I’m sitting on the grass, staring at the stars in a sky that’s rich with deep color and texture thanks to a layer of rippled clouds catching light from the nearby towns. I’m chatting about life with my cousin, and marveling at where life takes us.
For much of our lives, my cousin and her siblings lived right next door. We played all kinds of silly, made-up games and pretended we were everything from living toys to orphans in the “olden days” (a time I have since realized was our imaginative and highly romanticized version of either the Great Depression or possibly the late 1800’s…it’s hard to be certain).
She lives across the country now, in the deep South; a far cry from the political and environmental climate of the Pacific Northwest. When I last saw her, her adorable baby boy -now seven moths old- was still a bump in her belly.
We’ve been walking around the fields, talking about the past and the future, people and places, and all manner of subjects both serious and silly. But we’ve looped around several times, and it was time to come to a stop.
Tycho, the hyperactive beagle we’re walking, is sniffing and snorfling as she digs deeper and deeper into a gopher hole right next to me. The other dog, Shadow, is content so long as I idly scratch her belly. If I pull my hand away for a mere five seconds, she looks at me and whimpers. She’s mastered the art of pathetically pleading, never happy unless she’s the center of attention.
With dirt flying from Tycho’s ever-deepening gopher hole onto my outstretched legs, and Shadow momentarily distracted by the sound of a coyote in the distance, I take the opportunity to lean back, propping myself on both hands to get a better view of the sky.
Under my left hand, the ground feels strangely moist. Not pleasantly damp, and not at all like what my right hand is feeling. Shifting my hand, even lifting it, doesn’t shake the increasingly unpleasant feeling of semi-solid liquid now stuck to my hand. I start to recognize the sensation of something oozing, something slimy, something that is now caked onto my hand.
It’s a beautiful night. The situation and scenery are rife with imaginative imagery and metaphoric memories. The company is excellent and the conversation is pleasant. It’s the sort of thing the greats would write about.
And it’s in this poetic setting that I realize what just happened. As I look at the palm of my hand, I already know what I’ll find. But I look anyway, as it’s an experience I’ve not had since childhood, and I feel as though I should confirm my suspicions. So I turn my hand over and see what lies within.
And there, as suspected, lie the smeared and sticky guts of a freshly-squished slug.