Tuesday, August 17

a Happy Birthday post for Abby

I put Patient the Snail on my face.

And Patient said "Happy Birthday!"

I said "Put a snail on my face! I want to read Patient the Snail has a birthday party!"

And Patient said, "Happy Birthday!"

Wednesday, August 11

Patient the Magical Snail

The morning sun was just beginning to warm her curly brown shell when Patient heard a voice beside her. She opened her eyes and peeked between the flower stalks and green creepers that made up her home. Where had the voice come from? And who did it belong to? It was such a sweet, small voice.

Patient didn’t see anyone in the pansies. She didn’t see anyone in the lilies either. But when she looked behind the lavender bush, a little face popped out and smiled at her. It fluttered into the air for a moment and then the tiny, beautiful creature it belonged to settled in front of Patient and said, “Hello.”

It was the same sweet voice that had woken her. Patient stared at the little creature’s tiny feet, covered in shoes made from sunflower seeds. It wore a dress of flower petals, and an acorn cap on its head. Two shimmering blue wings fluttered at its sides. Patient had never seen anything like it before. It was too soft to be a dragonfly. Not quite soft enough for a butterfly.

“What are you?” Patient asked.

“A fairy,” the creature giggled. “My name is Annika.”

“Oh,” Patient said. It was hard to keep her eyes on Annika. The fairy fluttered all around while she talked, never holding still.

“I’m glad you woke up,” Annika said. “I’ve been waiting for the longest time to talk to you.”


“Yes. I wanted to ask you. Are you magical?”

Nobody had ever asked Patient if she was magical before. She had to think about it. Was she magical? She had a lovely brown shell that kept her dry when it rained and gave her the perfect place to sleep when the moon came out. Her skin was slippery soft, and when she glided slowly from leaf to leaf it left a shimmering trail of silver behind her. With all of these wonderful things she could do, she must be magical.

“Yes,” she told Annika. “I think so.”

“I knew it,” said Annika, clapping her hands together and laughing. Then she buzzed right up to Patient’s ear and whispered, “I need some magic.”

“Why?” asked Patient, turning her head to look at Annika, who had already fluttered to a new spot.

“Because I lost mine. And I can’t get back home without it."

“Oh,” said Patient. Now she was worried. She didn’t know where her magic was, either. “What does it look like?” she asked Annika.

Annika giggled. “Magic doesn’t look like anything, silly. It comes from inside you.”

Patient didn’t understand. How could it come from inside? “You mean like happiness?” she asked.

“Yes!” Annika said. “And love.”

“How did you lose yours?” Patient asked.

For once, Annika’s blue wings stopped fluttering. They drooped to her sides. Annika fell softly onto the dirt and sat down on a pebble near Patient.
“I think it’s because I got scared.”

Patient could understand that. She knew what it was like to be scared. Whenever the shadow of a bird passed overhead she tucked herself tightly into her shell and shivered. And once, a garden snake had slithered close to her home, frightening her so badly that she had cried.

“What did you get scared of?” Patient asked. “A snake?”

“No. Not a snake. I got scared of falling.”

“When I get scared,” Patient said. “I tuck inside my shell. Or I hide under a rock until I’m not afraid anymore.”

Patient was surprised to see a tiny tear, the size of a dew drop, trickle down Annika’s cheek. “If I hide under a rock I’ll never get home,” she said. “I have to fly to get back to Fairyland. But every time I try, I get scared of falling and my magic goes away.”

This was a problem. Patient wondered how she could help her new friend get home. She thought and thought. Finally, just like a dandelion seed floats through the air on a summer day, an idea floated into Patient’s mind. “I will share my magic with you!” she said.

“You will?” asked Annika, jumping up from the pebble.

“Yes!” Patient said. “I will go with you to fairy land. When you start to get scared, I will be brave and my magic will keep us from falling.”

A worried frown crossed Annika’s face. “But you can’t fly.”

“No,” said Patient. “You’ll carry me. My shell looks heavy, but it is as light as a pea pod.”

Annika wasn’t much bigger than Patient, but she bent down and pulled on Patient’s shell. “You’re right! You aren’t heavy at all!”

Holding Patient in her arms, Annika spread her blue wings wide and sailed up into the sky. They raced past a bumblebee, drinking nectar from a patch of clover. “Hello!” Patient called to the bee. She couldn’t help but giggle. She was used to sliding so slowly across the ground. It was fun to go fast.

When they passed under the dark shadow of a tree, Annika began to totter, her wings sputtering, spinning them both lopsided. “I’m going to fall!” she cried.

“No you’re not,” Patient called. “You’re doing great!”

Annika listened to Patient and straightened her wings. The magic was working. “We’re almost there!” she said.

Ahead a rainbow stretched across the sky. Annika flew straight through it. On the other side, Patient discovered a world full of beauty and magic. A trickling waterfall tumbled down from a tall green tree, and all around there were colorful flowers, dotted mushrooms, and smooth pebbles. Fairies were everywhere, flying, dancing and singing.

“Annika! You made it home!” the fairies called.

“Yes! Because of Patient.”

The fairies fluttered around Patient, saying hello, touching her smooth shell, smiling and laughing. Patient had never had so many friends before.

Annika set Patient on the ground next to a pink dahlia. “Thank you for sharing your magic with me, Patient. What can I do to repay you?”

Patient looked around at all the pretty fairies, the magical waterfall, and the flowers. “You don’t have to repay me. But this is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Would it be alright if I stayed here with you for awhile?”

“Oh, Patient,” Annika said with a giggle. “You can stay here forever.”

And that’s just what Patient did.

story by Janessa Ransom

Tuesday, August 10

Patient and the Broom

One day, Patient the Snail was oozing through the wood, when she met an old witch sitting underneath a large tree. The witch was crying great big tears, and petting a large black cat that sat purring in her lap.

“Excuse me, old witch, but why are you crying?” asked Patient the Snail, for as snails go she was very polite.

“Because I lost my bro-hoo-hoo-hoom!” wailed the old witch, crying harder than ever. “Look!” She pointed to the tree above her, where Patient could see the long, slender stick of the witch’s broom caught in the very top branches.

“I see,” said Patient. “What happened?”

“She was flying along and the tree surprised her,” said the Cat. “We hit the branches, and down we came with a bump.” The Cat fixed her great golden eyes on Patient and purred, “Let that be a lesson to you to always watch where you’re going.”

“It’s my favorite broo-hoo-hoom!” cried the witch. “And now it’s lost forever!”

“So many tears over a silly broom,” said the Cat to the witch. “You can always get another one.”

“There will never be another broom like my favorite broo-hoo-hoom,” cried the witch. “I want it back!”

The Cat rolled her big yellow eyes. “Crybaby,” she muttered.

Patient the Snail was a very kind snail, as snails go, and she hated to see anyone who was unhappy. “I can go up and try to get your broom for you, if you like,” she said.

The witch stopped crying long enough to peer at Patient the Snail and say, “Do you think you really could?”

“Well,” said Patient the Snail, “I’m not very fast, and I have no hands to carry the broom, and I am very small, but I can climb to the top of the tree and see what I can do. I may not be able to do very much, but at least I will be able to do something.”

“Oh, thank you!” cried the unhappy witch, and so Patient the Snail began the long journey up the trunk of the tree.

Patient the Snail hurried as fast as she could go, for she didn’t want to keep the old witch waiting, but the tree was so very tall, and she was so very small, that after she reached the first big branch she stopped for a moment to catch her breath.

On the branch was a large gray opossum hanging upside down as she read the newspaper. “Good morning,” said Patient the Snail.

“I don’t know how you can say it’s a good morning with so many horrible things happening in the world,” said the Opossum, looking at her over the top of the newspaper. When she saw that Patient was a Snail, she blinked several times and then put her newspaper aside. “I’ve never seen a snail this high on the tree before. Why are you climbing up the trunk the way you are?”

“I am going to bring back the old witch’s broom,” said Patient the Snail. “Though I am very slow, and though I have no hands, and I am very small, I mean to do my best.”

“That is very noble of you,” said the Opossum, looking at Patient with respect. “The world is a better place when the smallest creatures are kind. Perhaps I can help you. I do not have hands, and I am also very slow, but I am one of the largest creatures on the tree. If you will allow me, I will help you get the broom for the old witch.”

And so Patient climbed on top of the Opossum’s head and settled down right by her large pink ear, and together they climbed up to the middle branches of the tree.

When they arrived at the middle branches, they found a small blue jay, practicing her arias. “Good morning,” said Patient and the Opossum.

“Oh, isn’t it just?” cried the Jay with excitement. “When I woke up I could tell that the air was quite perfect to practice singing in. Listen!” And she burst forth in a beautiful song. When she finished, Patient and the Opossum applauded.

The Jay curtseyed, and then looked at them curiously. “I’ve never seen a Snail and an Opossum travel together before,” she said. “What are you doing?”

“We are going to bring back the old witch’s broom,” said Patient the Snail. “Though we are both very slow, and neither of us has hands. But the Opossum is very large, and we feel that while we may not be able to do much, we still should be able to do something.”

“What a cheerful thought!” said the Jay. “It just goes to show that there are kind creatures in the world, after all. I would like to help you! I do not have any hands, and I am very small as well, but I am one of the fastest animals in the woods. Perhaps I can help you pull down the old witch’s broom.”

Patient the Snail and the Opossum told the Jay that they would very much enjoy her help, and so she climbed on the back of the Opossum next to Patient the Snail, and together the three of them climbed to the very top-most branches.

When they arrived there, they found a young red squirrel chewing on a nut, and sitting on the long wooden pole of the witch’s broom. “Hello,” said the Squirrel. “Have you come to take this broom away? I was eating my breakfast when suddenly this broom crashed through my house. I tried to remove it, but it’s caught. Look!” And the Squirrel pushed on the broom, but it was stuck in the branches and couldn’t come free.

“We have come to save the broom, if we can,” said Patient the Snail. “There’s an old, sad witch at the bottom of the tree, and she misses her broom. We’d like to return it to her.”

“I don’t see how you will be able to,” said the Squirrel rudely, since her mouth was full of the nut she was eating. “It’s stuck.”

Patient the Snail looked at the broom. It was indeed stuck among the branches. “Perhaps we can get it free if we all work together. Squirrel, you have hands, so you can lift the broom away from the branches. Opossum, you are very large, so you can push the broom out of the treetops. And Jay, you are very fast, so you can fly back and forth and free the straw from the branches that have caught it.”

The animals cheered Patient for being so clever, and did as she instructed. The Squirrel lifted the end of the broom, and the Jay flew to where the straw part of the broom was caught by the tiny twigs of the tree. And then the Opossum gave the broom a mighty push, and with a great whoosh the broom flew out of the tree, and carried all four of them gently down to the witch who was waiting below.

The witch, when they saw she had saved her broom, did a hurly-burly dance for joy and sang, “My beautiful, beautiful broo-hoo-hoom!” She looked so happy that the animals laughed along with her, and even the Cat looked less sour than usual.

When at last she had shown how happy she was, the witch said, “I want to give a present to the one who saved my broom. Who pushed the broom out of the tree?”

“The Opossum did,” said Patient the Snail.

The old witch reached into her pointed witch’s cap and pulled out a pair of reading glasses, which the Opossum accepted with great dignity.

“But the Opossum wouldn’t have been able to push the broom from the tree if the Squirrel hadn’t lifted it up first,” said the Jay.

“Well, it’s only fair that the Squirrel receive a gift as well,” said the witch, and she reached again into her hat and pulled out a sack of nuts and gave it to the Squirrel.

“Without the Jay’s speed, though, we would never have gotten the broom out of the branches,” said the Squirrel after she had thanked the witch for her gift.

“Well, then, we must give the Jay a gift,” said the witch, smiling, and pulled from her hat a beautiful purple scarf, which she wrapped around the Jay’s throat.

“This will keep my voice warm so that I may sing even during the winter,” said the Jay.

“But what about Patient’s gift?” asked the Opossum.

“Yes! Patient deserves a gift!” said the Jay and the Squirrel.

“But I didn’t do anything,” said Patient the Snail. “I didn’t lift the broom, or push the broom, or free it from the branches. Why should I get a gift?”

“You were the most important of all,” said the old witch. “For without your bravery, the Opossum would not have lifted the broom, and the Jay would not have freed the straws, and the Squirrel would not have pushed the broom. You saw what should be done and you did it, which is more than many can say. And therefore, you will have the best gift of all.” The witch reached into her hat and pulled out a tiny book, with a dark green cover and gold edges, and handed it to Patient the Snail.

“This is a very special book,” said the old witch. “In it is all the adventures you will ever have, and all the animals you will ever meet. You can take it out and read about things you will do someday, or read about things that you have done before, or read about the things that you are doing right now. Try it, and see!”

And so Patient the Snail opened the little book to about the middle, and to her surprise she read the very story that I have just told you. And when she was done she closed the book, said goodbye to her new friends, and set off once more into the woods, for she could tell from the book that she had many more adventures ahead of her.

story by Danny Nelson

Monday, August 9

The Inheritance of Shells

Everyone had a shell but Patient, and they weren’t sharing. This, said Grandfather Armand, was the nature of things. Snails were greedy creatures, and did not like to share. He was eating a long strand of red licorice. Patient was waiting for him to finish and leave her a bite. But Grandfather Armand was a very slow eater.

Patient was a young snail, and like all very young snails, she was born without a shell. Her skin was as pulpy and slimy as a banana peel, and it left her vulnerable to all kinds of terrors. Sun, for one. Salt, for another.

This meant, according to Mama Cynda, that she could never glide down to the dew gathering place alone. Young humans were fond of sprinkling salt on young snails. Boys especially, those nasty things, loved to watch salted snails curl and writhe on the sidewalk. Without a protective shell, salt would burn right through to a snail’s core. And if the boys didn’t get her, Mama Cynda nodded, the sun surely would.

But Patient didn’t care so much about salt or sun. What she cared about were parties. And the one thing you needed to go to a party was a shell. “Why,” said Grandfather Armand, “a snail without a shell might as well be invisible at a party.”

So it was clear: Patient had to have a shell. The problem was, shells were family heirlooms, passed down through generations of snails. The only way to get a shell was if someone in your family died and left you their shell. Which, to be honest, didn’t sound great to Patient. She didn’t want Grandfather Armand to die, even if he did keep all the licorice to himself.

“Why not try Miss Sally?” said Dada Marcel. “I’ll glide with you.”

Miss Sally was a long shot, everyone knew. Despite her extensive inventory of custom order shells--sold by the seashore--her taste was questionable. Miss Sally preferred pretty things, shimmering rainbow abalones and peach chambered nautiluses and fan shaped mollusks. But for snails, the bigger and older and grimier the shell, the better it was. A well-aged shell meant your family had been around for decades.

When they arrived, Miss Sally was excited. Why, Patient was such a precious young slug.

“Who are you calling a slug?” said Dada Marcel.

Miss Sally was sorry. She was a person, and people have a hard time telling the difference between young snails and slugs. Patient tried on a few shells, but none of them fit right. They made her back sore and stiff. So she and Dada Marcel went home.

At home, Grandfather Armand was still eating his licorice. Patient was so tired of waiting—for a bite of licorice, for her shell, for the chance to go to a party—that she went to bed early.

In the morning, she had had time getting out of bed. Her back was still sore. She wished she had never gone to see Miss Sally.

When she glided up to the breakfast stone, Mama Cynda gasped. “Where did you get that?” she said.

“What?” said Patient.

“Glory be,” said Grandfather Armand. “I’ve never seen such a thing.”

For Patient had grown her very own shell in the night. It was sleek and glossy and brown, like a chestnut, with splashes of white diamond curving around the spiral. Patient was so happy she sailed around the breakfast stone.

That night, she went to a party. All the other snails in their rough and barnacled shells stared at her glossy new shell. When they asked where she got it, she just smiled. She knew the best things in life come to those who wait.

story by Steve Woodward

Friday, August 6

A Snail Named Patient Goes to the Baseball Game

I took my friend, Patient the Snail, to a baseball game with me. Just the two of us guys going to pass some old fashioned baseball time. At a big stadium, with lots of people and rows and rows of blue seats.

Patient wanted some nachos, so we got some nachos and then headed down to our seats. We had great seats, right behind first base, and the field looked so green. I told Patient that I wanted to jump the little fence and run on the field. I told him I wanted to skip through the green outfield and then slide around on the dirt of the infield. I told him I wanted to feel the hot damp grass on my cheek and smell the heavy grass smell. I told him I wanted so slide so hard on the coarse dirt that it got all the way into my shoes. I could hardly stand it just sitting there when so many beautiful fun things were just waiting for me if I ran onto the field.

But my good buddy Patient the Snail, as all good buddies often do, gave me some good advice. He sat munching on his nachos and he told me that sometimes it just isn’t your turn to slide on dirt and run around on rich green grass. He told me that, in those times, its just as much fun to munch on some quality nachos with a friend and watch people slide on dirt and run on grass.

And you know what, he was right. We sat there the entire game. We munched on our nachos and even ordered cool lemonade that a nice man brought right to our seat. I was totally happy sitting there in the shade with my good friend Patient. Once even a baseball player ran and dove for a ball in the green outfield grass. He caught the ball and then, before he got up, I saw him stick his face in the grass and take a big whiff of the heavy grass smell, just like I would have done.

story by Aaron Allen

Wednesday, August 4

Patient Eats the Alphabet (part five)

Abby was beginning to get hot. Patient spied an umbrella tree where she and Abby could get some shade. They laid down under the tree for a rest and Patient couldn’t help but take a bite. Abby giggled again. “You are so funny,” she told Patient.

Umbrella tree starts with U.

Growing down through the umbrella tree were some vines that Patient wanted to swing on. Abby was too big to swing on the vines, so she helped Patient swing for a minute then Patient ate her way through the vine so she could get down.

Vine starts with V.

Patient landed in Abby’s lap with a “kerplop,” where Abby was sitting on a big green watermelon. Patient could hardly believe her luck, and Abby could not wait to dig into the watermelon. Abby remembered how juicy watermelons are. They cut off the end and each took a big piece of watermelon. “Better take the rest home for my papa bear,” said Abby.

Watermelon starts with W.

Patient and Abby then criss-crossed the garden, back and forth, up and down, trying to find something that started with X. After a long time, Patient remembered that many of the plants she had already eaten had  xylem.

Xylem starts with X. Abby giggled at the sound of “Xylem.” She said it over and over again.

While traversing the garden looking for a plant starting with X, Patient had noticed a yucca plant growing on Mr. Burton’s deck. It was very nice looking. She asked Abby to carry her up on the deck so she could get a nibble from the yucca plant. She only took one bite.

Yucca plant starts with Y. But“Yucca sounds like yuck!” Abby said. “That’s so silly!”

Patient had made it through the entire alphabet except for the letter Z. But, Mr. Burton did not have any zinnias or zucchini in his garden. Patient didn’t know what to do. She could not find a Z plant.

Just then, Abby’s mom came to get her and brought Mr. Burton a grocery bag full of zucchini to eat. Abby dropped Patient into the bag and Patient ate zucchini until she was so full she thought she’d explode. Abby had some too. She asked her mommy if they could make a zucchini chocolate cake. “Of course,” said Mommy. “Yum,” said Abby.

Zucchini starts with Z.

Abby picked Patient up out of the bag of zucchini. They couldn’t believe how lucky they were to have found something beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Patient was happy, and Abby giggled again. After that day in Mr. Burton’s yard, Abby could say her ABCs all the way through without stopping because she remembered that Patient had eaten the alphabet. She could remember each thing Patient had eaten. Even the nasty tasting things.

story by Abby's Grandpa (Larry Jenkins)