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Flies and Worms4 min read

There is a community of frogs who have lived in the same pond for centuries. For most of this community’s existence, the life of the frogs has been fairly simple:

They start off life as tadpoles, spending most of their time in the shallows with brothers and sisters, playing games like tag and hide-and-go-seek, having little celebrations each time someone grows a new limb, and scurrying behind mom when a bass swims by looking for lunch. The frog parents wanted to make sure their tadpoles enjoyed their short childhoods, but also needed to make sure they were prepared to be frogs. So for a couple hours each day, the moms and dads would swim their tadpoles around and show them the ins and outs of life in a pond: how to find food, how to hide, and how to croak. The tadpoles were excellent learners, and always listened to the lessons their parents taught them.

Eventually, the tadpoles transform into frogs who carry more responsibility, but whose lives are just as simple and basic. They would spend about four hours each day looking for flies to eat or maybe a nice fat juicy worm that fell off the bank into the water. These were the frogs’ favorite, but worms didn’t float by too often. Then they would take a break from hunting and jump around in the cool mud along the bank. Then the frogs would hunt some more in the afternoon, often breaking to jump in the mud.

After work, the frogs gathered with the ones they love on a muddy bank or sometimes on a group of thick lily pads. And they’d sing. For hours the frogs would sing melodies that broke the stillness of the pond, igniting the air with sounds of romance, passion, and excitement.

Then they would go to bed, and wake up the next day to do it all over again.

Then one day a fat toad showed up to the pond with a mouth full of worms. This fat toad could dig, and could collect worms much easier than the frogs. But because of how often he ate them, the fat toad no longer had a taste for worms, and desired flies. 

He met a group of frogs hunting along the bank and made them a proposition. In his deep toad voice he croaked, “I will offer any frog a worm for every 100 flies he brings me.”

Most of the frogs licked their lips upon hearing this delicious offer from the strange visitor, but one frog spoke up, “100 flies! That’s ridiculous. It would take hours to catch that many.”

“That’s my offer,” croaked the toad, “Take it or leave it.”

Almost all of the frogs jumped into the pond with excitement, swimming to their favorite spots to catch flies.

That night, the singing only lasted for 2 hours, as most frogs hunted well into the night to catch their hundred flies. At midnight, all of the frogs lined up in front of the fat toad to deposit their flies and receive their worm. When the worms ran out, arguments would break out and the hungry frogs would storm home to eat their stale flies, no longer in the mood to sing on the banks.

The next day, the frogs got up extra early to begin the hunt. The work was tireless, but the prospect of juicy worms in their stomachs was enticing, and the frogs began to skip their midday lunches and afternoon mud breaks. Nighttime singing became a thing of the past.

Soon, more toads moved near the pond and started selling worms at competing rates. Prices started to rise for worms as the toads colluded and fixed the prices, and they started demanding as much as 150 flies for a single worm. The frogs were forced to work harder and harder for their beloved worms, and they eventually forgot that they could simply eat the flies they were catching.

Working for worms became the new way of life. A few ambitious frogs staked out certain areas of the pond and claimed it as their own. Other frogs were allowed to hunt in these areas, but always had to pay a price. The ambitious frogs received a percentage for flies caught in their territory. To enforce this, they would hire wasps to sting any trespassers who took flies that were not theirs. Sometimes, the ambitious frogs wanted to grow their territories, and there would be fighting and even death as the need for more flies and worms grew.

Many frogs did not want to take part in the violence, and did their hunting in the more peaceful parts of the pond. The hunting was not as fruitful, but enough for a frog and his family to catch a decent amount of flies and have a worm a day. Many of the frogs in this area would save up many flies over the course of a year, and then cash them out in July for two weeks worth of worms. Then these frogs would take a break from hunting, and would spend their vacation time swimming with their tadpoles, jumping around in the cool mud, and singing at night with their friends.

But after 2 weeks, the frogs went back to work for the year, and the singing once again stopped.

And the toads grew fatter and fatter.

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