The two snails were up to something when disaster struck, make no mistake. There they were, slightly dead and clinging to each other, Rose and Jack floating near the iceberg, until, well— let’s just say I tossed the snails into my neighbor’s yard, she not so fond of gardening. Maybe they would die in snail time, those synapses lengthening, until the morning became next year. Then, gone. That’s not how my husband and I will go, barely alive, bits of dirt stuck on our skin, our shells cracked. If we don’t kill each other, someone will find us on our mattress, rigid, flaky, still as pressed flowers, the kind people used to put between pages in a dictionary. Who has a dictionary anymore? Our skin will be shrink-wrapped to our brittle bones, and they will just toss us over the fence to join the long-ago snails. Easy peasy. But it’s not like that, is it? No, the breaking down and oozing out starts years before anyone is tossed anywhere. Things creak and groan and tear and rupture. Innards become outtards. The system cannot hold. Someone straps us into a diaper and jams us in a chair. Our minds unfocused, the world passes by in lengthened moments, minutes at a time disappearing. Days. Weeks. Months. Let’s go back to this morning. I find the snails, watch their movements, their frothing, their writhing, their brokenness. I step hard, fast, the crackle crunch under my shoe.
Jessica Barksdale’s sixteenth novel What the Moon Did is forthcoming February 2023.She taught at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and continues to teach for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.