Jeremy was a wise and old snail.
He never had children, so he had plenty of time to meditate and brood over the nature of reality. For that, he was a go-to council when something was out of order.
Like that day.
Tobias was hurrying up the hill with some disturbing news,
“Children are littering in the forest!”
Snails take great pride in being ecology barometers. Much less is usually enough to send everybody packing their shells. Heralds had already taken out their horns to signal evacuation when Jeremy stopped them with a quiet gesture.
“What exactly were they littering?”
Tobias looked around nervously —
he was known for being nearsighted.
“Looked like — like some round stones,” he stuttered.
Stones? Stones are non-GMO, so there is no harm,” said Jeremy thoughtfully.
“As long as they are not too many.
Who of you here is the fastest?”
Matias, a young and energetic snail, pushed through the slimy crowd and looked up at Jeremy with a dog-like enthusiasm.
“Go watch them and count every stone while I check our landscaping regulations.”
Matias happily curled up and sent his shell rolling down the hill.
Not even a week passed when he clambered back up, panting.
“I saw the children! They were not littering! They were feeding birds!”
Jeremy looked at Tobias.
“See? Your eyes are big with fear but blind to the truth. Because of you, we nearly left this forest with great welfare services.”
From shame, poor Tobias turned green and melted into a pancake.
One sunny day when Jeremy woke up from an afternoon nap, he saw Matias and Tobias going up the hill to see him. Matias reached there first.
“Children killed an old lady!” he blurted out as soon as he was close enough to be heard.
Jeremy completely woke up.
“What? Do you mean the nice lady living in the middle of the forest with the tastiest kitchen waste around?”
“Yes, that one.”
“I knew those children were dangerous! How did it happen?”
“They burned her alive and then ate her.”
Jeremy sighed and cleared his throat.
“Attention, everyone. Pack your shells. We are leaving. I won’t stay another day in this non-vegan forest.”
At this moment, Tobias politely cleared his throat.
“Forgive my intervention,” he began, “but things are a bit more nuanced than that.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jeremy.
“I took your lesson to my heart, wise Jeremy, and didn’t trust my eyes alone. I asked several witnesses instead, and this is what they told me.
“A spider from the house corner reported a cooking accident. He got out of there when he detected smoke and is still on a run warning everyone about the fire.
“A catterpillar from a backyard garden swears that the old lady set a trap for children, kept them in cages and then ate them.
“And one of the ants marching down the path from the house told me that children were invited by the old lady to eat the house together. The ants helped some too. And now it is gone.”
Jeremy was silent for a long time. His eyes were closed and his head cranked up. Snails new that he should not be interrupted when he is like this, and that some profound wisdom will soon be spilled out from his mouth.
He finaly spoke. “We are small creatures and our perspectives are too small. We may never see the whole picture.”
The snails responded with a worried rummble.
“But what should we do?”
“Is there a fire or not?”
“Are there cannibals?”
“Quiet! Quiet!” Jeremy demanded. “Our sences are limited but we must look at the facts. Does anyone see a smoke?”
“Does anyone see the house?”
“Hmm, also no.”
“Therefore, once we excluded impossible, we are left with the truth – children ate the house.”
“But Jeremy, why would anyone want to eat a house?”
“Remember, the Universe does not owe us any explanations. We might solve all the “whats” without ever grasping “why.” But in this case, it is quite obvious —they were composting it.”
“O-oh,” everyone exhaled, and there was much nodding and relieved laughing.
After all, ecology is always on top of a snail’s mind.
When old Jeremy was finally left in peace, he looked at the honeydew droplets on the surface of fresh green leaves and smiled to himself.
One more mystery was solved. The world became a little more knowable.