Sluggie!!!!!! A True Love Story.
Girl Meets Mollusc
Camp was just getting started when little Princess fell in love.
While the other children were swarming around the mossy stumps, investigating Pirate Beetles and Sticks, Princess quietly made her discovery.
He was a big, graceful redhead. He moved with confidence and ease. And she could tell at first sight that he was no frog.
Princess picked him up like a box of candy, and began introducing him around.
"Look, I found a Slug!"
"That's an invasive slug, dear, they're not really supposed to be here."
"Can I keep him?"
"Sure, why not?"
"I'm going to call him Sluggie!"
A Slug in the Hand
Sluggie wasn't used to intimacy. He did his best to crawl around on the hand that petted him, but by mid-morning he was looking a little gray about the gills.
"Slugs need rest, dear, how about giving him a nice cool leaf to crawl under?"
But she was too young. Too much in love. Too close to see clearly.
And she couldn't bear to give him up.
(It's hard to create healthy space in a relationship when you're five.)
Tragedy By the River
The brown water beckoned.
Children scattered to investigate blackberries, ducklings, abandoned logs, and the possibility of fish. Hopeful junior anglers practiced casting weights into a loop of floating rope.
Camp staff guarded the boundaries of the play area, revealing their position with occasional gruff rumblings of "I Can't See Your Knees!"
Teacher was bringing a small party of campers back from a discreet trip to the bushes when there arose a blood-curdling cry.
No Streetcar actor ever cried "Stella!" with more full-throated horror and loss.
We scrambled to the scene of the tragedy.
Slugs Don't Float
"made him a boat,"
(sob, point to large wood chip),
"and he was on it,"
"and he was sailing,"
"And it tipped,
"and he fell off,
"and He's DROWNNNNING!"
Princess stood on a weathered stump, gradually being cut off from the beach by a few inches of rising water, riveted to the spot where her lost love lay.
On the deep side of the log, in less than two feet of water, there indeed was a small brown lump between the grey and golden rocks.
"I bet I can rescue him", said Teacher, wading around the stump.
Sluggie, on his rescue, opened his one lung deeply. His skin was black, his red fringes shrunk to a gray welt. We placed him on a large dock-leaf sickbed.
"Now don't be picking him up or poking at him. He needs to rest. He's having a very hard day."
The First Parting
By the time we got back to camp, Sluggie was looking seriously unwell. Princess's elegant mother came for pick-up, and was greeted with the dramatic story.
"But honey, I'm not very good with slugs. I don't know how to make him better. Maybe teacher can help him?"
Teacher rallied. "My garden is a very healthy place for slugs. I bet if I took him there and left him under some nice juicy leaves, the slug I bring back tomorrow would be as healthy as can be."
The Lady Mother's eyes glimmered, and she thanked Teacher warmly.
Princess wiped her eyes, and allowed Sluggie to be carried off to the Slug Hospital.
A Dark Night in the Garden
Teacher's garden was indeed a good place for slugs.
Little grey and speckled ones moved warily, following the scent of wilt and juices, avoiding the carniverous orange foreigners.
Teacher carefully left Sluggie underneath a distinctive broad leaf in the middle of a slug-friendly garden bed.
In the morning, when Teacher returned, behold! A large slug with a charming orange fringe was waiting under the leaf, happily nibbling on a greyish lump which Teacher did not look at too closely.
Princess was delighted to see Sluggie returned to his former color. Teacher had thoughfully provided a lettuce leaf in a clear plastic dish for Sluggie's comfort. Sluggie stayed in his sickdish most of the day. Princess made sure he felt included in every camp activity, and collected juicy leaves and buds to speed his recovery.
Teacher did not interfere with Sluggie's new vegetarian diet, but watched approvingly.
At the end of the day, Sluggie was still orange, and only slightly dry.
The Lady Mother wondered if he should go back to the Slug Hospital for the evening.
Princess looked hurt, and promised to take good care of her beloved.
Teacher drew Mother aside, and spoke encouraging words:
"If you don't want to be doing this with goldfish, and hampsters, and kittens, this might be a good time to practice giving our friends what they need, instead of what we want. Hampsters are harder to match."
A Selfless Love
The next morning, Princess was radiant. Sluggie was in good color too. They had eaten breakfast together, in Mother's kitchen no less!
The Lady Mother was quietly proud, if a bit bemused. She never expected to enjoy her daughter bringing a slimeball home to spend the night.
Sluggie hung around camp that day too, but the diet and lifestyle were beginning to pall. And Princess was beginning to spend more time with her old friends.
In mid-afternoon, Sluggie's sick bed showed up empty. He'd gone hunting, and not left a note.
Princess seemed slightly disappointed, but she still carried herself with a confidence born of experience.
There will always be fond memories, but it was never meant to last.