It was always a hard summer rain, usually the kind that left a small mist coming off the hot asphalt of the handball court. Maybe an electrical storm. You remember those. The thunder never roared so loud, nor the lighting crack so close, as those evening storms in the Catskills. Then, after one boomer, a blast so loud your bungalow actually shook, the lights would flicker and die, leaving your mom scurrying about for Shabbos candles or Yazheit lamps, some small illumination in the darkness. Then, after the rain had stopped and the sky had cleared, there were stars like you’d never seen before. Maybe it was because the lights were still out, and maybe it was because you’d never bothered looking in the city, but that night sky in the country, a blanket of stars right upon, so close and so dense you’d swear you could touch them. And the air held the sweet fragrance of the recent rain, and all about you salamanders scurried along the road as you explored the mysteries of your bungalow colony by flashlight, each kid in your group armed by the rusting flashlight his old man had bought at Davco just for such occasions. So you collected the little orange lizards, deftly plucking them from the ground by their tails (didn’t that hurt at all?), and softly depositing them in their new home–a Yuban can stacked with damp grass and a moist rock, covered with tin foil held fast by a rubber band, some small air holes punched through with your Swiss army knife. Then, the next day, every kid on the colony was trading salamanders, and storing them up for the weekend, when they’d peddle them to their city dwelling dads-two for a nickel, to make enough change to bang out on the pinball machine.
God, I’d give anything to have some kid offer to sell me salamanders today.