I had a great science teacher in 8th grade. Mr. Hackwell kept everything in jars of alcohol. He had snakes, bugs, spiders, embryonic sharks, and even some kid’s tonsils. He told us that when he dies, he wants his head put in a jar of alcohol.
One day Mr. Hackwell brought a load of weird foods to class for us to try; dried, seaweed, fresh blue cheese, and even fried snails. He was cooking the snails right there in class. These weren’t gourmet es cargo snails, these were backyard snails; the kind you find everywhere. He had caught his own, washed them, and fried them.
I tried the dried seaweed and the blue cheese, but I couldn’t bring myself to try the snails.
The next day in class, I noticed that he still had a whole box of snails. There were between forty and fifty snails in that box, and Mr. Hackwell said he was going to go kill them. I was horrified! Kill a whole box of poor innocent snails! It’s bad enough eating them, but to just kill them…
I asked if I could have them, and he willingly obliged.
When I arrived home, I hid the box outside. I knew if mom found out I had a whole box of snails, she’d surely salt the lot of them. So I hid the box and went inside. Acting casual, I waited until the coast was clear. First chance I got, I brought them in and put the box under my bed. I collected some random leaves from outside for them to feast on.
When I arrived home from school the next day, I discovered that a few of the snails had escaped. I was able to track them by their slimy snail tracks. I conjured up a more effective cage for them, and gave a handful of them to my best friend Nathan, who kept them in a nice fishbowl and fed them plants.
Soon I noticed that my snails weren’t doing so well, and some were curling up in their shells and drying out. So after a day or two more of trying to revive them, I dumped the rest in a nearby field.
Mom never discovered what I had been up to, and it was not till years later that I told her about the incident. But they weren’t the first under-cover pet I ever had. She never knew about the duck egg I tried to hatch.
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