A Snail’s Tale
Story 1 from “Stupid Stories” (yet to be published)
[narrated by the “Omniscient Narrator”]
by michael guy
There once was a garden snail who met a garden slug, one wet Florida summer evening when the gardener was gone and the whole damn place was infested with bugs—these two closely related cousin bugs, who didn’t really know who they were, but sort of knew they were bugs (because they spent a lot of time crawling around on the ground and up the stems of plants, so they figured they were on the low end of things), got a good look at each other.
This was possible for two reasons, one being that they just happen to be oozing along the same slime trail between the gardeners newly sprouted bean plants, when slug went up one side of a tender green bean shoot and snail was at the same time going up the other side of the same sprout. The other reason of course was because the gardener had left the outside flood-light on—-thinking of course it would keep the slugs away, but he was wrong—which only served to allow the many bugs and slugs (and of course the few cousin snails) to see each other.
You see, slugs and snails don’t see too well, (I think) - I think means the narrator, whoever the damn narrator is, isn’t quite sure. We narrators are pretty powerful and omniscient, but we don’t know everything. We must act like we do. So you see, that’s confessional; in today’s world of the internet and Google, unless you want to constantly interrupt your creative flow and look shit up, you have to fake it. I have trouble with that. I would make a poor false god. I can trick the truly ignorant, but they seldom read to be honest. But if my readers are anywhere near educated and scientific, I am beset with doubts. We usually have to float above everything or get inside everybody’s head and yet try to be as invisible as possible. So I blew it this time, but I just wanted to explain to you how difficult it is to always be in the background and still know everything. It’s harder in animal and bug stories because you never know whether the writer and the narrator should be the same and whether you ought to have these bugs and animals talk like people or what. It’s a tough decision to make, but so what, why ruin a good tale just because of a bunch of point of view nonsense and writing techniques. Let the damn bugs talk. They can do a better job of it—I’ve no desire to spend time sliming around somebody’s wet garden at night, just so you can experience slugness. So there, let ‘em talk... (end of Narrator interference… but no promises!)
“I think there’s somebody on my vine; I smell a funny slimy scent, unless of course that’s me. Gee, do I stink like that? I’ll have to wear cologne perhaps. Gee it’s worse then the smell of bug repellent. Still being a slug ain’t bad—it’s better then being a congressman or the president. Hey! It ain’t me, there is somebody else’s slime trail—umm... going my way too.
Gee I hope it’s a female slug—that’s kinda what I’m going through all this for, isn’t it? What’s the point of eating all these greens if I can’t get a girl slug and get it on. (I only have a couple of weeks, I think) I’ve been a mature slug for a couple of weeks now—and let me tell you Mr. Narrator if you are still out there listening—that’s a long time in a slug’s world. Where did she go, up or down?”
“There you go “Sluggo,” you’re assuming it’s a she. Don’t get your hopes up, bub. She could be a he and a big old bastard slug at that.”
Well hell, I ain’t worried, I can out slither any old fart slug; I slide over two feet an hour which is pretty good. Those old dudes with their big pots, drink too much beer is what I hear. I don’t know what beer is, but I heard it can be the end of ya. Those fat-bellies are lucky to go 6 inches an hour, chomping all the way as they go.
Hey I’m going up. I hope she went up too. As far as I can see, she’s probably near the top of the stem, just below the first two green leaves, that’s where the tender stuff is. We’re all the same we like our greens tender. Why settle for less then the best. One bite and a good suck of sweet plant juice and it’s on to another sprout I say—as long as that gardener’s dumb enough to keep growing more and leaving them unprotected, hey, I’m not gonna eat any old tough bottom stems.
Hey I smell her scent, oooh that’s different then what I smelled before—so, that was my scent—good grief! I need a bath or something. Yea, that’s right it didn’t rain last night and I barely got wet today. I can’t do much about it now. Maybe the girls like that sort of thing. After all we’re only slugs, not human; we can’t be perfect all the time. I had a restless day underground—I couldn’t sleep thinking about how I’m torn between missing my larva-hood and the need to grow up and get on with raising a family of baby larvas. Well, I can’t complain, I had a good larva-hood, though I don’t remember much, mostly just wiggling around under that old log. Gee, I miss the old home stump and all my brother and sister larva. I wonder what ever became of the ones that survived.
I’ll never forget that day, so many disappeared suddenly. I made it, but I felt guilty. Later, I heard it was a bird, they call it—he came in pecking around and that was the end of a lot of us. How I know that, I don’t know, must of been told me by mom and dad. Come to think of it, I don’t really remember mom or dad much. Did I really have parents. I just sort of came to, and there I was wriggling around underground. That’s why tonight, it so bright. I really don’t like all this light. I’ve convinced I see better in the dark. Now, if I could just get my antennae fully extended and wrap one of them around this stem, wave it a bit and turn my eye this way and that—There! There she is! Boy, she’s big for a lady. You sure she’s a she—come to think of it I don’t remember being taught how to tell the difference between a boy and girl slug. How would I know?
Come on man, I mean slug, what’s a matter with you Sluggo, use your instincts. Don’t you have any? But what in the garden is that huge thing on her back? It’s a big, humpy looking thing—No! That’s a round rock—No it’s not. She, if she is a she, has got a shell! She’s my cousin from the snail family three flat rocks away from my hole, by the garden pool! Well I guess that changes things—now wait a minute! Why should it? You take what you can get in this garden, especially when you move as slow as we slugs do. You can’t be too picky.
She’s busy eating greens. Oh slug, she’s only inches from me now, but her back is turned she doesn’t know I’m here. I could just crawl right up on her back and do it I guess—WHAT! What’s a matter with you Sluggo?—what slimy thoughts, even for a slug. Don’t you have any bug values and morals? That could be construe d to be slug rape! It couldn’t be called that shady gray term date rape because you haven’t asked her out yet. You’re getting as bad as the maggots and manure worms thinking filthy thoughts like this. Next you’ll be behaving like a human. Well, I hope I’ll never stoop that low. Learn to go about these things properly. You need an opening line or two. Can’t you think of something? What are you a stupid slug or something? You had schooling after larva-hood. Remember the “slugese” creative writing course you took two weeks ago back at the beginning of summer. All of us young slugs and sluggets gathered under the birdbath rocks near Composter University, expecpt for all the big shot earthworms who had the run of Compost U, as we called it. They got the best of everything, but I hear they pay a high price for it. Something I heard about fishing.
The gardener comes along and picks ‘em out when they get too big for the old pile and goes fishing with em, whatever that is. Well, I’m glad I’m just a slimy slug. Nobody wants me for anything like that, yet it ain’t safe all the same.
I hope she wants me, otherwise my life’s a waste. Remember your creative writing lesson, what’s was that poem you wrote, that got you the “Slimecoat Award” of the semester? Oh yea...
“I wandered lonely as a slug.... across the lowly muddied lawn…”
I can’t quote poetry to her, she’ll think I’m queer or something. Or worse an odd bug! I’m a half-inch away from her tail now! What am I gonna do? Actually she doesn’t seem to have a tail, but I mean the back of her shell. Why don’t you forget it, she’s a snail anyway, she ain’t your type, slug. Turn around and go down. Turn around!? Hey, how do I turn around? Besides, it takes me so long to get anywhere, I’m running out of ops – I’ve gotta go through with this now.
BULLITEN: “NARRATOR INTERFERENCE ALLOWED! NEW INFO. HAS JUST COME TO LIGHT ON SNAIL BEHAVOIR”
The previous narrator, who began the story (you know, the all knowing or supposedly pre-eminent one) has returned from a short backyard garden break, during which the said narrator, whose true identity will be kept unknown, had to clean up the patio area from some leaky potted plants, the humidity here in Florida being so high in August that mildew and mold has been forming on patio blocks. Also: the ever present Florida ant population (and God knows they may be Fire Ants!) is continuing on the upswing. They’ve been invading the narrator’s porch from under the foundation. An expert like Tim Allen isn’t available right now, and said narrator (well, hell I guess that’s me)—-I’m not about to call the Orkin Man and pay big bucks to kill a couple of lousy ants. Besides, I’m pretty much one of those green types and have an immortal terror of chemicals. While cleaning the patio bricks, I inadvertently got the idea of lifting up one to see if any of my famous characters are under there. No, but there’s a whole bunch of frightening shit I didn’t know going on under these patio blocks!!
If you filmed this up close it might make a scary flick—So, these ants have been getting in the porch—nesting, egg cases and all. Under these extreme cases I will be driven to the ‘RAID’ can, shame on me, (Just remember to keep the cats away from this area for a while—that means no letting ‘em chew the grass around the bricks) Anyway to make a long story shorter—and I do apologize, this IS NOT suppose to be a long story—but after all, I’m the narrator, I can do anything, right? So I pick up a potted plant to move it and there she is—’la snail’ (that’s escargo or something in French isn’t it)— Much smaller then I imagined, a pretty little shell the size of your pinky fingernail that reflects rainbow hues in the light. I bring her in on a leaf, put her (why always a her?—this could be a male snail) in a little trout fly box I have with the lid open and get back to this writing.
NEW INFO: These little creatures are not so ugly after all—it’s slugs that are ugly—and I’ve a lot of those in my garden—and they do damage. Snails are the smaller pretty things (well, let’s face it, beauty is all relative isn’t it? Pretty, I guess if you are a male snail.)
Right now snail has just come back out of her little shell, while I went to get a glass of water and I’ve got a good look at her. She’s really stretching her neck (body?) around and moving her feelers about looking for a way out—I mean snails move pretty fast for their size. She’s out of the box and on top—she doesn’t seem so stupid—she’s looking for a way out of this predicament—she goes up and down the sides of the thing and can’t figure it out I guess—no plant!—I’m sure this is the first time she’s ever been on or seen a computer desk. What the heck would you do or think? I don’t know if you call it thinking, but she’s trying to change her situation and that is still a form of conceptual action which is in a sense a form of thought.
I feel bad, I’m definitely stressing my subject. Poor thing has just gone back on top of the box and given up. By the way, they do have little pointed tails in the back when they are moving, stretched out. They also leave slime trails, except she seems to be drying up a bit—I better cool this experiment and let her go... They can stretch their bodies (what I called the neck) out of the shell for quite a ways to look around, so they must see pretty well. She’s given up now and retreated in her shell. It’s been over five minutes since I resumed typing and she won’t come out. She just can’t figure a way out of this thing, so her best defense says to retreat I guess. I’m going to let her go and get back to my story.
END NARRATOR INTERFERENCE. (Do not interfere again! This short story is too long due to your constant digressions. And you call yourself a writer!--Why the snail herself could get to the point quicker than you!)
But hold on reader, this story is of the telling variety—it’s like a yarn you know. The kind I might tell if I had a few too many beers (make that rum) and were setting around the kitchen jawing to no purpose—it’s just a slimy tail, I mean tale, that’s all. But don’t give up; hear me out, it does have an unusual ending and a bit of a moral—especially if you’re a slug—or in some cases a politician or criminal. I’ve observed a lot of bugs on my slow days in the South and while passing time fishing, and believe me you can learn a thing or two about life from bug and slug behavior, Though I admit, they ain’t as social as some of the other bugs—due to their slowness I suppose. Didn’t I tell you narrator, to leave off; you’re up to 2500 words by the computer’s count!)
“Well, here goes the only opening line I can think of, thought Sluggo:
——?!!&$$##.......ah, pardon me mam, do you mind if I slide right by you?”
[Oh Sluggo, how could you? You blew it man, I mean slug. Where’s your backbone? [Oh that’s right you’re invertebrate.] —You are dealing with a class act snail here. She’s French. She came in on a freshwater boat hull from one of the big Florida lakes and her parentage are gourmet snails imported from Europe—for high quality restaurants—they just happened to get out somehow— OK, OK, so I promised not to interfere. Sorry.
“No, I don’t mind but there isn’t much room,” said la snail. “Why do you want to go further up? I’ve pretty much cleaned this vine,” said lady snail.
I don’t need no opening line now. I’ll just answer her questions, thought Sluggo.
“Ah....I don’t know, just to see what’s up there I guess. I don’t really clean vines, I eat ‘em, stem and all,” said slug.
“Goodness! How voracious. You eat the whole stems? Down right destructive! What do you think the gardener will do—I’m surprised you’re still alive— I mean that He hasn’t squished you. That’s why I have the shell, it’s the best protection I know; along with my pretty eyes of course.”
Sluggo was warming up to her charm and got his confidence back:
‘So you’ve run into Him uh? I’m pretty tough, I can slither out of most anything, but I admit I haven’t run in to Him yet. He’s a bastard I hear. A couple of my buddies got smashed by what’s known as “The Foot”— It was horrible. This jackass don’t seem ta like to pick us up, he’s pretty squeamish. He knocks us down with a stick, and them it’s curtains.
He’s a mean dude, talks while he does it, apologizing and stuff, but he don’t mean it. I got off good, ‘cause I was on the underside of a leaf that morning, zzz’ing out—he didn’t see me, so I live to slither another day--I’m one lucky slug.’
“Quite a story--You exaggerate; you have an attitude slug. I didn’t think he was such a bad guy, he was nice to me. I met him yesterday. I was terrified too at first, but he was gentle with me and let me go in the end. He moved me around a lot. I don’t know where I was half the time; it was no Rose Garden though.”
‘Soft on the ladies, I guess. Hey, you got good looking feelers for a snail—why I’d like to feel....’
“Now, now—we just met. You’re a bit crass and you’re not from my economic class. In fact, you realize we’re not even the same genus. You’re a sub-species.”
‘No need to get insulting! Genus? Economic what? I don’t think they taught stuff like that at Composter U. You ain’t from around here are you?’
….To be continued next week…..with installment #2
Thanks to that “damn Omniscient Narrator” who kept interfering! The louse, I mean the “hyperactive slug!” He messed up my story!! I think He needs medication. He’s a know-it-all!
PS: For you “southern gardeners” out there, particularly Floridian:
This story was formulated in my warped mind while planting a Florida vegetable garden a few years ago beginning in May and running through August; a “fruitless” and almost hopeless task. I could’ve bought a lot of canned and frozen veggies for the money I spent on repellents and “Slug-Go”