Jimmy K. heard of the eating establishment known as Tadpoles and decided to give it a try one sultry evening in mid-August. The restaurant was in a nondescript part of town, really quite close to an everyman’s suburbian neighborhood. It was an easy place to drive by if you did not know it was there.
Jimmy finished his work week and left a little after four, intending to find this new place to treat himself for a hard week’s work. The directions he had been given were a bit inaccurate, but he found Tadpoles fairly easily. He pulled his later model automobile into the parking lot, resting the driver’s side wheel on the white line, while leaving the rear wheel a good ¾ of a foot off the line. A song he loved had just come on the radio, and he noticed a couple of nice-looking women getting out of a car at the other end of the parking lot. With some discreet movements, he managed to turn up his radio and open his door just as they walked by, in an effort to impress them with his musical tastes. After they had passed completely oblivious to Jimmy’s existence, he nonchalantly switched off the radio, grabbed his key, and followed at what he considered a proper distance. It was Jimmy K. plus just a little swagger as an onlooker might have observed.
Jimmy had not come to the restaurant to find a date however. The women entered Tadpoles weather-worn double doors, never even having noticed Jimmy’s affectations. Jimmy also quickly forgot about his act, and went about the business of treating himself to dinner.
He was surprised that so many people were already eating as it seemed to him a little early. The waiter put him in a far corner, not without ambience, at a table for two. He recieved a menu, and began scanning, asking for some water without even looking up. There was something that seemed a bit strange to Jimmy as he looked around, but he wasn’t sure just what.
After a minute or two, the waiter arrived with a glass of water. Jimmy wasn’t used to getting an already-poured water, expecting instead to have a glass put in front of him, and to have the waiter pour out the refreshing liquid from a pitcher replete with ice. Still, he hadn’t paid too much attention to the glass itself, at least at first. The waiter politely asked if Jimmy was ready with his order, prompting him to resume his search for his dinner meal at an accelerated pace. The waiter stood there quietly, waiting for Jimmy’s order, then suggested he could come back in a few moments. “No, actually I think I know what I would like,” he said. “I’ll have the grilled salmon with a Ceasar salad please.” “Very well sir,” the waiter replied. “Would you like anything else?” Jimmy said he didn’t and the waiter went away. It was not long before he made a discovery that set off a chain of events that forever changed the course of history – at least in that little corner of that little town.
What Jimmy noticed was a dark blot squiggling around in his water. He looked around and saw that everyone had the same little black squiggle in their water. “That is what was not right earlier,” he reflected. Some were even drinking their water, with the little spot coming very close to their mouths. Jimmy furrowed his brow in puzzlement, then went in for a closer look. What he discovered shocked him to his very core. For darting to and fro in the liquid that was ordained to provide him with refreshment was none other than a living infant amphibian, otherwise known as a tadpole. He summoned the waiter immediately.
“What is this hideous beast in my water?” asked Jimmy. “Sir, that is a tadpole, just as in the name of this fine eatery,” the waiter responded. “It is our distinguishing feature.” “It’s disgusting, and certainly unhygenic to boot, I demand a glass of water free of amphibians.” “Sir, I cannot give you a glass of water without a tadpole in it, as I said, it is our distinguishing feature. We could no longer call the restauratn Tadpoles if we served water with no tadpole in it.” “You must be kidding,” said Jimmy angrily. “I demand a glass of water without a tadpole in it.” “Sir, please,” the waiter said, his eyes darting around nervously, “if I give you water with no tadpole, than everyone will want the same, and we will have to change our name. If we must go that route, we will no longer have a distinguishing feature, and our business will decline markedly, perhaps even drying up entirely.” Jimmy pointed out that there were no other restaurants in the area, to which the waiter responded that people come from all over the state, and some even from neighboring states just to experience the innovation of the tadpole in the glass of water. Jimmy found this all very strange, and wanted to leave, when the waiter decided to quietly bring him a water with no tadpole.
A few minutes passed in which Jimmy noticed the waiter whispering some things to other employees, and pointing in his direction. Finally he brought the tadpole-less water, trying to hide it as best he could. “Do people actually eat the tadpole,” asked Jimmy still worked up and irritated by the whole thing. “No, no sir, of course not. They sip down to the last few drops, and the tadpole is left squirming, but otherwise unhurt. Please sir, do me the favor of hiding your glass.” “I will do no such thing. I am a paying customer, and I will not have my free expression curtailed!” Almost the moment that last word fell from Jimmy’s mouth, a woman at a nearby table remarked rather loudly, “Hey, that man has water without a tadpole in it. I want some water without a tadpole as well.” A man at another table echoed the woman’s sentiment, and suddenly the entire restaurant was up in arms demanding water without a tadpole. The din of the customers rose to the point of being unbearable. The waiter looked around helplessly, then looked sadly and frustratedly at Jimmy, who couldn’t look him in the eyes. Poor man, he threw up his arms and ran to the back. Jimmy looked around a few times, then stood up and headed for the doors in a rather crouched-over position.
A few months passed before Jimmy was in that neighborhood again. Out of curiosity, he drove past Tadpole’s to find its doors boarded up, and weeds growing everywhere. A man he recognized as his waiter from that fateful night was sitting on the steps, holding his bearded face in his hands, his attire appearing ragged, his eyes darting around forlornly. He couldn’t believe that the man’s prophecy had come true, that indeed the place no longer had any business. Why would this happen if the customers came from all over knowing they were going to be given water with a tadpole in it? Jimmy would have liked to go speak to the man whose livelihood he destroyed, but he couldn’t get up the courage to do so. Indeed, he spent many sleepless nights thinking about that poor waiter, about the owners, and customers, and about the tadpoles in the water. He thought about his part in bringing all of that down. But there wasn’t much the agitator of the Tadpole Revolution could do.
More Strange Stories…
Originally posted 08/10/2005