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South Swam the Tadpoles
Grandpa always said "Fire only burns you if you let it". The smell of Magnum cigars and burnt leather reminded me of just that. Grandpa was a quiet man. Kept to himself most of the time and the times he didn't he'd be throwing rye to the birds or talking down to us like we were just some small fish in his big old complex pond. "Tadpoles" he'd call us. He'd say "y'all are just a bunch of dirty ole kids", but with mama working one job and papa on the runaway we were just that. Dirty ole kids. Holes and stains covered our denim overalls and mud and horse droppings hugged our ole brown boots. We couldn't afford the good stuff. Grandpa would spend all his green paper on the rolled tobacco leaf he'd smoke. We didn't know what real money was. At eight years old I got my first job. I helped mean ole Mr. Fisher with his farm. I hated that man but mama always told me not to judge a book by its cover. Fisher paid me fifteen cents an hour and I only worked 5 hours a day but bringing home seventy five cents was a great help to mama and the ole chain smoker. Mama had to pay the mortgage cos ain't no place free for livin'.
I remember my first day working for that man. The blank stares and elevator eyes that'd look ya up and down as if you owed money. He never spoke a word to me. I already knew what to do since I helped mama from time to time on our own farm. She never made me work but I'd help out as much as I could since grandpa didn't care to raise a single gray hand of his. Mr.Fisher took weeks to even say a word. I always wondered what went on in that stubborn ole man's head. His home always seemed dark and his barn wore such a dull shade of red. He seemed melancholy. One day I understood why. It had to be around day forty five when he finally spoke to me. Words came out unexpectedly like a bullet in a drive-by. He accidentally called me Shane. My names Colin. Everyone knows that. I corrected him and that was that. The next day he spoke more. I asked him for my pay and asked him why he always seemed so down. He just looked at me and then he said "I miss my son. You look just like him." I guess that's why he called me by the wrong name. We started talking about Shane and he went on and on about how close they were and how great of a son he was. He told me how he had passed. Fire he said. He fell asleep with a lit cigar and burned his house down. It made me think of my grandpa and his magnums and what he had said about the fire only burning you if you let it. I sat awhile with Mr.Fisher until we both grew tired. Mr. Fisher seemed so much nicer than I thought he was once before. I really got to know him. With papa on the runaway and Grandpa more worried about his cigars than us "tadpoles", I never had much a male figure in my life. None to look up to. Everyday from that one when I'd come to work in the wake of morning Mr.Fisher would greet me and we'd sit and talk and share laughs before the farm would wake and yawn. That's how we would start the day. He'd even make me coffee which I was never allowed to have which made him even that more neat. I guess you could say we were ole pals. I learned to never judge a book by its cover and that every good story keeps a secret inside. Every tadpole eventually grows into a frog..


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