Donald Mitchell

The Boiler

SALAMANDER

I find it while clearing away big chunks of rotting old-growth cedar, dark boles of shake wood inspected and rejected no doubt by my great-grandfather early last century. I’m opening a space in these woods for a writing cabin. I think this may be a good sign.

It’s the Oregon variety— the salamander, I mean. That’s what the book says, though in the photograph the Oregon race is lighter, and this one is the color of Irish stout. I didn’t even notice it at first, lost in the bric-a-brac shadows of the lady ferns, but when I returned to kick up and cart away another rotten wedge, there it was, standing tall and stiff as the Royal Guard— well, as stiff and tall as a salamander can stand, anyway. It often does that, I’ve read, holds up the tail like a shitting cow, waits for something to snatch it…

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