Summer turned to fall and rain began its reckoning with the Oregon Coast. James felt completely at home with rain. One day, he followed an elk trail that led to a lush meadow right out of fairy tale. He explored the meadow and discovered a beaver pond at one of its fringes. There was the lodge! The one right out of the pop-up book. James wasted no time and dove into the pond and began swimming toward the lodge. His strokes cut through the water, and as he swam, he heard a cacophony of curious slapping sounds coming from multiple directions.
A short distance from the lodge, James plunged underwater, and searched for the entrance. It didn’t take long and he wriggled into the opening, breathed sweet beaver air, and found himself inside a larger space than he’d imagined. It was a damn sight bigger and more comfortable than the studio dumps in Portland he had rented decades ago, the ones now going for $2000 a month.
James inspected the interior of the lodge. It was tidy and neatly decorated with built-in shelves displaying toy soldiers, Lord of the Rings action figures, lighters, fishing flies, shotgun casings, prescription pill bottles (lots of those!) and all other manner of river detritus. James also noticed a couple six packs of porter stacked in a corner. Something odd, however, struck James. The interior looked cared for but not lived in.
The call of a porter beckoned and James cracked one open, naturally shotgunning it in the process, and he soon felt drowsy, curled up and fell asleep.
James awoke to the sound of a shotgunned porter and beheld a beaver. He sat up.
“My name is Maggy,” said the beaver. “This is my lodge. What’s your name?”
James didn’t know, although he did understand her question. Something about entering the lodge had erased his human name and left his human language behind.
He tried out a new language with a stutter. “I d-d-d-d-don’t know my name,” he said.
“I’m going to name you Elmer,” she said, “Elmer the Beaver.”
Elmer didn’t protest. It’s not in a beaver’s nature. They flow.
“My husband Ernie and I used to live in this lodge,” said Maggy, “but he was killed by a trapper. All our kits have moved on and I’m living nearby in an old wooden fishing boat that I turned into a lodge.”
“You want a beer?” said Maggy.
“Y-y-y-y-es,” said Elmer, staring at Judy. Those shoulders! Those brown eyes. Those long white white whiskers! Those sparkling orange buckteeth! She was foxy.
“You sound a little hick,” said Maggy laughing, handing him the can.
Elmer smiled that weird beaver smile, more of a smirk really. It’s hard to smile memorably if you only have four teeth, although many men and women in rural Oregon taverns manage to pull it off.
They clinked cans together and shotgunned the porters.
“I’d like hear more about you,” said Elmer. The stammer was gone. Shotgunning a porter is a great remedy for speech impediments, among other ailments.
“Sure,” she said. Beavers love telling stories and beavers never embellish. There isn’t any need.
They also don’t practice capitalism, enslave other creatures, truck with politicians, and are unpretentious vegans.
Maggy pulled a rolled lily pad from a cookie tin, mouthed it like a cigar, settled in, and began. Elmer listened and groomed his fur.