There’s a ridge I need to climb ever since Toadman died. He loved toads. Got his nickname that way. Always hanging out with them and brushing the splotches on their backs like the splotches were grey pools of lily pad hair. Toadman and I biked and walked to every creek in the county for we are not a county of rivers, just rills and rivulets Waters meet James Bra ziel 10 widening into creeks. I followed because he knew where the frogs hid in summer on the cool north banks beneath mud funks and old pine logs that had tumbled down. He found a copperhead like that once. Got bit straight through his wading thumb.

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James Braziel is the author of two novels: Birmingham, 35 Miles and Snakeskin Road. His shorter work has appeared in the New York Times, Southern Humanities Review, and Chattahoochee Review, among other places. He lives in North Alabama with his wife, poet Tina Mozelle Braziel.

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