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Thomas keeps finding squashed snails on the pavement and crying. He thinks the shells look like the smashed faces of porcelain dolls and the slug part like smeared tar. When he walks outside with Peter they both look down, and he learns to read the silver drooled lines with apprehension.
When Thomas comes home with shell pieces and glue, people drop the word ‘phase’ like a full stop in the middle of a sentence. But Thomas isn’t listening, he’s finding rainbows in his repairs. He lines the re-completed shells up along his windowsill so they catch the light.
One day at school there’s a snail race and the children crowd around it. Thomas is there with collected fragments in his pocket, one of the pieces is digging into his thigh like a splinter, and he shifts uncomfortably. A boy named Jacob hollers “The last one gets squashed!” And then Jacob inevitably jumps, his shoes as big as the inside of his open, yelling mouth. He revels in the destruction. He lifts up his shoe, death crushed into it’s crevices. The pieces of shell look like broken window glass and Thomas screams and screams but he can’t wake the dead and the teacher rings his parents so they can take him home. In the car there’s a little mark on his thigh; the shell splinter. He picks it out with a needle and a whorl of blood appears. He thinks the red looks as tiny as a star from here. He thinks that if he can glue his shells, he can glue his skin, and hold everything together until it dries.