Mad Old cats and gypsy snails- dedicated to Jac and all gypsies
I live with a wild man and two mad old cats, their whiskers longer than their patience, their limbs covered in a duck down, their eyelashes winking in bright light. They pass by the snail on the metal rail outside my shoebox. The snail gracefully slipping over the peeled paint, its body a caravan. The snail, almost like the one from Neverending Story–you know, the snail-man! But this snail has a little black moustache and pendulous little tits, and two coloured lanterns hanging from its sides. Inside the little house, a bookshelf filled with miniature books, and a little kitchen with red spotted curtains, a mexican teapot, a little table with a jamjar of flowering weeds, and a large lounge filled with velvetine mossy cushions. I wonder when the snail decides to make camp, how long it travels for, before it slips inside its own body–a home of light, of electricity, of velvet cushions, of music and warmth, of tiny books filled with adventures, other people’s memories, dreams, twisted visions?
The snail leaves a milk stained road where my finger travels, my fingers slowly tracing the intent, the purpose and the patience. The art of slowliness is conveyed to me through the muted light, but I had to stop. I had to stop long enough to watch its graceful movement, its confident gypsy stride singing to me some rum punch tune about places where waterfalls have not been named by anyone. I lie down on the cold cement, my face pressed against the grit, the afternoon machinery drilling under the earth, like a speed-addicted badger. I feel the sound of the snail, so inconsequential if you don’t stop for a moment to watch it gather its trumpets, its bells and its undulation. It undulates like a slow tapioca wave, the snail’s body rolling against an invisible coastline. But I see the coastline. I’ve got to lie down on my side, I’ve got to be in the mud to see the gypsy snail. I think of my gypsy friend travelling through Chekhov’s villages, I think of her staining her fingers with purloined gooseberries, crossing through prickles and fields of bluebells, drinking in the sun.