Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of what I’m about to describe but I hope that I can do it in a way that’s horrifying enough to give you a mental picture you’ll be unable to shake for weeks.
We have a lot of snails in our neighborhood. They leave shiny tracks on the sidewalk and some of them are very small. Jack even found a misguided one in the food processor a few weeks ago. Jackson no longer delights in the crunch they make when you step on them, which I do by accident all the time. Snails have no business snailing around in the dark, and whatever instinct compels them to balance on the tip of a blade of grass before the sun is up is evolution just begging for fertilizer.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Jack and I both have happened (separately!) upon a freshly crunched pile of snail guts on the sidewalk or a blacktop driveway, and this pile of snail goo had turned into a writhing orgy of snail . . . cannibalism? I Googled “snail cannibalism” and it seems unlikely that the one documented species of cannibal snail has Tardis’d thousands of miles from its island habitat and changed the color of both its shell and flesh, but still. I know what I’ve seen. Word gets out that a member of the tribe has met its reward and all the other snails grope their way toward the corpse to celebrate upon it in a big, slimy, sexy funeral frenzy.
Until I can capture another of these disturbing events on video, you can watch this somewhat SFW video, which comes closer to explaining snail sexuality than I dare to.
And as long as we’re talking about the strange delights of the animal kingdom, I will tell you about my dream of a researcher studying a retarded monkey. (In my dream the researcher noted that the monkey was “retarded” in more of the way I learned to use the word in fourth-grade music class, where retard is given the French pronunciation and alerts ten-year-olds to quit playing so fast and there’s no negative judgment attached. Maybe my dream-researcher was an elementary school musico-primatologist.) Either way, it was a nice little monkey, sitting on the ground in a jungle clearing, jabbing a stick into the dirt like any monkey would. All the other monkeys knew there was something different about this monkey but they didn’t have a word for it so they were pretty much, “Eh, whatever.” The researcher may or may not have fallen asleep at that point because it’s pretty boring to dream about words. Subconsciously I guess I wish I could rescue the word retard from its sad current state of abuse (here’s an interesting Mindy Kaling bit which addresses that toward the end) but it’s probably too late to turn back. You can’t really use the word “queer” much anymore either without asking for offense, though occasionally I try. For example, recently I overheard someone describe another person’s name as a “startling moniker.” “That’s a queer turn of phrase,” I said to a coworker, who, being bookish, took my meaning exactly.