A journal of narrative writing.

As though a cougar had crouched, tail-tip lashing bitterbrush and sage, then sprung to rip open some unwary raccoon hissing up the pine— lunged, missed— clawed long scabbed scars, exposing cambium and scale—but failed, failed, and slunk back to simmer in its lightless lava cave. . . . But no, you say, running your field-trained thumb slowly down the deep sap-weeping welt— not a cougar, though we've heard rumors, a mare spooked near this trail last week—likely not. We circle the damaged tree, track the scar. Below, chunks of burnt bark raying, exploded twenty feet. Lightning. Above, blackened branches, twigs flame- scorched. And yet the tree enduring— a high flaunt of sharp-green vivid needles, braced against the biting wind. . . . Today, while you split dried pine, it's my turn to track the dog blissing wild off-trail. I stop to touch the wounded trunk. What kept that strike from torching tinder woods, driving us from home, hoping for miracle? And wasn't this miracle, the candle-tree hit, kindled, lit—but doused by rain or luck or whim, just short of disaster? I finger the wound's curving track as I sometimes finger the curved scar arcing up across your abdomen, witness to the longest hours that three scrubbed men bent intently over to open you, to cut away every trace of that other predator sprung to claw your core. Cut cleanly away—or so they hoped— left faint prints written in flesh. Within, visible only to the CT scan, an induration— suspicious thickening—tissue curled in the kidney's crease. We keep close watch, a head-count of pixels, to see what it might do: Nothing. Nothing, to date. Dead. Or sleeping— waiting to be waked.