Friday, August 15, 2008

Death, Banana Slugs, and the Afterlife

My 9-year-old son Ben and I were hiking one fine day in Buena Vista Park, along one of the many trails off the beaten path. He was clearing away the underbrush with a long stick, when he inadvertently slugged a banana slug. The creature was not mortally wounded, but we could tell by the way it cringed before us that its life would never be the same. "I won't let it
suffer," said Ben, and I averted my eyes while he flailed away until his sad mission was
accomplished. We resumed our hike, and then, overcome, we stopped again, clinging to each other, mourning the fate of the poor gastropod, so recently oozing through the woods without a care in the world. We conjectured that it had probably already arrived in heaven and was strumming a harp--but how did banana slugs play the harp? "They hold it with their feelers
and play with their tails," said my imaginative son. "But what if it was a BAD banana slug?" he mused. "Then it would be in hell!" I put the question of what banana slug hell would be like,
and he confessed he had no idea. "Maybe they have to try to dance the cha-cha-cha," I suggested. But Ben had lost interest in the discussion and dashed off in search of another stick--one unconnected with the fate of banana slugs, here or hereafter, cursed or blissful.