Charlie’s Room: The Snail

Charlie and Marianne were at the grocery store.   They both really liked grocery stores.   Marianne said it came from her side of the family, and she was probably right. Whenever her brother visited, the third thing he did was suggest a trip to the grocery store. Marianne said that her mom and aunt were the same way.

Unfortunately, her brother couldn’t visit often. It was even more rare for Isaac and Marianne and Charlie to have the time and money to visit him. So, Marianne would occasionally whisk Charlie away for a shopping trip when she was feeling particularly homesick.

They’d be gone for hours and come home with packets of soup mix, talking about the price of lemons and where to find kumquats, or some such. Isaac was invited along, of course, if he really wanted to come.

He’d gone a few times and tried to participate in the price comparisons and label reading and melon thumping. But, he didn’t really know what he was doing. He just didn’t have the love-to-go-grocery-shopping gene, and he felt like he was holding them back. He just didn’t really get it.

And that was okay. There were other things he could do with them that he did enjoy.   Right now, they needed a grocery shopping day, and that gave Isaac the chance to rearrange the bookshelves just the way he liked them best. He was the only one who seemed to care whether books were arranged by subject and author, unless they couldn’t find what they were looking for.

He took the dinosaur book that was hidden among the cookbooks in the office and returned it to Charlie’s room. The room was unusually cold. Charlie had left the window open again. Isaac set the book on the edge of the bookshelf and started to close the window.

He stopped suddenly when he saw the snail in the window tracks. It looked like the screen wasn’t completely in place, and the snail had somehow snuck in through the gap.

It certainly was an unusual snail. He leaned a little closer. It had thin, blue and green stripes painted along the sides. The wind blew through the screen, and it sounded like whispering voices. It rustled the curtains, and the snail darted forward and seemed to blur as it raced across the windowsill and down the wall.

Was it a racing snail? Isaac briefly tried to imagine who had painted the stripes on the snail and taught it to race like that. But, he really had no idea. It could be aliens or time travelers or even fairies maybe. Were fairies real? Probably.

In any case, whoever it was probably wanted their snail back. Isaac looked out the window. He could still hear the odd whispering, but couldn’t see anything out of place in the yard. The gap in the screen was pretty small. It would be difficult to send the snail out that way.

He closed the window, so that nothing else would get in.   He’d fix the screen later. For now, he needed to take the snail outside.   He went to the kitchen for a water glass. When he returned, the snail was still on the wall. He slowly approached it and lowered the water glass.

At the last second, it zoomed across the wall and he clapped the cup against the wall, catching nothing. He tried again, lowering the cup as quickly as possible.   With a blur of speed, the snail escaped again, this time disappearing behind the desk.

He probably couldn’t be any quicker so he needed to be smarter. Isaac went back to the kitchen and looked through the fridge. There was a head of lettuce in the crisper. He broke off a leaf and set it on the floor by the desk and stepped back.

The snail zoomed out and started eating. Isaac clutched his cup and stepped forward, slowly and quietly.   The snail zoomed away and hid under the desk again. Isaac took two steps away and it came back.

Isaac picked up the leaf and the snail raced away. He ripped the leaf into smaller pieces and started putting them down one at a time. Little piece of lettuce, step step, little piece of lettuce, step step. He made a path of lettuce from Charlie’s room, down the hall, through the kitchen, to the back door.

He opened the back door. He could hear the whispering voices in the wind again. He propped the door open with a chair and left the rest of the lettuce pieces in a pile on the patio. He stepped out of the way and waited.

A few minutes later, the snail entered the kitchen, eating and racing to the next piece of lettuce. It ate its way through the kitchen and paused on the doorsill. The whispering voices grew a little louder as the wind gusted through the yard, making the branches of the trees dance and the door sway back and forth.

The snail darted forward into the grass, bypassing the pile of lettuce pieces.   It disappeared into the grass.   The wind stopped. Isaac closed the door and put the chair back into place.   He put away the head of lettuce that was still tucked under his arm and retrieved the water glass.

Now he could return to his task. Which bookshelf was next? Perhaps he could organize the books in the living room. He probably had time to finish organizing most of the shelves before Marianne and Charlie got home.