The incontestably worst part of living in Vermont was that the lawn behind Timmy’s house had no snails. There were slugs in the garden, fat slugs that he had only touched once to grab and pour salt on, but he used sugar by accident, which, instead of killing the slug quickly, left it bubbling like a baking soda volcano on the front steps. And after he watched it bubble for a long time, slugs never interested him as much as snails.
The incontestably worst part of living in Vermont in Mom’s mind, Timmy thought, was that the food was horrible compared to her home—Ecuador. “Timmy,” she told him, “I doubt you’ve even seen a real avocado.” She explained how a real avocado was like a big soft softball. Hearing her talk about avocadoes was the first time he had seen Mom happy in a long time.
Cape Cod, though, Cape Cod had snails. Uncle Bob’s house was perfect. Timmy would gather the tiny creatures and make them race in the grooves of the plastic truck bed liner, prodding not so gently to keep them going.
And Cape Cod had the market, where Uncle Bob and Timmy went to get lobsters for dinner. But walking through the fruit aisle Timmy saw a basket of avocadoes, one on top bigger and greener. He pulled it out. The fruit gave to his touch. This, he thought, would make Mom happy. It would make her stop sleeping all day even though she had work. This would make her stay, maybe, make her stop saying behind the bedroom door how she wanted to go home.
When Timmy handed him the fruit Uncle Bob laughed. In the car Uncle Bob laughed again and pinched Timmy’s knee, saying, “Don’t let those snails get to the avocado. They’ll eat it right up.”
In the dark kitchen of late night Timmy grabbed a flashlight and opened the fruit, scooping the flesh into a bowl. Avocado with salt. But this time he would make sure he used salt, not sugar.
And so, putting down the flashlight and tossing aside the damaged avocado, he walked to the garden to lecture the snails.
David Nolan was born in Ecuador and raised in Vermont. He is currently a student of creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta.5