Driving down the road to the garden centre, to buy some sticks to use in making a game about migration (don’t ask, it’d take longer than I have to explain), I had the strangest feeling I wasn’t alone. Glancing to my left, I realised there was something on the passenger-side window. Somewhere in the night, an adventurous snail had dropped out of the fuchsia bush that overhangs my garden wall and had been exploring the car. Not noticing the inquisitive wee soul, I’d set off and was happily bowling along at around 50 mph. My unexpected passenger seemed somewhat alarmed by this – no doubt it was the fastest he’d ever travelled, for although my snails are no slowcoaches (watch them head up the wall to the chimney on disco night) they lack wheels.
With another car behind me, it wasn’t possible to stop and leave the freeloader in a convenient hedgerow, so I willed him to hang on and we’d part company at the garden centre. He seemed to take heart from this, and started to explore the window, riding along with his wee feelers blowing in the breeze. Up to the top, and halfway down, sticking to the glass by sheer force of will and a sticky foot.
I tried to keep an eye on him, but after coming close to the verge a few times decided that his fate was in the lap of whatever small gods snails have, and concentrated on my driving.
We made it to the garden centre, both unscathed, and I contemplated finding a suitable flowerbed and setting him down in safety there… then I thought again. Garden Centres are not known for their friendship with those of a shelly persuasion, and in leaving him there, may well be condemning him to an early demise. After his tenacity, and plucky determination, I felt this was not something I could be party to, and suggested to him that if he was still on board when I came out of the centre, I would drop him off in the leafy haven of the lay-by just north of the village.
When I came out, he had wandered down to the wing mirror, and was making cautious investigations of the spiderwebs. (Of the spider who lives behind the mirror, there was no sign – obviously reluctant to get involved with one with so many fewer legs than herself). Well, hang on and we’ll soon have you sorted, I said, wondering if anyone was listening to me talking to my wing mirror.
There was a lorry in the lay-by, and no room to pull in behind it. Snail had climbed higher, over the door pillar and onto the corner of the windscreen… less likely to be blown off, I thought, and watched him from the corner of my eye as he clung on like some out-of-place hood ornament, feelers still extended in curiosity at the speed.
So I took him to work.
If you’re still there at the end of the day, I’ll try and take you home, I said, as I got out and unlocked the office door. But you’ll have to be patient – I have to do some shopping and I can’t guarantee what may happen in Tesco’s car-park.
Some six hours later, I emerged to find that he’d settled down for a snooze at the edge of the windscreen, where there’s a bit of a lip that offered some security. Wise lad, I thought. Hang on, here we go again. A seasoned traveller by now, he didn’t even stir as we set off, and remained tucked down and shell-bound all the way.
I guessed he’d had enough of the travelling life when I found him still in the same place after I’d done the shopping. I guess people don’t look closely at the cars when they’re parked – nobody seems to have noticed my car was customised.
So we came home, and after unloading, I carefully lifted him from the windscreen and placed him back in the fuchsia bush. I think he was still snoring. I wondered what he’d think when he woke up – do snails dream of speed, like humans do of flying? And would I know him again, if I saw him sprinting up the wall one rainy night, on his way to the chimney pot?