cookbook: A Loving Preservation of Southern Heritage"; "Critter Cakes and Frog Tea"; and "Truman Capote: The Story of His Bizarre Childhood by an Aunt Who Helped Raise Him."

MR. FROG'S FAVORITE FRUIT DIP

This dip is wonderful with apple and banana slices and orange sections. I used to really enjoy this as a pick-me-up snack during my long days in law school at Emerald University.

Fixings:

{ cup peanut butter

\ cup chocolate syrup or honey

Fresh fruit

Cooking tools:

Mixing spoon

Small mixing bowl

Directions:

Combine the peanut butter and chocolate syrup or honey in a mixing bowl, and stir until well mixed.

Dip in pieces of fresh fruit.

Makes } cup of dip.

Source: "Critter Cakes & Frog Tea," by Marie Rudisill (Crane Hill Publishers, 1994; $12.95).

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