Under slow shrinking shadows of a receding August sun, squatting near a dribbling tidal pool, four children stare attentively to a small snail; as it furrows and squiggles through the sand, racing to meet the outgoing tide. They were sent there to “think”. To work out the “argument” they had among themselves.
They were told to go to the cove; “to seriously think about what each other had said and what they shouted to each other”.
All four, ignoring each other, watched quietly as the small snail furrowed and scrunched up little piles of sand behind it. The trail squiggled slightly left, then slightly right. It was heading towards the trickling edge of an out-going tidal stream.
Like corrected mistakes,
Never straight with their curves and bends;
Listening to instinct, racing the tide, the snail
Made steady headway towards the sea.
The children glanced up occasionally to see what the other was doing. They could see the tide ebbing away in a methodical hush. The sun sinking, shed its soft orange and crimson color glistening on the expanded beach sand.
No one was talkin’. All of them, were still trying to remember what the stupid argument was all about anyway? It wasn’t a fight! Hey! None of us cried! We didn’t tell anybody to shut up! That’s for sure. we just had… an aah, aah, a disagreement!…as their minds ping-ponged in thoughts and rattled on.
With purpose, the snail inched on
Ignoring the circling birds and their potential grip
For an eventual fatal drop to the flats;
Between shallow tidal pools
And, dry jagged rocks.
It was getting cooler. They hardly took their eyes off the steady movement of the snail. Except of course, to sneak a peek; checking on each other. They began inching themselves closer together to keep warm and hoping the others “weren’t still mad at them” for whatever they said, or for whatever they got wrong.
Never dawdling, clinging to its direction
Pushing the sand aside, racing to catch the tide,
The snail forged on.
Tide water was slipping into drying sand with each forward push and receding splash. The children, realizing it was getting late, were looking up at each other more frequently. They could smell supper on the camp grill. They were ready to go back.
Approaching the last rolling ripple of retreating tide
The snail stopped, as if out of breath.
But, only for the moment.
Suddenly, the ocean swelled and peaked into a fast rushing froth, it grabbed and pulled the snail. It slid, tumbled, snapped up in surf and foam, flipped, and swallowed into the bubbling, boiling sea.
All four children, now on their feet watching, caught sight of the snail scooped up in retreating swirling sand and glittering pebbles of a retreating wave. “There!” The children shouted to each other, pointing to a distant crescent wave pulling away from the shore, “There” on the surface, sitting tall, proud and smiling, was the snail. He looked back at them, waved and shouted an exhausted but jubilant, “Tally Ho!”
They simultaneously faced each other, eye to eye. “Huh?” Then, pumping their fists, all exclaimed, “It made it! YES!” Then grabbed each other’s hands with a burst of laughter; apologies were unanimously accepted. They skipped and dragged their feet making their own squiggly trail, left then right along the warm drying beach.
Supper on the grill, chocolate milk, and stories of a “swooshed up snail they ‘FOREVER’ followed,” were animated in the evenings’ bright open fire light of flaming marshmallows, burning, blown out, and squished on chocolate squares between graham crackers and pushed into sticky lips with anticipated delight.
I heard it all slide into the clapping sound of incoming waves announcing the tides transition from low to high. It was bedtime, clean up, and evening prayer. Kissing me on the cheek and with a blessing, they all took their day in stride, sharing in the applause of the snail’s completed race and an encore for the ever-changing tide.
Listening to the tide, as we watched the children disappear into the tent, I on one knee poke the dying fire. Good thoughts were sent to the children; forgetting their disagreement without anger, melancholy, or disappointment. And, a mindful poke from Katie’s marshmallow stick, smiling at each other, as she spread the dimming embers, for a happy jubilant snail.
Draft 12: Pine Cone Diary… Hermit Island, Me.