Salamander Named Jesus

IMG_7083-005In the summer of ’85, when I was ten, I found a blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale) under a log on Nun’s Island. I’d never seen one before. Not even in a book. He was, at that point, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen (I’d yet to discover girls). I named him Jesus and took him home. This was, I soon discovered, a really bad idea. Poor little guy was miserable. Wouldn’t eat. Just dug himself deep into the dirt and stayed put. I found him there, dead, three months later. I’m sure I was sad, but mostly I remember how embarrassed I was. Because my mom had warned me, in no uncertain terms. She’d said it was a bad idea. So I kept the little dude’s death to myself.

I wanted to bury him down by the river with the rest of my deceased pets. But it was December and the ground was already frozen solid. So I put him in a little soil-filled box, hid the box under some old crap at the bottom of our freezer, and waited for the spring thaw. I’d love to tell you that I followed through on my noble intentions, but that’d be a lie. Truth is, I’d long forgotten about the salamander by the time spring rolled around. Little dude stayed in there for four years. Probably would’ve been there longer, way longer, if the fridge hadn’t died in the middle of that unseasonably hot June.

I recognized the little box right away, and felt a wave of shame wash over me (which I kept to myself). I slid that box into my pants pocket with the stealth of a practiced pickpocket. Said in my head: I’ll bury him with the others after school. And I remembered this time. Dug a nice hole too. Was just about to bury him in that soggy box when something really weird happened: he crawled out of it! He is risen, I thought; He is risen indeed! Of course Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead. He was always alive. I’d mistaken a hibernating salamander for a dead salamander. Didn’t take me but a moment or two to put that together. But it has taken me close to three decades to grasp this event’s deeper significance.

There’s a reason why certain forms of life, like salamanders, stand the test of time, whilst others go extinct. The salamander is one of evolution’s masterpieces. It’s not just ready for winter; it’s ready for catastrophic black swan events: like the little ice ages caused, from time to time, by massive volcanic eruptions, giant meteors, and the forgetfulness of flaky children. Are we ready for black swan events of this magnitude? God told dreamy Joseph to prepare Egypt for seven years of famine. Could we survive that long? I doubt it.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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