Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Slugs: an anthology in four parts
I am a slug. A great, big banana slug.
If you shake that salt at me, I will shrivel into a pile of goo.
And get all over the under side of your favorite Vans.
Please, just let me pass by and we will each mind our own business.
I will eat your tomatoes and leave a glistening slime trail about your lawn.
You will watch television and cook spaghetti for your supper.
We will live in harmony.
So, when I was about three my family moved to northern California. To a little town in the redwood forests called Garberville. We lived in a barn that had been repurposed as a house at the edge of a ravine. There was a "Z" door leading out to the back yard from the kitchen. I figured that it was my own special door.
We also had great big banana slugs. We kids would watch those slugs for what seemed like eternity as they slowly prowled outside the garage. I remember wondering what they tasted like, whether they could substitute for bananas if someone was hungry enough, but not having the courage to lick one.
When I was four my family moved to Quincy, Illinois on the Mississippi River. There were lightning bugs and cicadas and slugs! The slugs ate our tomatoes but I really didn't mind because I didn't want to eat the tomatoes. I liked the way their eye stalks retract if you try to poke them. They sort of freaked me out, though, so I didn't mind when my mom showed us a little science project.
Salt + Slugs = Death
You see, slugs are basically one big semi-permeable mucus membrane. When salt is sprinkled on the slug, the concentration gradient is disturbed and water is drawn out the slug cells to dilute the salt thus causing the slug to dehydrate rapidly and expire in a mass of gooey bubbles. It's pretty gross. But sort of awesome, despite being cruel.
When I was eleven a cat adopted my family. She just showed up on Mother's Day, ran into the house, and decided to stay. She had kittens that summer. Three orange boy kitties and one calico girl kitty.
I named the little calico Isabelle, or Izzy for short. She was the runt in every way. Small and wiry, she wasn't very interested in hunting birds or baby bunnies like her brothers. She preferred bugs. And slugs. She became Izzy the Slug Killer!
We had a dirt-floored coal room in our basement, complete with a coal shoot. It was creepy and no one ever went in there for fear of the unknown ghosts whose bodies may have been buried under the packed earth. There were also a lot of bugs in that room. And slugs. The slugs would slime their way up to the kitchen and leave trails all over the floor and inside of our shoes. It was not uncommon to wipe off fresh trails of slime before tying your laces in the morning. Once Izzy realized her taste for the critters we never had such problems again.