Eric Scot Tryon
Sitting with Snails
A snail the size of her fist sat on Carmen’s left thigh. Marisol balanced hers on her right calf. And as rain fell steadily on Bogotá, it played a tinny beat on the aluminum cover above their heads. It was Sunday afternoon which meant their husbands were off drinking themselves into a stumble. So while they watched the cows graze in the rain, the sisters gossiped on the back patio, eating mamoncillos out of the bag that sat between them. Sons and daughters, nieces and neighbors. Pregnancies, divorces, new jobs and affairs. Nothing was safe from the tongues of two Colombian sisters and a free afternoon.
During the breaths in between, Carmen listened to find a rhythm in the rain, something more salsa, less reggaeton. She missed dancing. And somewhere between talking about Mateo’s surgery and their youngest sister’s new hair color, Marisol dug her thumbnail under the skin and peeled back the rind of the small green fruit. And as she sucked the tart-sweet flesh from the seed she asked her older sister if her husband was still seeing that woman from the market. They never spoke her name. And of course he was. “Loro viejo no aprende a hablar.”
Untouched, the snails eventually left a shiny-slick path in their wake. Something Carmen and Marisol would always later wipe off with a towel. Their grandmother had told all five sisters when they were little that when the time came, these snails would help vanish the unsightly veins that cursed the women in their family. Abuela would lift the hem of her dress, push down her stockings and show the girls the swollen and dark veins, like worms beneath the skin. And no man will love an ugly woman, she told them. Though Carmen had been sitting with snails for years, her legs were still mapped with rivers.
They continued on to other sisters, other friends, other heartaches. That poor woman, one of them always said. But it’s the woman’s job to make the family, the other always responded, and they both would nod silently. Meanwhile, the pile of green rinds from the mamoncillos grew into a small mountain between them. The seeds sucked dry were thrown into the field, and when the rain fell more angry, the cows moved on to find shelter.
Carmen looked down at her snail while her sister rambled on about the trouble with her daughter’s new boyfriend. It sat still just above her knee. Its shell leaned to the left, as if too heavy for its gelatinous slug-body. Working a seed in her mouth like a decision, she finished the wet cotton flesh of the fruit and threw it into the downpour. And with the rain now falling into puddles, saturating and cleansing the earth so fully, she imagined mamoncillo trees sprouting before their eyes. Their gossip materializing into a grove of trees, stretching from here to the top of Monserrate, thick with dark green leaves, heavy with clusters of fruit, filling all of Bogotá with the stench of earthy tangy sweetness. Children would run through the grove on their way home from school, plucking the ripe fruit from low-hanging branches and squishing the rotten ones beneath their sneakers. Women would stop on their way back from the market. Fill a bag so heavy the handles cut canyons into their shoulders. Carmen took a large inhale, breathing in the raw, wet smell, and imagined the impossible.
She looked down and ran a finger along the length of her snail’s shell. Thin, fragile. She poked at the body. Soft and wet, it gave easily beneath her fingertip. And when she plucked it off her thigh, a long string of sticky mucus swung between the skin of her leg and the snail’s body. She looked over to Marisol and nodded. “No más.”
Eric Scot Tryon is a writer from San Francisco. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Willow Springs, Pithead Chapel, Los Angeles Review, Pidgeonholes, Monkeybicycle, Sonora Review, Cease, Cows, Berkeley Fiction Review, and elsewhere. Eric is also the Founding Editor of Flash Frog. Find more information at www.ericscottryon.com or on Twitter @EricScotTryon.