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preying for god.

a christmas-ish story.

The landscape had been tenderly stowed away for winter, snow packing itself around brittle limbs and fragile fingers, carrying sound snug to its chest to prevent it falling and shattering the filigreed silence. Everything waited, caught in the space between the last foggy exhalation of autumn and the first libidinous gasp of spring.

Light splashed from a cottage window onto the snowy sill outside and here a small snail sat, peering past his reflection into the room beyond.

Snail was entranced. He found himself charmed by the lights imitating the far-flung glitter of stars, by paper and ribbon mulching the floor like a deep, multi-coloured leaf litter, by the tree resplendent in a cloak of gold and silver even as it steadily became more naked beneath. Occasionally Snail would smile in delight, absently peeling sticky fingers of ice from his mantle. Not for one moment did it occur to him that he too was the subject of equally keen observation.

Owl was growing impatient. While by their very nature snails were slow, this one had barely moved for hours and daylight had already cleared the pinked edges of the firs opposite. Ruffling her feathers, she sunk her neck further down for warmth. What on earth was it doing over there? Had it got stuck, or had it simply died, one more quiet capitulation amongst thousands of other tiny, wintry deaths? Owl's curiosity overcame her and she glided through the lilac chill to land soundlessly on the window ledge.

"Ah, Owl," said Snail, swivelling his eye-stalks in the bird's direction. "I'm glad it's you. Perhaps you could help me."

Well, thought Owl. This is a turn-up.

"Tell me. The humans– what are they doing in there?"

Owl hopped forward to peer in through the ice-etched glass.

"Oh!" she snorted. "They've been celebrating Christmas, my dear, ignorant little snail – a Christian festival marking the birth of the Son of God."

"Ah, of course. The winter solstice."

"No, no," Owl shook her head irritably. "That would honour the rebirth of the pagan Sun God. Christmas celebrates the birth of a child two thousand years ago who could wash away the sins of Man."

Snail contemplated this.

"Blimey. Bit of a tall order. Did he manage?"

Owl sniffed. "I'll say nothing other than a cockerel was involved. Three times to do the right thing and keep its bloody mouth shut, but no. Always showing off. Hence, Christmas is the traditional time for humans to hoard material wealth."

"I see. Like the squirrels."

"Precisely," agreed Owl. "And humans also use this time of year to eat until they're sick and twice their original body weight."

"Like the squirrels."

"Indeed," Owl nodded.

"So," began Snail after thinking a bit. "What you're saying is Christmas began with the best of intentions such as love, peace and goodwill to all humans, but is now a hollow sham of its origins and a tacky homage to unbridled consumerism."

Owl blinked several times in quick succession.

"Possibly," she offered. "I might be saying that."

A rumble from her stomach suggested that she too might be open to a spot of unbridled consumerism. She eyed the snail speculatively. Owl generally preferred her food to have a sporting chance, but it was wintertime and Owl was never slow to cut her cloth accordingly.

Shaking his foot free of snow, Snail snuggled into the scarf-like coils of his shell. He had the look of a mollusc ready for a good philosophical discussion.

"I take it from your tone," he began with relish, "that you take a dim view of Christianity?"

Owl fluffed up indignantly. "Why, the whole religion is founded on nothing but assumption and a patriarchal structure of the worst kind!" (Owl had feminist leanings.)

"Assumption?" queried Snail, eye-stalks waving in encouragement.

Owl sighed in exasperation. It was always such a trial talking to lower life forms.

"Yes, assumption. Christians assume that if you believe in their god and are sorry for all the bad things you've done in your life, when you die your soul is admitted to a place called Heaven where it's a bed of roses for ever."

"Not lettuce?"


"Not a bed of lettuce?"

"Oh, lettuce, roses... Whatever. My point is, there's no proof that Heaven is real. It's an assumption. You'd be spending your life hoping to be rewarded by something that might not exist."

"What about reincarnation?"

"Nope. Doesn't happen."

"Ah, well," Snail shrugged. "Christianity's not for me then."

Owl gazed at Snail incredulously.

"Don't tell me you believe in reincarnation!"

Snail gave Owl a steady look. "If you were a snail, you wouldn't ask that. I'm a Buddhist by necessity."

Now, in the animal kingdom owls have a cunning second only to the fox, and Owl immediately saw a way in which she could not only philosophically point score, but gain a free meal in the bargain.

"So as a Buddhist," she began carefully, "death holds no fear for you?"

"That's right," nodded Snail. "Because we're assured of being reborn." Hopefully as something with bones, he thought. "But what about you? Surely even birds of prey need a system of belief as comfort through these long cruel winters."

"Not a bit of it," flashed Owl proudly, edging just a teeny bit nearer. "We're existentialists, hovering on the currents of the here and now, soaring on the updraughts of encapsulated reality." She tossed her head. "Your lot may be happy clinging to the underside of leaves on the lower branches of the evolutionary tree, but we birds of prey are great students of science, of what is provable not assumed. We reach for the stars!"

Snail frowned, his small brain struggling with such a large concept.

"Hang on," he said. "And I might've got this wrong – but doesn't existentialism by its very nature exclude science and rationalism? Because wouldn't they be considered mere escapes of thought from the serious problems of existence? Surely, because of the natural brevity of our allotted span, it's foolish to analyze in such a leisurely fashion matters of life and death as if there were all eternity to argue them in? I would even go so far to say that it's impossible to grasp life by thought alone, that a knowing self is not enough – you need to fear, hope and believe."

Owl feigned a coughing fit.

"Anyway, back to you," she managed at length, none too smoothly. "Tell me then – and this is hypothetically speaking, of course – if I were to... Oh, say… eat you, you'd be quite happy with that arrangement? On account of being reborn as a higher creature?" Owl hopped closer.

Snail looked somewhat taken aback.

"Um, well. Happy is probably a bit strong." He began sliding towards a crack in the wall in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner. "Er, you see there are Four Noble Truths in Buddhism."


"Y-yes, yes, it is! One. All living is suffering."

"How very true. But more for some than others, I fear."

"Two. Suffering is caused by desire."

"Couldn't agree more."

"Um, s-s-suffering ceases when d-desire is eradicated—"

"Such as when an appetite is satisfied!"

Owl's eyes blazed orange and her beak opened wide to receive Snail's current incarnation.

"Wait! Wait!"cried Snail, cowering inside his shell. "I said there were Four Noble Truths! You've only heard three!"

Owl paused and considered. Sure, she could afford to be magnanimous. It wasn't as if Snail could run away. Sighing, she waved an impatient wing.

"Go on then. Let's hear it."

Snail moistened his lips nervously.

"Right, four then. Desire can be destroyed b-by—"

Owl let out a blood-curdling screech.

Minutes ticked by before Snail could summon up the courage to peek from under the lip of his shell to the ground below. He took in the blossoms of blood and the feathers leading each other in a loose waltz over the snow.

"Well," he said to himself. "I was going to say 'desire can be destroyed by following the Noble Eightfold Path'. But a fox… A fox seems to work just as well."

Fox grinned to himself around a mouthful of extinct existentialist. Personally he had always favoured a more Cartesian approach.

I slink, he thought, therefore I am.

~ END ~

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2 comentários

17 de dez. de 2021

Oh Trudy, this made me laugh out loud! It’s brilliant. Thank you x

Trood Morrison
Trood Morrison
17 de dez. de 2021
Respondendo a

Thqnk you so much! It's an oldie but I'm still fond of it! T x

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