Guest Post by Marc Ross ©2015
Several years ago my wife and I, while living in our first apartment, had next-door friends, Dave and Brookie, who were both frequently out of town. On a Friday I was invited into their kitchen and shown their latest prize, a small snail named Speedy, occupying the bottom of a large shallow bowl. He was, as Brookie explained, a fond pet that she had smuggled home on an airplane. They were once again going on vacation for a week and would I care for him.
“Of course,” I said, unsure of what that entailed. I was reassured that (a) he only needed a few daily drops of water and a pinch of fish food and (b) he would never leave the bowl. I reassured them that I would care for Speedy. They gave me their key and left the next day.
The following is, as best as I can reconstruct, is the letter that I left on their kitchen counter:
Dear Dave and Brookie,
Welcome home. I know that you will both be saddened by the absence of your beloved Speedy. I will attempt to explain.
On Saturday I dropped by and there he was in the bowl. I gave him water in an eye-dropper then gave him a pinch of fish food.
On Tuesday, I noticed that he had moved from the center of the bowl. Just getting some exercise, I thought.
By Wednesday he had ventured further, nearly to the bowl’s edge. That contradicted my understanding of Speedy’s mobility. I shrugged it off and picked him up gingerly by his shell, replacing him in the bowl’s center. Again, water, food, and done.
On Thursday I became alarmed. I could not find him. Detective that I am, I followed his tiny slime trail and discovered that he had suctioned to the underside of the bowl. Again…replace, water, food. I was becoming concerned. Had I been mistreating him or not following instructions?
Friday. I entered the kitchen with no small trepidation and switched on the light. The bowl was empty. As I approached I noticed an ominous vertical trail of slime on the wall. There he was, close to the ceiling. What a desperate effort he must have exerted.
I knew something had gone haywire. I stood on a chair and reached high to hold his shell between thumb and forefinger. He seemed attached to the wall by some force.
I jiggled his shell a bit to break the bond and then…he exploded. His insides had, under pressure, exerted themselves all over the kitchen and me. It was horrifying….like the Manson family had been there only with snails. I washed his remains from my hands and face and, I confess, ran from your apartment.
Judith explained to me that I had to return to the scene to clean it up, that you would both would be home Saturday. I knew that it was something needed doing and I hope you both feel that I did a thorough job in at least that small regard.
It must feel so terrible to lose a pet that you loved. I know I let you down and I feel responsible even though I don’t know exactly in what way. Judith and I wish we could bring him back so he’d continue “speeding” through your lives.
With deepest regrets and sympathy,
I dropped the hand-written letter into the late-Speedy’s dish and hoped that after this we’d still be friends.
Saturday morning there was a knock our door. I looked through the peephole and saw, however distorted, the faces of Dave and Brookie. Were those tears in their eyes? I opened the door.
They stood before me holding onto each other, my letter clutched in Dave’s hand, laughing that kind of soundless gasping laugh, tears indeed streaming from their eyes. Finally, Brookie collected herself, took the letter from Dave and pressed it into my hand. She managed to squeak out, “We don’t give a shit about Speedy!” Then they collapsed again into helpless laughter…
…laughter that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Marc Ross is a playwright, essayist, and actor. He’s had plays staged throughout the Chicagoland area, including The Sedgwick Stories and Button For Nuttin‘.