Sven collected snails. Every evening, he stepped into his backyard
and listened to the concert of snails nibbling at the bushes.
When the snails were done he plucked them off the braches one by one
and placed them into a basket. At first, the snails hid in their
shells, like pebbles on the basket's grass padding Sven found the
sight unsettling. He could never be so locked in with himself,
stuffed into his own folds like a pillow.
After a while, the shells jerked, and translucent antennae peeked
out, dragging after them the snail's bodies, which soon slid across
the green in a somnambulic rush. Antennae stretched farther, small
dot-eyes at the tip, and stroked the spirals of their companions'
shells in a moment of contact before balling up and bouncing back
like a drop of gel.
Sven picked up clover petals and rubbed them between his fingers.
Flower snow rained on the snails.
As a boy, camping with his parents in the South of France, Sven used
to pile the snails onto each other and keep them in empty marmalade
glasses. He'd watch them crawl up inside the glass, and when they
were about to breach the opening he picked them up with a smack and
dropped them back in until his parents forced him to stop.
The sun disappeared behind the houses surrounding Sven's backyard. In
the dark the snail shells paled into seashells swept onto the beach,
sticking in algae nests or drying in the sun. They made him think of
the dream in which he woke up as a skeleton, quite clean.
He sat up in his bed and polished his bones with a rough towel and
baking soda when he noticed the heap of tissue next to his bed. Veins
pulsed underneath the transparent skin, bright red arteries branched
deeper down; the thing contracted and shifted liquid around in
chambers, an organ perhaps, a mysterious factory. A muscular hose
sprouted from its top and snaked its way up his leg-bone, into his
ribcage. In the dream, Sven wasn't put off by the tissue package, but
surprised that such a fat appendix, so obviously strong and
purposeful, should be his.
After watching the snails, Sven put on his jacket and went to eat
at the Turkish place at the corner.
The owner, Hakan, scraped strips off a giant chunk of meat rotating
on a spit. Sven sat down at the window and observed the few people
walking by, many dragging along a dog or two. He spooned sambal onto
the meat, the hottest kind, the kind in the crusty bottle which no
one but Sven ever opened, and tore into the doener. The sambal ran
down his tongue, too hot to taste of anything but pain. He swallowed,
snot running out of his nose. At the second bite his stomach shook
itself like a dog coming out of the water.
He ate on, swallowing his own snot and more pain, knowing that later
at home he would quickly purge himself of the dinner. When he was
done, he dabbed his throbbing lips with a paper napkin and got up to
In the corner of the restaurant, Hakan and his son took down the
ravaged chunk of meat, which looked gray without the spit's orange
glow. Hakan lowered the top while his son clutched the bottom, and
slowly they made their way to the kitchen. Even shredded and worn
meat cylinder was formidable. It lumbered back and forth between the
two men, built momentum, and finally slid from their plastic-gloved
hands and landed on the tiles with a wet smack, like a snail coming
loose from hot glass, wriggling in the fingers of a boy who looked at
it through a magnifying lens and later let the sun look as well.
The Turkish men cursed. The door shut behind Sven with a lilting
bells melody. He walked on into the night, back to his empty house,