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Listening to Snail Shells by Faye Brinsmead

The restaurant is called La Petite Escargot. When the chef’s daughter starts learning French, she tells him the name is wrong. “Escargot” is masculine. It should be “Le Petit Escargot.” Big deal, he says. Sniffs out a rancid one, smashes it with his palms, shies it in the trash. Doesn’t affect their flavor. She hates watching him cook. So cruel, dropping them in boiling water while they’re deep in refrigerated sleep. If she were gutsy she’d lug the heavy glass jars from the cool room after midnight, pedal past dozing street lamps to the park, hide gluey caramel bodies in the tallest grass where kids don’t play. In the meantime, she wanders the brambled back garden. Slides her hands over the shell mound, higher than her. Holds a shell to each ear, closes her eyes, sways to the ghost melody. A love song woven of touch, taste, scent. Snails are deaf, almost blind. Love is a secretion they feel on the leaf. A sugar-butter scent glazing the air. The softness of tentacles on skin. Love is multiform. They lack a localized brain, make do with two cerebral ganglia. Yet they spiral into rainbow complexity. Teach me, she murmurs, pressing the shells closer. Teach me how to love.


Faye Brinsmead’s writing appears in journals including X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, MoonPark Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Flash Boulevard, South Florida Poetry Journal and Twin Pies Literary. One of her pieces was selected for inclusion in Best Microfiction 2021; another was nominated for a Pushcart. She lives in Canberra, Australia, and tweets @ContesdeFaye.

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