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Sarina Poling

Grade: 11

Bay Village High School

Instructor: Erin Beirne

Eulogy for Snails

Personal Essay/Memoir

Eulogy for Snails

Rolling up my sleeves and dipping my arm into your tank's chilled waters, I picked you up from the gravel substrate, cradling you in my cupped hand as I lifted you out. You always looked so big compared to the miniature buildings and aquarium plants that surrounded you as you traveled around the tank, so happily grazing on the algae that grew; yet you were so small, so fragile in the palm of my hand. Darkened algae wrapped around your dulled shell, your body shrunken and barely attached. The smell of rot and decay emanating from you hit me as soon as you broke the water's surface- burning my nose and causing the growing ache in my chest to throb and thrash inside me. As softly as I could, I lowered you into one of my old jewelry boxes- as small and colorful as you once were, with your name painted across the lid as neatly as my shaking hands could muster. Seeing you, so sunken-in and so dull and so not alive, was heart wrenching.

Golden Inca snails, otherwise referred to as spike-topped apple snails or mystery snails, can usually live healthily in water temperatures from the high sixties to low eighties, so although the thermostat in my house tended to fluctuate in the winter, I thought you'd be okay without a heater in your tank. But something went wrong- the walls of the room were too thin, you were too close to a window, or whatever else I could've miscalculated. At some point, your tank got too cold for too long. You died, because of me. You, who was no bigger than one of my pink erasers. You, who relied on me to take care of you. Me, who failed you. My mother tried to comfort me, "It's just a snail, sweetie" as she attempted to rub circles into my back, which along with my whole body, was shaking from the force of my sobs. I tried to explain through stuttering, heaving breaths, that I didn't, couldn't see it that way. She was right that humans live plenty of years, and the year and a half I spent with you will be no more than a flicker in the grand scheme of that. Golden Inca snails however, only live three to four, and yours was cut down to a measly one and a half. That tank was all you ever knew, it was your whole world- and that world, unlike ours, was not self sufficient. You relied on me to change your water, to make sure you had enough algae, to make sure your tank was warm enough- and I couldn't take that little bit of time out of my big life to ensure the wellness of your small one. Because of that- because of me, you now lay inside my old jewelry box, taking residence beneath the dirt of my backyard rather than on the gravel of your tank, surrounded by plants so much bigger than the ones you knew.