One day in the Summer, when there was a rainbow in the sky, Max trotted along the wet garden path. He wagged his tail as he dotted in and out of the drookit flower beds, his fur drying in the new sunshine. It was a braw day and the air was alive with beasties. He tried his best not to be distracted by two wasps having a rammy over his head. He had stopped to sniff a new smell when suddenly he heard a strange croak, right next to his nose.
‘Goodness, what was that?’ Max thought to himself, burling round and round to look. His tail got in a fankle with a rose bush and he barked at the ground as he tried to wrestle himself free.
“Morning”, a deep, booming voice said. “I’m down here. Right under your nose”.
Max sniffed the ground again. He thought he saw a strange glisk of light. Then his eyes widened in surprise when he found himself staring at the bright copper eyes of a huge muckle toad. He pawed at the ground, ready to give a loud bark to alert his family. But, then his curiosity got the better of him.
“Hey there, I’m Max”. Max sat back on his fluffy white haunches, feeling rather proud. He wore a collar that his family had given him. It had a wee tartan medallion on it, engraved with his name and a long number. “ I belong to the McAllister family”. He wagged his tail.
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Leith”. Max thought that was a gallus kind of name for a toad.
Leith plopped forwards, but stayed in the shade. Max noticed that he really was quite big, nearly the size of a saucepan. His skin was all warty and a mockit, grey-brown tone. ‘No wonder I didn’t see him there’, Max thought to himself. ‘He’s exactly the same colour as the soil and the leaves’.
“Where do you stay?” Max asked him, wondering if Leith also had a warm bed to coorie into, like he did.
“Under the stump, at Houlet’s Dook”. Leith said proudly, puffing up his chest as he spoke.
Max sniffed the air and looked around the garden. ‘That auld thing?’ he thought to himself looking at the stump of an old oak tree. He didn’t want to be rude, but he was sure that his family were always talking about getting it removed. Something about it being dead and taking up space. He shivered and looked across to his own hame. It was still there, thank goodness.
“Isn’t it awfully dark down there?”, he asked.
“I like the dark. It’s nice and cool. Too much sunshine isn’t good for my skin”.
Max wrinkled his nose. He loved basking in the sun, so he rolled onto his back with his paws in the air, nearly getting stung by one of the wasps in the process. Leith watched Max, smiling to himself. What a glaikit pup he was, but he was fair enjoying their blether!
“I’m quite happy, don’t worry. I often come up here after its been raining, but my travelling days are beyond me just now. I don’t venture as far as I used to”. He stretched out one long, sleekit back leg, then sank it quickly back to the ground.
Max had so many questions. “Where did you travel?”
“ To the Tattie-Bogle Games. Beyond the snowy beinn.”, Leith told him. “Back in the day, when I was a young toadlet, I was a champion jumper”. His orange eyes glowed. “ I used to jump for the TJA, but I would be fair foonert if I tried that now”.
“Toad Jumping Association. I’ve got lots of medals”.
Max was seriously impressed. He liked jumping, but he wasn’t that good at it because his legs were short. In fact, his family often scooped him up so that he could talk to the neighbours over the garden fence. He had only ever had one medal himself, for being A Good Boy. It was made out of dog chocolate. Well, he used to have it. He had, in fact, eaten it in one go. “Do you still jump?”, he asked Leith, quickly diverting him from medal talk.
“Well, I spend more time at hame these days. I’ve got toaditis. I won’t let it hold me back though” He shoogled on the spot, then lurched sideways, moving onto a new patch of leaves. Noticing a puzzled look on Max’s face, he continued. “My legs get sore and achy, so I have to rest a lot”.
Max hung his head and whined. He loved having a wee snooze, but he would hate not to be able to run about when he wanted.
“Don’t fret”, Leith said quickly. “I’m going to train to be a Neep Thrower when I feel better”.
“At the Tattie- Bogle Games?” Max asked, his head on one side.
“Indeed. Fergus Maxwell of Couthie Field is the current champion. What a coupon he’s got on him. He’s so crabbit all the time”.
Leith laughed and Max gave a bark of sheer joy. “That’s so funny…Maybe I could learn to be a champion jumper, like you used to be?” He did a couple of jumps on the spot, yapping like a daftie and nearly squashing some flowers.
“Why of course”, said Mungo. “Hunners o’folk take part every year. If you set your mind to it, you can achieve most things. With time and lots of practice. I’ll tell you when we’re having our next meeting if you like”.
Suddenly, one of Max’s family, came out into the garden and started to call his name. Max went to dash towards them, then turned round to say ‘goodbye’, but Leith had already gone.