“For Collectors Not Children,”

it said on the sticker tacked to the underside of the green mechanical frog,

in a store of nick-knacks even grandmothers give away.
I cradled him in my hand, the one who could not flee,
and prepared to press my lips to his smooth skin.

“He ain’t nobody’s prince,” the weazened clerk cackled.
“You kiss ‘im, you buy ‘im.”

I passed by, pretending to put him back beside salt and pepper shakers
shaped like bowling balls, but I slipped him into my overalls
and darted out under the dangling cowbell into the belly of an August afternoon.

Safely around the corner, I felt his legs kick, pulled him out and puckered up,
praying to whichever gods would pay attention.

He changed into a boy like me, then ran away chasing flies,
leaving me with nothing but the smell of lake water.



Contributor’s Notes:Valya Dudycz Lupescu is a writer and the founding editor of Conclave: A Journal of Character. Her novel. The Silence of Trees (Wolfsword Press, 2010) was selected as a Semifinalist in the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and since being published (both in print and ebook), has been a Kindle Bestseller, breaking into the Top 100. Valya holds an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught at several Chicago-area universities. Valya is a member of the SCBWI and the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA). Valya teaches workshops around the city and online, and she facilitates a monthly gathering of writers and artists called the Chicago Creative Coop.