Kiddo#3, on an unseasonable October day, pointed out a snail shell on our front steps. He put it in his pocket. I said, “Leave it outside,” and he said, “No! It’s dead, see?” How could this go wrong? How could it possibly?
He’s had a few disappointments lately, so I brought him and the snail shell inside. He put it on the table and started doing his homework.
A minute later: “Hey! It’s moving.”
Perfect. Just perfect.
I said, “Put it outside,” which resulted in wailing and lacrymation: he loved it; he wanted to keep it as a pet forever.
I should have been grateful he wanted to keep only the snail and not any of the fuzzy caterpillars inching around the yard, confused because it’s not April. (Poor things. They’re not going to make it.)
So I stuck it in a bowl with some lettuce and went online to figure out what snail-care entails, since if we’re going to fail at keeping a snail alive, we are going to fail the most correct way possible. I’ve got a penchant for finding new and special failure modes, after all. It would be giving in to just kill a snail the ordinary way.
Mechanic: I can check that, sure, but that’s never the problem.
Me: You sure?
Mechanic: Yeah, never. See, right here….holy crow.”
Me: So, one credit card or two?
But really, this was a snail. Snails live in the dirt. How hard could this be?
The first website, How To Tenderly Shower Lovingkindness Upon Your Garden Snail dot Com, began with explicit instructions about seven different sources of calcium your snail requires, and in what proportions they must be administered on alternating days. After I finished sobbing, I asked for help on my parenting group, and it turns out there are other websites for snail care that aren’t quite as, um, well, obsessive.
I looked in the basement and closets for a plastic habitat the kids had, but I never found it. When I returned upstairs, I looked in the bowl, and the snail was gone.
There was now a snail loose in my house.
Yes, you may feel free to have an excellent laugh at my expense. I looked all around the table, under the table, along the table legs — nowhere. I said, “How fast can a snail move?” Seriously. The table isn’t huge, but it’s got to be miles for a snail.
Kiddo3, now missing the love of his life, decided the best course of action was to watch TV. I scoured the kitchen again, and this time, I looked back through the lettuce leaves. And there, hidden in one of the folds of lettuce, was our snail.
We have identified it as a Dwarf Pond Snail, half the size of a nickel. My Patient Husband wants to know where Dwarf Pond is located.
We now are proud landlords over a Snail Palace: a plastic deli container with an inch of dirt on the bottom, a layer of moss (thank you, Driveway, for the privilege of harvesting your bounty,) a tiny spider plant, and a few drops of water in a PlayDoh lid. A couple leaves of lettuce. And a snail who doesn’t move very much and has not, at the moment, been given his calcium supplement(s).