Wednesday, February 17, 2021

WEP: The Kiss

  

What could be more appropriate for Valentine month than Gustav Klimt’s  The Kiss?

This shimmery, early 20th century painting of a couple embracing in a patch of wildflowers has riveted art afficionados  across the world for decades.

Use this amazing painting to kick off  a romantic love story of star crossed lovers. Or maybe a much married pair who’ve been together for years. Of unrequited or lost love. Or any love of the other gazillion types.

For unValentinish souls, remember that there are kisses other than romantic ones.  The kiss of life, the kiss of death, the kiss of betrayal, the angels’ kiss in spring. The mystical thousand ways of kneeling and kissing the ground.

One golden artwork, a zillion directions to go. Pick yours and run with it. We’re cheering for you. And can't wait to see what you come up with!

That's the February challenge. And this is my response. I struggled a bit, until I remembered something my boys told me about their experience at 5th Grade "Outdoor Ed" at a camp near San Francisco.

The Kiss

“Do it! Do it!” All the kids were looking at him, chanting, as they had for every other camper in the group, “Do it! Do it! Kiss the slimy lips!”

Jordan looked from his campmates to the forest floor, hoping for some way out. Some way that wouldn’t mark him as a spoilsport or a chicken. Maybe it would be gone. It might have gotten away while they were urging him to pick it up.

“C’mon, Jord,” Callie urged. She was his best friend, but right now he hated her along with all the others. “You’re the only one who hasn’t. If you just do it, we’ll be the first team to complete the Banana Slug Challenge!”

The Banana Slug Challenge. Jordan winced. It meant a lot to the other campers. The first cabin-pair team to present photographic proof that every camper had kissed a banana slug would win the right to go first in line at every meal left in the week. That sort of thing mattered, especially with those bigger kids who always seemed to push ahead and get the best desserts.

Reluctantly, Jordan turned his gaze on the large, greeny-yellow gastropod at his feet. Of course it was still there. It was a slug. It couldn’t run away and hide. It probably didn’t know enough to run anyway. The slug wouldn’t care about what was about to happen. It was just Jordan who was grossed out by the thought of picking up a slug, let alone kissing it.

Not that it would be a real kiss. They’d all been coached on how to do it without hurting the animals. A little peck on the top of the head, avoid the antennae and the funny hole on the side of the head, if you could even call it a head.

Taking a deep breath, feeling Callie’s hand on his shoulder—was she pushing him or trying to reassure him?—Jordan slowly bent and ran his hand through the loose forest-floor duff. His scoop came up with the slug still resting on the mass of fallen redwood needles. He closed his eyes, then forced himself to open them. He’d had to look to make sure he got this right, or he could end up with a mouthful of banana slug. Definitely not what he wanted.

Hoping he wouldn’t puke, Jordan lowered his face to the unsuspecting creature in his hand.

Back at the camp, Jordan washed his mouth again and again, shuddering. He’d been fine until, not far from camp, they had come on a pile of horse poop with a banana slug nosing about for tasty bits. At least he hadn’t been the only one to puke.

The horror of that day would never leave him.

His lips rubbed almost raw, he left the bathroom when he heard the dinner bell, and began to run. He was a hero! They’d be first in line for dinner!

#

The life of a banana slug happens in slow-motion. Movement, dining, defense against predators—all depend on slime and patience, not speed or ferocity. And don’t even ask about mating, which can take all day. It might take half the day for a slug to decide if it will be male or female (answer: both).

The slug therefore hadn’t started or panicked when surrounded by large, noisy animals. It had simply continued to ooze along in search of the pile of delectable horse droppings it sensed lay somewhere nearby. Experience had shown that two-leggers left slugs alone.

The slug was dimly aware that the pile of duff it over which it slid was rising. The magnitude of the disaster became clear only when a vast face loomed in the slug’s view.

Then the slug would have fled at high speed, had such been possible. It made every effort to gather itself and writhe out of the way of the immense pinky-red arcs that curved closer and closer. Surely this couldn’t be happening. To be touched by such a disgusting creature, all dry and raspy and covered with neither fur nor the more sensible slime! The slug shrunk into itself, turned away, would have cried out if it had anything with which to produce a noise.

There was no escape.

The giant fleshy bits descended on the slug’s head, touched its skin. The slug was certain the touch would burn, leave a mark for all to see.

Then it was falling, along with the pile of duff it had rested on in security such a short time before.

The dreadful contact ended, the slug endured a new horror, the discovery of gravity.

Long after the loud, thumping herd of two-leggers was gone the slug lay there. When at last it dared to move, its body stretched out of the mess of dirt and redwood needles that had fallen with it, much of the forest detritus still clinging to head and back.

The horror of that day would never be forgotten, but life must continue. Slowly, cautiously, the slug began to move, gaining purpose and direction.

There was still that pile of horse droppings to be explored.

###

 

Banana slugs range in color from almost an olive drab to bright yellow, and some have black spots while others don't. I'm pretty sure the spots/no spots variations are regional--SF Bay Area slugs never seemed to have them--but the other shadings seem to have more to do with local conditions and what blends in well. The photos below all convey pretty accurate color. These are all my photos, all taken within 50 miles of San Francsico, accompanied by some fun slug facts.


The yellow end of the spectrum. Note the hole in the side, which is for breathing, but also gives access to the genetalia.

A poor photo but at the other end of the color spectrum, almost olive drab. The pneumostome (the breathing hole) is pretty wide open.


Banana slugs in flagrante delicto. Squirmy fact: banana slug phalluses can get stuck, in which case the will gnaw through them in order to separate. Some sources say it grows back, others that it does not.

Banana slugs at the diner (they will eat anyway; presumably they appreciate the partially-digested vegetation in horse poop). Note the mucus plugs at the back ends. Slugs generate a special mucus from the tail (as opposed to the slime they generate all over to prevent drying out and to make it easier to slide over rough surfaces) that can actually be used like a line to allow a safe descent from on high. I never caught them at it.

Hope you've enjoyed this little info drop on banana slugs!

Visit the WEP to see what others have made of this prompt!

 

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.


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41 comments:

  1. Hi Rebecca - brilliant take on the prompt ... loved reading it, and I don't think I've known there was such a thing as a banana slug - they are very similar to the fruit. Interesting to read the 'natural' notes too and your take on how they felt in this encounter. Really delightful to read - thank you - Hilary

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    1. Hilary, you should see the ones with black spots (they seem to be only in the northern part of the range)! They really do look like over-ripe bananas!

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  2. Emotions not too far afield from the early Spin the Bottle days, I can only guess. My memory no longer goes back that far.

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  3. Fantastic!!! I was right there with Jordan - and then the poor slug's pov had me laughing. Great take on the prompt!

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    1. Thanks! It was kind of fun to imagine what what would be like for the slug, though I'm not sure they do that much thinking :D

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  4. How deliciously revolting. A kiss from a banana slug's point of view. I don't think I would ever kiss one. I'd rather forgo desserts.

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  5. Oh... well, Olga's taken my words away. Brilliant idea...

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    1. Many thanks to the crazy people at Outdoor Ed who thought up that one!

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  6. Awkward to say the least, but a team player for sure. I'm not sure I could have done it! But I loved this flash! Perfection!

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  7. Well Rebecca, today I learned there was such a creature as a banana slug. I can imagine the revulsion the young boy felt kissing it. It was inspired to then tell the experience from the slug's POV. I'm glad it's not dinner time!

    Thanks for your different take on the first WEP prompt of the year!

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    1. Somehow I thought everyone knew about banana slugs! Glad to have shown you something new.

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  8. Banana slugs are really neat in their slimy, slug-like way. I loved the story told from the slug's point of view.

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  9. Awesome. Especially the slugview narrative. Enjoyed and envied your imagination and narratio. Thanks for slug shots and facts.

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  10. Poor slug! Such interesting creatures, I am glad you wrote your story about them. I love the double perspective.

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  11. What a fun take on the prompt. I really liked that you told your story from the two points of view.

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    1. Thanks. It was kind of fun, and I may experiment more with that.

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  12. Marvellous, fun take on the prompt. And super educational too. Enjoyed the double pov, nifty. Well done!

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    1. Thanks! I really do love banana slugs, but I won't kiss one!

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  13. It's amusing to see the pov of the banana slug. A unique take on the prompt.

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  14. LOL. You caught exactly how I'd feel about kissing a slug. And then a treat, to read from the slug's perspective. I have never seen a slug in person. I've lived in four States. Started in Nebraska and stepped on a huge fat cricket when I was a kid. It squished between my toes. That was gross even at four. Moved to Colorado where I graduated High School. Then to Minnesota where I went to University. Back to Colorado to raise my family and now retired and living in New Mexico. We have tiny lizards and roadrunners that don't beep, beep. Coyotes too, glad they don't know how to use dynamite. Loved your story.
    Nancy

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    1. Okay, the idea of someone who's never seen a slug boggles my mine. They don't have banana slugs out there in CO, but I'm positive that there are garden slugs everywhere.

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    2. Copied this from Google. Colorado is semi-arid, which explains why I never saw them, but apparently, they are in Colorado somewhere. Slugs in Colorado
      Slugs can be one of the most damaging pests of vegetable and flower gardens in Colorado. Slugs thrive under high moisture conditions. The most effective way to reduce slug problems is to reduce humidity in a garden. ... Slugs can be attracted to fermenting materials, such as beer, and trapped.

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  15. Of course, I loved it. Ive never read a story from the POV of a shell-less mollusk, but living near Santa Cruz where the yellow slug is revered, I thoroughly enjoyed the unique take you had on this theme. Thanks for the entertaining and well-written tale.

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    1. I didn't realize you were down near Santa Cruz! Yes, the banana slug has special meaning for you. You might recognize the Jones Gulch YMCA camp, which is more or less where this takes place--where my boys did their Outdoor Ed.

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  16. I loved the way you included the slug's perspective and how awful the experience must have been for him/her! We don't often think of how frightening and grotesque we must appear to creepy crawlies. I'm not sure if we have banana slugs here. I have only ever seen black or brown slugs. Thanks for this amusing story.

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    1. Banana slugs are pretty much limited to the Pacific Coast, from about SF to maybe Vancouver BC?

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  17. I loved this! So entertaining! I'm not sure I could have done it, but desserts are a powerful motivator. I also enjoyed seeing the moment from the slug's point of view. Great work!

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    1. I'm not sure what the motivation was when the boys were at camp, but I figured desserts would be a good one :)

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  18. That was so fun to give both points of view. I have always thought creepy crawlies must be far more terrified of us than we are of them. I also liked the unexpected nature lesson.

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    1. There was a certain amount of obsession with banana slugs for several years at our house, so I knew a lot about them, though I had to go to the internet for a refresher course :)

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  19. This was so fun. I love the dual perspectives. What a great take on the prompt!

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    1. Thanks! I loved thinking about how it would seem to each, grossed out by the other!

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  20. Very entertaining take on the prompt. Thanks Rebecca. Learnt a lot too about banana slugs. Aren’t child’s point of views the best ! So honest and simple. Happy creative spring. Take care.

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  21. I loved how the idea of kissing a slug both appalled me and encouraged me to wonder whether I would do it and how bad could it possibly be. It was great to read the slug's perspective too. What an imaginative take on the prompt.

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