Walking briskly along the sidewalk with a friend, in the chilly October air, I glimpse something shiny from the corner of my eye and peer down at my feet. My heart jumps into my mouth as I narrowly avoid stomping on an unresponsive brown snail. If I had not seen him, he would not have screamed as my shoe pressed down on him, crushing his shell before smearing his slimy body into a glop of goo on the hard concrete ground. He is so defenseless and it makes me angry. I hate him for being so stupid and blind and not even trying to get out of my way. And yet, I love him. I stop there for a moment to examine his figure. I pick him up and observe his smooth rounded shell. His antennae slowly oscillate to and fro, and I almost wonder if he is looking at me. Such an innocent little creature, I could never really hate him. I would have only been mad at myself if I had killed him. I wonder for a quick second if I should take him home with me, but I would not know how to feed him. So I gently place him in the grass, hopefully out of harm’s way. I stare in his direction for a moment, wondering how soon it will be before he makes his way back to the exposed and unforgiving sidewalk.
As we continue on our way, my friend shoots me a look of bewilderment, but I have no time to defend my actions because before I can open my mouth, I spot another snail. And another. And more still further down the sidewalk. I want to scoop them all up and relocate them to the grassy margins, but they are too numerous. What a silly place for snails to congregate. Do they not realize how they are putting their lives in danger? They are either very brave, or very foolish. How many other people stop to think of the snails and move them to the grass so they will not get crushed? If I had to venture a guess at the leading cause of snail mortality in this neighborhood, I would say foot traffic. We continue walking, much more slowly now, from fear of committing snail murder. We have almost made it back to the apartment, and all I hear is cruuunch. My heart skips a beat and I stop dead in my tracks. I am terrified to look down but I know I have to. Wrought with terror, I slowly lift my right shoe to reveal… a pebble.