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leave, nail some boards over this stope.” “Now hold on, ” Leonard protests. “Aw, quit your pissing,” the foreman responds, his voice mild. “You can add an extra half hour to your time card. That’s practically a bonus ’cause I know it’s going to take all of 10 minutes.” By the time Leonard is finished, all the other miners have left. In the dripping quiet, he sloshes back through the water to have another look at the yellow serpent. Now the fabulous vein of ore looks more like a comet, a spray of light speeding across the universe, which somehow has been trapped down here. He runs his hand along the cold curving back, just like he saw his supervisor do, stops and traces the forked tongue of the serpent with a stubbed finger. “If only you could talk,” he mumbles to himself. “But it don’t matter. I know there’s more like you. Yes, I do.” Pulling out a small pickax, he pries a chunk of ore the size of a softball from the snake’s midriff, drops it into his shoulder bag, and walks back down the tunnel to the man-cage and punches the button that will take him to the surface. When he walks out, into the winking brilliance of the late afternoon sun, he staggers momentarily, as if he has been struck, then narrows his eyes and begins to hunt up Mirabel. The little donkey is down in the arroyo, standing motionless on her lead line next to a mesquite bush. He pushes the animal off the rope and yanks her up out of the ditch. “You sure do stink,” he says. “But May said to take you to the lady doctor’s, so that’s what I’m gonna do.” The donkey has a white, sleepy face and leaky, nearsighted eyes that blink often in the blinding light. With each blink, flies rise from the corners and then sink back down to sip at the wetness. More flies collect along the ropy shanks of her legs, which tremble with effort as she climbs out of the arroyo. Leonard throws his pack of tools over her back, and together they trudge down the red dirt road. When the sun dips below the horizon, the cliffs and mesas on either side of them begin to glow liked banked fire. The air itself soon grows infused with the same color, making Leonard and the donkey seem like rich and prosperous travelers in a beneficent land. Gnats suddenly appear in the dusk, and Leonard curses beneath his breath 34 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 12, 2007