The old wooden house had seen better times and many children's steps had sounded from the hallways.
Mrs. Howard kept busy since her two daughters had married and moved far away. She worked with the church groups in arts and crafts helping the young ones in the summer months.
Mr. Howard was a retired carpenter and now just made things to help in the summer church camps. The house was filled with wooden stools, pencils holders, flower vases, red and green painted trash cans and such. Mrs. Howard enjoyed painting and the house was filled with her painted treasures. All were painted bright yellow, red, green and white. She was a gentle soul who also loved her flower garden. Blood red tulips nodded their heads in the summer sun beside vast clumps of purple violets.
Rose bushes climbed up the white lattice making their way to the top of the house. Their clusters of pink blossoms and fragrance were adored by everyone who passed by. Apple trees branches hung low with lots of red striped apples, Mr. Howard's pride and joy. It was the neighborhood children's delight to sneak past Mr. Howard and steal one of the juicy balls of fruit on a hot summer day. Cherry trees lined the red dirt embankment at the edge of the property. The round red cherries not only filled Mrs. Howard's pies but the bird's tummies as well. A little girl sat amidst the branches hidden by the lush green foliage, having herself an afternoon snack. She was hidden because she knew Mr. Howard would chase her away should he see her. He was fond of children but didn't cherish the idea of them eating all of his apples and cherries.
A wire fence separated the Howard's house from the one beside it. This was done by Mr. Howard to keep the children off his property. There was only one little girl who lived next door and she happened to be sitting in his cherry tree. Wires rarely keep little girls from acquiring their desires and so Mr. Howard would live to see this happen repeatedly in the years to come.
Beneath the old house Mr. Howard had dug a cellar of sorts. It was only tall enough for a normal sized person to stand inside and it wasn't wider than a walk in closet. He kept his carpenter tools locked inside and Mrs. Howard stored potatoes and such just to keep them fresh. The steps inside the cellar were only blocks of cement so one had to be careful not to fall. Mr. Howard had gone to great lengths to fashion a door that was easy to open but easy to keep locked as well.
It was far underneath the house where Simon and his family lived. Deep underneath where the sunlight never reached or the moisture always remained was Simons safety haven. If one could shine a light under the house the slimy trails could be seen everywhere. So it is with slugs. Enormous cracks in the soil under the house made wonderful places for Simon and his families to lay their eggs. So the family grew enormously over the years. This massive growth became a problem to the Howard's flower garden and Mr. Howard sought out ways to destroy the slithering pest.
"Hey fellows did you know the old man has sprayed the edges of the house with ammonia?" Simon squealed as he raised his eye tentacles high upon his head. "If you are not careful you will run into it if your lower sensory tentacles are not working properly. He is trying all sorts of things to get rid of us. First he put pans of beer out and half of us drowned in it. Then he put out jars with baking yeast and sugar. Now he is getting very serious with this ammonia. The next thing you know he will spend some real money and get some poison from the feed store."
"I told you not to go into the garden or near the fruit trees. I know you like to eat the fallen fruit but there ARE consequences to not listening to your parents." Carol resounded loudly hoping all the slugs nearby would hear. "Mothers always know best but children just push you to the limits." She said quite anxious over the actions of Mr. Howard. "If you had just listened and not gone where I told you not to go, we would not be in this de lima right now!"
Carol was right. She had told all the slugs over and over not to go into the garden. The fruit trees were totally off limits or so she had thought. Now that Mr. Howard was putting out traps for them she knew many had not heeded her warnings. Now all the slugs' lives could be in grave danger.
"It is bad enough that our natural predators are everywhere. We have frogs, toads, snakes, rats, turtles and birds to watch out for. I just escaped a hedgehog just last week. Now not only do we have to watch out for all of these but we must be careful not to fall into one of Mr. Howard's traps." Carol voiced angrily.
"Your mother is right Simon! We have many enemies and we all must start paying better attention to your mother's rules. She is only trying to save your life for goodness sakes." Ludwig replied.
The rain shower made going outside irresistible to Simon. He had listened well to his mother's words but the cool feel of the rain upon his back made it all worth it, or so he thought.
He was moving slowly along the grass when a huge hand reached down, picked him up and tossed his over the fence. His soft body landed with a plump onto the thick grass beneath him.
"What the heck is going on?" He questioned as he quickly sent out his tentacles.
Mr. Howard had seen Simon stretched out as he was on his way to the car and gave him a quick toss. He didn't like to touch the slimy creatures but he was beside himself with frustration. He was determined to rid his property of the pest and this one was just one less he would have to deal with.
"Now I'll have to crawl all night to just get back home!" Simon sighed.
So without further interruption, he headed right back under the fence and onto Mr. Howard's property. He stopped every now and then to munch on something along the way. He was really dreading to hear his mother's lecture again. Why had he not listened?
"I must have sawdust for brains." He mumbled as he left his slimy trail along the grass.
He was just getting back to the edge of the house when the sun came up. It had been a very long and tiring night for Simon.
"Where have you been Simon?" A voice called out hysterically.
"Oh I flew over to the house next door to see what it was like over there." Simon grinned sheepishly.
Just then a blast of liquid came hurling in his direction.
"It's the ammonia again! Everyone head for the hills!" He screamed as the clear liquid began burning his long tail. "This is the last time I'll ever go out alone!" He yelled as the mucous on his butt began to fall off.
Mr. Howard was determined to rid his property of the slugs and was going to do whatever it took to do so. He knew that slugs have both female and male reproductive organs. He also knew that they could produce at least 30 eggs each time and it appeared there were hundred living around his house. If something were not done quickly all of his fruits and his beautiful flowers would be nothing but food for the slimy creatures of the night. He would never let this happen!
"Tonight when all humans are asleep we must all leave this house for awhile. It is for our own good. Should anyone decide to stay they do so at their own risk. Everyone that decides to go must stay together so no one gets lost or left behind. All the adults must carry the babies on their backs. When we all get to the property next door safely we will once again go over the rules by which we will live. Is that clear to everyone?" Ludwig called loudly.
Everyone quickly agreed!
"I do believe I heard Simon say "I'll be back" a few minutes ago. Did you hear him?" Carol grunted feverishly.
"One day he will learn. I just hope it is not by drowning in his beer!" Ludwig replied.
So it was with Simon the slug!
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved