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57 Joffe Harold Jaffe Salamander "The Salemandre berith wulle, of which is made cloth and gyrdles that may not brenne in the fyre." William Caxton, 1481 "Look at them trees." A short spare elderly black man, with a shaven crown and freshlooking burns on his temples, Bubba, manacled, walks between two guards. "Will you look at them trees," Bubba says. "Well, what about them?" Guard West says. "They're beautiful. Beautiful trees." It's a long trek. West figures he'll play along. "What's so damn beautiful about the trees, Bubba?" "Why, everything. They're green, quiet, high. The sap flows to the furtherest branches. Every smallest bit is fed so . . . quiet." After another few hundred meters over the uneven terrain, Guard East says, "Quiet matters to you, don't it, old man?" Guard West says, "It sure as hell must. On the inside 'bout all there is is clanging, screaming —" "And that other thing," East says. West looks at him. "That's right. That other thing." They've covered a lot of ground. The prison tower can be seen behind them. They've walked for most of the day and still the rotating stone tower is visible behind them. East says to Bubba, "I bet you haven't done this kind of trekkin' —" "I Uke it." "Ain't tired?" "Naw." "Where you from, Bubba?" "You mean . . ." "Before the joint. Where were you born at?" "Before the joint?" Bubba chuckles. He gently rubs the burn on his 58 the minnesota review right temple. West says, "I'm gonna take a leak." They pause. Guard East says to Bubba, "Any family?" "What you mean?" West, urinating, says to East, "It done messed up his memory." East nods. They are walking. Behind them the fading sun, the rotating tower. West is thick: long muscular torso, short thick bowed legs. Mustache, assertive chin, orange-red hair. Mid-thirties. He says, "What you think? How much longer?" East shrugs. "Couldn't say. Good while, I'd say." West: "How we ever get this detail?" East guffaws. "Warden." West nods. "You met the Warden, didn't you, Bubba?" "Who?" "The Warden. He was there, wasn't he? At the . . . end?" East: "Hell, he ain't never missed a execution in thirty-odd years, from what I hear." West yaps sardonically: "Well he sure as shit missed this one, didn't he?" East grins. "I bet he's pissed." West: "You think?" East spits. "Warden done hates to look bad. This shit" — with his head he motions to Bubba — "makes him look bad." Guard West has loaned Bubba his pocket knife and Bubba is whittling a chunk of wood with his manacled hands while he walks. Guards walk on either side. It is dark, moonless, the path has narrowed, West uses his light. "TeU you what," West says. "Only thing don't bug me 'bout this detail's the pay." "Double-time," East says. "Damn straight. Double-time no matter we wake, sleep, or shit." "Or eat," East says. "I'm damn hungry right now." To Bubba: "Howsabout it, old man? Little chow?" "Little chow and a little drink," West says. "I don't know about the drink," East says. 59 jaffe "Why not? Just a damn Utile bit. Warden didn't tell us nothin' 'bout not givin' him no drink." "That's true. He's just an old man." "He sure as shit don't walk like no old man. Hey, Bubba, you hungry?" "Right there looks good," East says. "Let's set down right there. I'll get the fire." Using the torch, West examines East's hair for lice, then East examines West's hair, finds some, picks them out. "Am I clean?" West says. "Not yet," East says. "What you been up to?" "Ain't been up to shit. It's goddamn cootie city in that place," motioning with his head to the prison tower. "Hey Bubba," East says. "You lucky you done got your head shaved," laughing. East is tall and narrow, somber-looking. Two deep furrows run the width of his forehead. Fifty years old. He says, "How did it feel, Bubba?" Squatting between the guards, Bubba, manacled, is...


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