The Great Frog Throw RED BANK, NJ (May 25) -- The tour bus leaves in a few minutes for Erlanger, Kentucky and a campfire gathering of writers, editors, and agents known as the Writers Retreat Workshop. My agent and publisher think I’m going to speak about my book, share my experiences getting published, and sell 9,000 copies of Big Numbers. More likely, I’m going to recuperate from the rigors of my Big Numbers World Tour, laugh a lot, and hopefully exact some revenge on The Man From Nashville. Besides country music’s video director of the year, and a talented writer and artist, TMFN is also a practical joker. Last year, he sealed me in my room and then convinced a dozen people to squirt me with colored foam. I owe him. And although I know it’s a mistake to retaliate, because to date TMFN has always outwitted me, I’m going to try anyway. This year I have an ally. Driver, start the engine. ERLANGER, KY (May 26) -- This will be my ninth Memorial Day weekend spent at WRW. Since 1998, I’ve only missed once, the year my number one son graduated from college. I used to tell my family it was business--learning the craft, networking with agents--but they stopped listening when I called home one time during the nightly wine and cheese party. I tow my suitcase and computer from the bus into the cluttered front office of the religious retreat center, WRW’s home for the next 10 days. Boxes, suitcases, and a pile of plastic name tags have turned the tiny room into a messy closet. Behind the desk sits The Man From Nashville. He looks like one of the monks who gracefully leave the retreat center during our visits. TMFN has a round and gentle face. “Hey, Jack,” he says. “It’s really good to see you.” Don’t be fooled. If there was a laugh in it, TMFN would poison my Happy Meal. I give him a hug anyway. After dinner, TMFN strikes first. My ally Chris finds a lifelike rubber frog under her pillow. She displays the frog for me outside, voices low, our backs to the main retreat room and its wall of windows. “Here’s how we get even,” Chris says. “At my five o’clock talk tonight, I’ll give you the signal, and then you play “Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog” and I’ll throw these frogs at him.” Chris, who has five published mystery novels to her credit, shows me four plastic bags of tiny, multicolored frogs. “I found them in Bigg’s party favor section.” I shake my head. Hey, this is The Man From Nashville. The man who sealed me in my room. I think we need to up the stakes. “How about we pass out the frogs, get EVERYone in on the joke?” I say. “When the music plays, we ALL throw our frogs?” Chris likes this idea. We give each other high fives, split up the frogs, and begin our recruitment. In the men’s hall later, I pass out plastic frogs to Dennis, and then Rob, who requires a detailed explanation. “When do I throw the frog again?” Rob says. “At the five o’clock meeting. When Chris gives everyone the sign.” At five minutes after five, TMFN strolls into the crowded meeting room and takes a seat in the back corner. Ha! He’s surrounded by the fireplace and the windows. Even the poorly aimed frogs will bounce off and hit him. TMFN will be covered in brightly colored amphibians. Chris is introduced, but instead of beginning her talk, she turns and gives me the thumbs up. I hit play. Three Dog Night sings something, but no one can hear the words or the tune. In the big room, my computer’s speakers barely stir the air. Hey, I told Chris we needed a sound check. Chris shrugs and throws her frog toward TMFN. The rest of us wind up and hurl a cloud of critters. TMFN grabs an umbrella from somewhere. He snaps it open just in time to shield himself from Chris’s frog and the hail of plastic that follows. The rubber toys don’t even make noise as they bounce off the umbrella and tumble to the carpet. But, oh, my, worst of all, written on TMFN’s umbrella in huge black letters, a billboard for every set of eyes, are the words: JACK HAS A BIG MOUTH Seems I forgot TMFN’s room is right next to Rob’s. So glad you’re on the bus.

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Comment by Sheri Fresonke Harper on August 2, 2007 at 4:03pm
The trip business sounds brutal, but I always loved Jeremiah was a frog. :-) Sheri

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