The 53 stairs leading up to my house are a minefield of slimy, disgusting slugs. Every morning, without fail, I have to dodge, hop, skip, and weave my way down the stairs in an attempt to not step on one of the suckers. I always make sure I have some extra change on hand, though, just in case. If I squish a slug, I can assure you I will not be the one who scrapes it off the bottom of my Cole Haan’s. Mgazi will do it. She’ll do almost anything for a quarter.
So far, in the ten years that I have lived in this house, in the thousands of times I have trekked up and down those incredibly annoying stairs, I have never ever stepped on a slug.
I did, however, manage to step on a snail.
Damn! Did I just make it down to the bottom of the stairs, all FIFTY-THREE stairs, violence-free, only to hear (and feel) the dainty shell of a snail crunch under my sneaker?
Please say it isn’t so.
Oh, it’s so. The children saw it all and they made sure I understood the full impact of my actions.
Zaffron: Mommy! What did you do?
Me: What? Nothing! Get in the car.
Mgazi [bending at the waist, inspecting the sidewalk]: Oh no, Zaffy. She is lying to you. Mommy killed a snail.
Tears immediately spring into Zaffy’s eyes. She’s by the car, with me. She can’t even see what Mgazi is looking at.
Zaffron: Mommy! How could you do that? He was just a baby!
Me: Oh for heaven’s sake… I just –I didn’t — for God’s sake, just get in the car. The snail is fine. He’s going to have to crawl away and find a new shell.
Mgazi [still peering at the glob on the concrete]: Nuh uh, Mommy. He’s killed. You killed him.
Me: Gazi, get in the car. Zaffy, you too.
Everyone climbs into the car and I think the episode is over because there is a short stretch of silence (if you don’t count Zaffy’s whimpering.) What was I thinking? There are never stretches of silence in my car. Short or otherwise.
Mgazi: Zaffy, you know that snail that Mommy killed? (Like Zaffy could have forgotten in the last two minutes.) He was crying too.
Zaffy [now wailing]: What? What?? Why? WHYYYYYY MOMMMMMMMMMMY?
Me: I’m sorry! I am so sorry. It was a total accident. I feel awful, Zaffy. Mgazi, you didn’t see the snail crying. Stop trying to rile your sister.
Mgazi: I did. I saw his eyes. And there were tears coming out of them.
Zaffy: WHY MOMMMMY? WHY?
Me: Mgazi, seriously. You need to stop talking. I’m not joking. Not another word.
And we returned to silence… except, of course, for the sound of my oldest child’s sniffling grief.
Recommended wine: Do you know what goes great with snails? A chablis — chalky, crisp, and flinty, with a hint of earthiness. Try the 2007 Christian Moreau Chablis. You should be able to get it for around $30.
Snail photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos