Drama Kids Fantasy


“To my daughters I leave my life’s work. You will always be my crowning achievement (inasmuch as I can take credit for you), but second to you there is this: snail slime.

“Do you remember the first time you held a snail? I must have placed one in your chubby, outstretched palms. Maybe we found it on one of our walks after the rain, Lesma—leaving its glistening silver trails over a pungent sidewalk. Or maybe searching through the bushes for flowers to make your perfume, Zoa. Do you remember the way its body would bend, that long foot curling at the mantle skirt as it glided over your skin, stretching eyes out on almost-translucent stalks? How far those eyes could stretch—growing and unfurling past the point you think there could be no more! Almost like love itself. 

“I remember, girls. I remember everything: those pudgy baby hands, reverse-indented knuckles, the snails, their bodies. I have always been fascinated by them, as you know. And now, in moments where anxiety threatens to overwhelm me, I imagine my life as a snail trail, winding along the sidewalk. It goes over rocks, branches, sometimes wandering aimlessly, sometimes headed pointedly toward a clump of agapanthus, and then ending suddenly in the grass.

“It hurts me to think of leaving you. But I see the end of my path. And the truth is that even if I were here with you I could not guide your paths. I don’t know where they lead, or what obstacles lie in your way. But I am leaving each of you something to help you along the way.

“Did you know that snails actually make two kinds of slime? The first helps the snail glide over challenging terrains—sharp rocks or bumpy asphalt—and also to stick to things so they can climb walls and even suspend themselves upside down. This will be no surprise to you. But a snail produces the second kind of slime when it’s in distress. This slime protects the snail’s skin and even helps it to heal. Imagine that!

“For years I have been researching how to extract and concentrate these powers. This is what I pass on to you. To Lesma, the power of motion. Take this jar of slime and be impervious to the sharp rocks in your path. Develop a thick skin so they don’t hurt you. To Zoa, I leave the power of healing. This jar will repair the wounds you’ve suffered and allow you to regenerate.

“I see your faces now. Lesma, you’re grossed out. I see your nose wrinkle, your upper lip curl into a sneer. You roll your eyes. Zoa, your eyes are wide. The shock of it, the burden of sudden responsibility. No matter. Take it and be great. I love you. Both.”

I’m stopped by the ache in my throat. I shut off the recorder and rest my head on the cool wood of the desk. There is so much to fix! My temples ache thinking about it.

I excel at splitting things apart—bisection. Cutting into my first snail at University, my hand shaking as my scalpel sunk into the slime and moved without resistance, the sucking noise as the body pulled apart at my incision. I was sad to destroy something so beautiful, but that one act of destruction revealed ten new things to love: the pulsing glands, the winding ducts suspended within that gelatin.

I’ve repeated this process of bisection several times in my life with similar results—the predictable pain of an incision that opens new worlds of joy. I split my career and my family life and then, once I had two daughters, I split my own heart. Here I could not have predicted the pain. I would feed the new baby while my old baby, just 19 months, climbed in my lap and grated her sister’s head a little too roughly with her toy cheese grater, and I didn’t know what to do, whose side to take! Always, in the years that followed, so much bickering. 

I look up at the two large mason jars, one nearly phosphorescent, thick and viscous, the other light and foamy like the edge of an ocean where it meets the shore. My life’s work. Motion and healing. My final bisection. I don’t know if it will be enough. I remind myself that it’s not what we leave for others that matters; it’s what we leave in them. Still, I don’t know if it’s enough.


Of course mom was crazy, but I had no doubt her snail-goo concoction would work. She was meticulous like that. It was a big part of her crazy. So I had the power to move and stick. The only problem was I didn’t know where I wanted to go. Just away, at first.

So a few weeks after her funeral, I gritted my teeth and put a dab of this stuff on my forehead (a little bit goes a long way, it turned out, and thank goodness it didn’t stink—in fact, it had a clean smell, like aloe vera or something. How was yours? I never asked) and I powered through my personal essay for college applications. Somehow I was able to address it all with a clinical detachment, just like Mom would have. And it must have been pretty good, because I got in everywhere, and before I quite understood, I was far away.

As I settled into my new life I asked myself what I would do if I didn’t have to worry about roadblocks. But I couldn’t come up with a good answer. Life in college felt stagnant. A bunch of books by dead people, you know? There was nothing I cared enough about to stick to, so I put some goo on my hands, passed my commercial license test, and got a job as a big rig trucker. How’s that for motion?

It suited me. Do you ever see these big trucks get stuck around a tight corner and start this halting, back and forth dance to get around a light post? That was never me. I flowed like a nimble kayak down a river of traffic, glided over mountains and flat fields, jotting my thoughts down in notebooks at truck stops. I rubbed some of Mom’s goo over my skin and was impervious to the cat calls of the other truckers, hunched over their cups of coffee. Is your battery dead? I’d love to jump you…

Then I met a hitchhiker. It was his sign that stopped me. Wherever you’re going; any road could get me there. Every apostrophe and homonym in its rightful order. He even nailed the semicolon. I thought a guy with that command of grammar could tell a good story, and Helm did not disappoint me. At one of our rest stops I let him read through my notebook and he loved it, and suddenly I loved it and I wanted to keep going and write a whole book just for him. 

I put Mom’s goo on my fingers and ran them down his broad, smooth back and he stuck around. For the first time in a long time the world made sense. I’d have Helm take the helm of the truck while I sat in the passenger seat and scribbled. 

My hand and my brain were good friends already—they knew how to talk between themselves and move a story along. Now my heart wanted in on the relationship. It threw me off. In fact, it hurt. It’s hard to describe it...there was a physical pain when I would sit down to write. I rubbed some goo over my chest and my hand kept moving, but the pain only got worse, like a hot knife cutting through a block of ice. That’s when I knew I had something good that I’d never be able to finish. Unless.

You know, Mom said a snail could crawl on a razor’s edge and not be cut. That’s my goo. But I can’t move past a wound that’s already part of me. Zoa, I’m sorry this is what it takes before I come to you. Helm says nevermind—he doesn’t care if I write some book. I care, though. There’s something living in me that needs to come out and have its own life. If I have any movement left in me, I know I need to move out of my own way. You probably hate me, but please listen. It’s important.     


I was used to life the way it was. I think I would have said I’d healed, when Lesma’s letter showed up and ripped everything wide open again. 

I’d healed myself after Mom died. It didn’t feel right using her potion. Not right away like I did. What if I used it up? I was not even bleeding. I wouldn’t die, although the ache that had taken up residence in my throat made it hard to breathe. I thought about giving myself a tracheotomy. I held mom’s scalpel, its metal cold soothing my hand, and wondered if it would be possible to relieve the pressure and let some air in. 

On a whim I turned the blade and slid it across my finger. Now I was bleeding, a thin ribbon of it oozing from the incision on the pad of my index finger. I bit my lip against the sharp pain. It seemed like a good enough excuse to open the potion. I plunged my finger into the jar and brought it up dripping long strands of bubbling slime, a string of pearls. Immediately the bleeding stopped and I felt relief, an absence. With my finger still trailing an excess of slime, I painted a snail trail over my throat, feeling the outline of my larynx and trachea, and I felt that sensation of absence spread to displace the choking knots. My lungs pulled in air like something starved. Once I was able to breathe, I could cry. 

I tried the potion again after Lesma left, but it didn’t work in the same way. When her car disappeared around the corner, on its way across the country, my ears ached with the silence of our house. I used to complain about the sound of Lesma’s voice, always on at a high volume. I could never speak loudly enough to be heard over her incessant flow. Now I was so full of absence that the potion didn’t provide much relief. My pain healed like a scab—a wound crusted over instead of cleanly healed. After all, I was missing another half. A wound can only heal if the severed flesh is there to re-join; otherwise the body just adapts. I adapted.

That was the last time I used the potion on myself. I used some on the cat once, when she came home with a gaping abscess in her chin and I was afraid of what I’d see if I tried to look all the way to the bottom of that pulsing pink tunnel. And on Dad a few times, after his knees started bothering him. Turns out it’s an excellent joint lubricant. Dad said I should go to medical school and I kind of agreed with him, but the closest option was two hours away and, with all of the leaving, I couldn’t bear to sever that last tie with Dad and home. I took nursing classes at the community college.

Then came Lesma, pulling up in a noisy eighteen-wheeler that took up the entire curb in front of the house. Typical. 

This time was different, though. I had something she wanted. I could tell by the way she lingered in the cab instead of waltzing in like she owned the place. She didn’t own anything here anymore. I donated all the clothes and books and posters after she didn’t come back.

I watched her open the door and hop down in a fluid motion. I let Dad greet her at the door, consume her in a massive silent hug.

“Hi.” She looked over his shoulder at me.

“Hi,” I answered back. “I set your room up for you. Did you bring Helm?”

She glanced back at the truck for a second with a smile softer than anything I could remember of her. She probably really loved him. “Yeah. I’m glad you read my letter.”

I watched Lesma that day, observing what unimpeded motion does to someone, what Mom had done for her. She moved more slowly now—almost imperceptibly slower, but I remembered her former reckless energy, jumping on top of a tower I’d built or charming my friends with an effortless magnetism. That abandon seemed more subdued now, but more confident and deliberate. I wondered what she saw in me.

“You look good,” Lesma said to me that night after Dad and Helm had gone to bed. She paused. “How did you do it? What was it like?”


Lesma grimaced, her nose wrinkling at the bridge. “That sounds terrible.”

“No," I corrected. “Pain is the body’s signal to run away. In its absence, it’s possible to stay and rest and heal.”

I had known what I would do as soon as I got her letter. I didn’t want to then. She had her inheritance, her adventure. Now she was coming for mine. Still, I knew I couldn’t deny her. Looking at her now, her body curled on the corner of the sofa, hands playing nervously with the pillow tassel, I didn’t resent her.

I went to my room and retrieved my jar. “Where does it hurt?”

Lesma raised her hand slowly to her chest and rubbed a wide circle.

I scooped a blob of potion in two fingers and applied it to the spot over her heart, then we waited. “What do you feel?”

“You’re right,” she said. “It’s absence. But not loss. More like a friendly silence.” Tears quivered in her eyes and spilled over, making glistening trails down her cheeks. Instinctively, I reached out to touch them. “Do you feel it?” she asked.

What I felt was wholeness, the missing part of me regenerating. I nodded, dislodging my own stream of tears.

Lesma, with all of her old energy, threw herself into my arms, her wet cheek against mine, and our tears merged into a single trail. I wondered why Mom had severed our paths, why she’d bothered to separate the two slime compounds. Why not this? Why not one? It felt so good to be one.

“Thank you,” Lesma whispered, her breath hot on my cheek. “You have such a gift.”

Then our trails parted as she leaped up and ran down the hallway. She returned with a tall mason jar, a phosphorescent slime filling its bottom quarter. “You take it.” She thrust the jar toward me. “You could go to medical school.”

The knowledge came gliding in slowly. At that moment I understood Mom. If Lesma and I both had everything, we wouldn’t need each other.

I reached out and grasped the cool glass.

September 04, 2020 07:07

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Anika G
16:16 Sep 15, 2020

I love this story! It feels very sincere. I really started caring about the characters, which is impressive for a short story. Good work!


A.Dot Ram
16:35 Sep 15, 2020

Thank you. I think i started to care about them, too. I'm glad that came through.


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20:31 Sep 09, 2020

This is sooooo creative! Wow, snail slime as a basis of a story is tricky to work with, but you made this short story turn out very well. It’s a really sweet piece, and I liked the magical aspect if the slime. Awesoooooome job! Keep writing, A.dot Ram! ~Aerin P. S. Would you mind checking out one or two of my most recent stories? Thanks!


A.Dot Ram
21:13 Sep 09, 2020

Thank you, and I'm happy to check out your stuff. Left you a comment on the very latest, and will delve a little deeper into your portfolio.


21:18 Sep 09, 2020



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Rayhan Hidayat
01:49 Sep 09, 2020

I never thought snail slime could serve as the basis for such a gorgeous story, but here it is. The different slime compounds thing and the way you used that as a plot device was genius. Evidently you’re just as much of a writer as a biologist, and that combo makes for really unique and compelling stories. Keep it up! 😙


A.Dot Ram
21:26 Sep 09, 2020

Thanks. I guess I've always been a nature enthusiast. My daughter is currently obsessed with snails. I'm enjoying your work a lot, too.


Rayhan Hidayat
00:50 Sep 10, 2020

I completely get you, there’s a part of me that adores nature as well. One of my older submissions, “Shell,” has a few tidbits of marine biology that I just couldn’t help adding. Feel free to check it out if you’re interested!


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Jill Davies
16:49 Sep 06, 2020

You do a very good job mingling the gross, weird stuff with the sweet, sentimental stuff


A.Dot Ram
17:02 Sep 06, 2020

That's a great compliment, since it's exactly what i'm going for.


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