Rest In Peace, Dear Humphrey

Monday, January 27, 2014

Last June, I bought a parcel of lettuce, that I immediately stored in the fridge, and left for a couple days. When I took it out to make a salad and washed it, I found a very small snail.

My first thought was how to dispose of him (an arbitrarily designated pronoun, for snails are hermaphroditic anyway). But H., ever the humanitarian, found a glass dish for him, and put in a small leaf of lettuce for him. We originally thought to release him in a nearby park, but, knowing he was far from his home lettuce field anyway, and having grown attached to him, I decided to keep him.

I found, through internet searches, that he was Acusta despecta, a species native to the Korean wild. His name was Horatio for a while, until a friend suggested "Humphrey", as she thought it sounded more "snail-like". The name stuck, and that's what he has been ever since.

Whenever Humphrey liked something we gave him to eat, he would bend down his eyestalks as if to get a better look.

Humphrey loved zucchini. Whenever we gave it to him, he would eat until bursting. He also liked apple, though not pear.

Attachment to a snail, one might say, is rather infathomable... after all, cats knead and purr, dogs slobber all over you and demand to sleep on your bed at night. Even rats play in ways that are understandable to humans, and interact with their owners. None of these are things that snails do.

But in a lonely world, I got enjoyment simply from watching Humphrey eat his favorite foods. Watching him feed, the food going down his gullet visible through his translucent little head, or seeing him head away from his favorite zucchini, leaving behind deep pits where he had eaten and his body much fatter than before, was therapeutic. I do not know if snails can feel happiness, they certainly don't express it in any way we can understand, but I imagined I could make Humphrey a little happier by giving him a good home, and that was enough for me.

Unfortunately, one winter day, Humphrey did not come out of his shell, and did not for the next few days. At first he was deeply retracted, then his body dangled listlessly outside his shell. Eventually, his body began to shrink, then retract into the shell again: it is now invisible. And though I cling to a thread of hope that maybe he's not dead after all, maybe he's estivating as snails commonly do in winter, I know that it's not really a plausible possibility.

So I fear the time has come, after 6 beautiful months together, to say goodbye. I hope you are in a better place, Humphrey. To me, you were the most special snail in the world.

A Deceit of Lapwings

All happy people are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy people are more or less alike.