The Tell-Tale Slug

slugfaceTRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.


Door opens, wife (blond hair, black nighty) comes back into house.

“Man, don’t EVAR go out into the yard barefoot first thing in the morning,” she says.

“Slugs?” he says.

She just nods. “Everywhere. Everywhere.”


It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night.  Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the slugs, and thus rid myself of their sliminess, and their instinctive greed for my tomatoes, for ever.


He went into the basement and got a big bucket.


Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded — with what caution — with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work!


He has a whole box of disposable rubber gloves he uses for wet plate photography. He puts one on his right hand and goes around filling the bucket with slugs.

“You have to cut them in half with scissors,” says his wife.

He knows this.

“You know what happened last time when you didn’t.”

He knows this, as well.


Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust them into the bucket!  Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this? And then when they were all in the bucket, all I could find (80, I counted) I dumped them into the biodegradeable garbage can (the rubbish bin for biodegradeable garbage, that is). 


He has to shake the bucket to get them all out, some have a pretty good grip on the inside surface of the bucket. He reaches into the bucket and scrapes the last couple off. He already knows it was a stupid idea. It was one of those stupid ideas you should never do, but you feel trapped inside them once you start and you can’t stop, even though stopping would be the best course of action. You feel compelled to see them through to the end.


And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly to the garbage can with whatever biodegradeable garbage there was, and lifted the lid and I looked in upon them while they slept. But they did not sleep.


In fact, they are very active. They all crawled up to the lid. It is hard to open the rubbish bin because the lid is heavy with slugs.


It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness — eighty dull slugs, hideous, that chilled the very marrow in my bones.


So the man slams the lid shut  a few times to get the slugs off. He dumps garbage on them but they climb up the walls again. He dumps ashes on them later and that seems to do the trick. Also more garbage after that.


And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as eighty slimy watches make when buried under fireplace ashes and biodegradeable garbage. I knew that sound well too. It was the beating of the slugs’ hearts.


“See?” says his wife.

“I know,” he says, completing her sentence. “I should have cut them in half with scissors.” But, he thought, that seemed so cruel, not to mention you have slimy scissors afterwards.


No doubt I now grew VERY pale. Yet the sound increased — and what could I do? It was A LOW, DULL, QUICK SOUND — MUCH SUCH A SOUND AS EIGHTY WATCHES MAKE WHEN ENVELOPED IN FIREPLACE ASHES AND BIODEGRADEABLE TRASH. I gasped for breath. I could bear those slimy pests no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! — and now — again — hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER! –


“Garbage pick-up is tomorrow,” says the man.

“I’ll buy some cheap beer and put out traps,” says the man, also. Because he saw hundreds more, glistening with dew, when he went out to pick tomatoes, just now.

Edgar Allan Poe and The Season of the Tortoise Dish

Edgar Allan Poe wakes from fitful sleep his eyes burning and swollen. He looks at the alarm clock but can’t focus his eyes and can’t find his glasses. He dresses and goes downstairs and looks at the clock in the kitchen which says two in the morning. Upstairs his wife is coughing. He looks for laudanum but they’re all out of laudanum.

A red cat rubs up against his pantleg, covering it with hair. Edgar Allan Poe opens the door and lets out the cat.  In accordance with the Law of Preservation of Red Cats, the other red cat comes in and demands food. Edgar Allan Poe goes back into the kitchen to get cat food because even though it’s too early if he gives the cat food it might let him sleep. If he doesn’t, it won’t.

In the kitchen, he steps into the tortoise dish.

These are the facts of the tortoise dish: it is too warm for the tortoise to hibernate, but too cold for the tortoise to spend all day outside. So the tortoise lives in the kitchen. That’s why there is a tortoise dish in the kitchen. The tortoise dish is full of water. The tortoise drinks from the dish, and walks through it before having a bowel movement.

Of the three nasty things you can do with the tortoise dish, stepping into it turns out to be the least nasty, as it spills the least water. The second-worst is to kick it by accident, which spills more water. The worst is to step on the side, which flips it over and empties it out, throwing algae-and-worse-filled-water a long distance.

Edgar Allan Poe goes back to bed, but the cat he let out is meowing so he lets it back in.

In this manner, he fails to fall back to sleep.

His alarm goes off at 4.30. He gets up, feeds the cats, eats breakfast, makes a cup of coffee and his wife asks him to take out the garbage.

He goes around the house gathering  the residual waste from all the half-filled garbage cans into a single garbage can. When he empties out the bathroom garbage can, something remains stuck to the rim of the bin. He looks closer. It is a sanitary napkin.

He sighs, and reaches to take it, but his wife is walking past and plucks it off and drops it into the other garbage can.

Edgar Allan Poe gathers residual waste from the rest of the bins in the house. He goes outside and empties it all into the large garbage can. The sanitary napkin is stuck to the rim of the small garbage can again. Edgar Allan Poe says, It’s the Tell-Tale Sanitary Napkin, or something. He plucks it off, and throws it away and returns to the house.

He opens the cabinet to get cat treats to lure a cat out of the living room, and kicks the tortoise dish.

Edgar Allan Poe drives his daughter to town on his way to work.

It’s beautiful isn’t it, he says. The weather. Like a new season. Too warm to be winter, too crisp in the mornings to be summer. They should invent a new season.

Dad, dad, dad, says his daughter.