Thursday afternoon it rained.
During this time I was hunched under an umbrella next to a stroller bound Arthur in the middle of one of Eugene's parks. It was an ill planned ventured that ended with me bribing Arthur with the promise of pizza to get him home without too much of a fuss.
On the way home, I noticed Very Large Snails crawling along on our neighbors' lawns.
Arthur demanded that the pizza slices bought be eaten outside in our backyard. By this time the rain was mostly finished and I agreed. Afterwards I noticed hundreds of gastropods on our lawn and in some of our shrubbery. Since Mark chided me for smashing snails to the accompaniment of phrases featuring the words "die" and "death", I grabbed one of Arthur's plastic beach buckets and began gathering the slimey gastropods. They seemed to be concentrated near our compost pile, but they also seemed to be swarming toward our strawberries and sunflowers.
"Snails don't share," I said to Arthur as I went back and forth along the lawn looking for the greedy little (and not so little) beggars.
There were at least twenty five by the time I was done. I had to tap the bucket several times to make the snails trying to climb its plastic walls slide back down to its bottom, which was a slowly writhing mass of mucus. But I had another problem. Arthur had been watching my gathering process, and I didn't exactly want to pour vinegar onto the things in front of him. About this time my Aunt Joanne called and instead of answering the phone with a "hello," I asked her point blank what to do with a beach bucket full of snails.
"Do you even know who this is?" she asked instead of giving her verdict. By this time the snails were threatening to crawl out again and Arthur had followed Mark (who was busy with another project and not supposed to be watching him) into the garage
I scooped Arthur up had him wait on the front porch. I went into the street and whacked the bucket several times against the pavement until all of the snails were out. Most of them were in a big pile. I had a vague hope the local crows and scrub jays would come and eat them. As I walked back to Arthur, a Very Large Truck came down the hill and ran over the mass with a coorosponding squishy-crunch that I tried hard not to think too much about.
Arthur started crying. "Again! Again! More snails!"
"Uh," I said, "We'll have to wait until tomorrow to get more."
"Oh no," said Mark. "I'm sure you can find more."
The sad thing is that he's probably right. We'll see if there are any strawberries or sunflowers left tomorrow.