By Julie Ako
Snails don’t have pain receptors. What happens when you salt them is that the moisture is rapidly pulled from their bodies in a process called osmosis. As this happens, the snail begins to die from dehydration and produces a slimy substance as a means of protecting itself which, when coming into contact with the salt + air, begins to bubble as it evaporates. If you’ve ever gotten salt in a wound, you’ve experienced some variation of this. Not the slime but the rapid evacuation of water molecules from your cells. Scientists say that if snails had thicker skin this wouldn’t happen. When I am a child, my older brothers say if I had thicker skin I wouldn’t cry as much. It really is our own fault, I guess, the snail and I.
Last Christmas I salted a snail I found crawling around my bathroom and as it began to shrivel up and die I felt humanity rush through me, felt suddenly terrible, like an unforgiving higher power. My uncle’s new wife is a round white woman from Kentucky and together, they bought (and now own) a nail salon in Panthersville. In the kitchen she offers me a bite of a funny smelling pâtè. When I decline, she tells me I should try expanding my palate. “It’s very European,” she says, stuffing a cracker topped with imported cheese in her mouth. When I salt the snail, I am really thinking about salting my uncle’s new wife. I think she is insufferable. Her nails are too long to be hygienic and I hate the way she always compares me to her son who writes erotic fan-fiction.
If you were to try and salt me, I think I’d be able to survive. Roll me around in the stuff – like the rim of Margarita glass – and I bet I don’t even begin to shrivel up and scream. If you were to crush my shell with your boot, it would be another story. Think back to all the times you could have spared something but didn’t. We do things because we feel compelled to. Things that are bigger than us decide what gets given and what gets taken away so if I was a snail, I think I would be happy just to be alive. What I’m really saying is that I have no interest in being European and I will always hate Escargot.
Julie Ako is a writer with roots in Mars, Pennsylvania and Jupiter Island, Florida, currently living in Chicago, Illinois. Her work is published or forthcoming in Potluck Magazine, Spork Press, Wu-Wei Magazine, Mineral Magazine, Guild Literary Complex, Reality Hands and a handful of other publications. Her first book of prose Tiger Balm is due for publication Spring 2015 via Pink Finger Press. She is currently studying writing at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.