Goddess of the Tadpoles
By P. J. Burns
Kneeling by the side of the creek, I felt
like their god. I must have seemed that way to them, too; all of the fat
little tadpoles swimming lazily around and then scattering madly as I
plunged my small child's hang into their midst, their happy home.
Only minutes from my house, I felt like I was
completely - magically - cut off from my third grade life. With the
yellow summer sun sliding through the tree branches and falling in
fragmented shards onto the rough, brown dirt in front of me, I could
have been anyone - could have been anywhere. I was an eight year old
kid, hidden from the world by a hundred trees, but I didn't have to be.
I could be the Goddess of the Tadpoles.
I frequented the creek for many reasons;
because I couldn't go much farther from the house on my own; it was
cooler than being out in the sun; and I was doing something no one else
was. None of the other kids cares about the creek or its inhabitants, so
they were all mine - my aquatic subjects - and I, their loyal goddess.
The side of the creek was littered with
discarded pieces of someone else's history, but what I remember most are
the stale, then moldy, and then rock-hard bits of my peanut butter and
jelly sandwiches from my daily journeys to the water's edge. I always
brought one with me and most of it ended up forgotten when I abandoned
it to investigate some goings-on among my tailed friends.
Wading shin-deep into the lukewarm water, I
watched with some satisfaction as they frantically searched for cover
from the terrifying yellow-haired monster - they hadn't yet recognized
me as their goddess. Holding my breath and standing as still as I could
manage, I waited until they calmed down enough to venture out from their
leafy hiding places to identify me for who I was. And then I would talk
to them in a hushed, sing-song voice, praising their cuteness, telling
them how proud of them I was. They swarmed around my ankles in worship;
I imagined they must be impressed with me, this godlike creature
speaking in another language, towering over them, busying herself with
such little beings.
After giving them their daily pep-talk, I would
return happily to the edge of the water to munch on the remaining bits
of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that is to say the parts that
weren't mired in mud and dirt. I made offerings of sandwich to my little
friends, but they never seemed to be hungry; always, when I returned the
next day, the bits of bread would not longer be floating. They must have
saved them for later - for a feast in honor of their glorious leader,
* * * *
The sky was dark gray and the wind was
screaming in my ears, but I was down at the creek as usual because no
one had told me not to go. (This could have been due to the fact that
the rest of the house was asleep.) I was worried about my swimming
subjects - what would happen to them if their little creek became
flooded? Could they swim in such deep water? I left the peanut butter
and jelly sandwich at home in favor of two large glass jars to capture
the tadpoles in, to keep them safe until the storm passed.
My mother, the biggest animal lover I know, was
not pleased when I came home with two full jars brimming with excited
"Just what do you think you're
doing?" she asked, hands on hips.
But I wasn't worried. It didn't matter the
creature, my mother wouldn't be able to turn them away.
"It's storming, Ma," I told her,
setting the jars on the kitchen counter. "They're going to
"They're tadpoles," she said, with a
hint of amusement in her voice. Softening, she told me that it was okay,
she was glad I was concerned about them.
Then she told me that I couldn't keep them in
I was devastated. What good was it to save them if I was going to have
to leave them outside?
"But Ma! If I leave them outside they'll
She put her foot down. "I don't want frogs
in the house. Go take them outside."
What? Was she crazy? They weren't frogs. They
were tadpoles. I pointed this out.
"Just what do you think tadpoles are?" she
asked. "They grow up to be frogs."
"They don't!" I told her.
"They're always there at the beginning of the summer and then at
the end they just
leave. Go somewhere else while I'm in-" I
didn't want to give away my Goddess-status. But I still didn't
understand what she was talking about - they weren't frogs. Frogs were
big and hopped around and made ribbit-noises outside of my window at
night. My tadpoles just swam around and around in the creek until I
My mom told me I could keep them in the shed
out back, but I had to take them back to the pond as soon as the weather
improved. I quietly followed her instructions, still amazed that she
could confuse my little tadpoles with big ugly frogs.
I named them all. Roberto was the first to
morph into a frog; I came out back one morning to find all of the little
tadpoles staring in quiet amazement at him - he seemed equally
astonished at what he'd become. I hurried in and told my mom that there
was a frog in with the tadpoles; she laughed and told me again that it
was okay, that that's what happened to tadpoles when they grew up.
I delivered them back to the pond the same day,
after much nagging from my mother. As I let them free in the water and
watched Roberto hop away, I realized that, as much as I wanted to, I
didn't know everything; the world was full of things for me to learn and
P. J. Burns has been a student at Harford Community College since
moving to the county from San Diego, CA, in December 2002. This essay
was written for Creative Writing I.