Images © Isabel Rock 2018
|by Isabel Rock
|July 30, 2018
When I was young, I always wanted a pet. My parents wouldn’t let me have one so I made a poodle out of broccoli. I called her Tallulah Flooff. She was beautiful and I was so proud of her. I entered her into the local animal vegetable competition which she won. Then I entered her into a poodle competition, which she didn’t win, but she was spotted by a TV talent scout and invited to star in a dog food commercial. The dog food commercial was a big hit. Something about the look in her eyes made you really believe that the dog food was delicious. She landed a part in a movie called ‘What are you looking at?’ playing the poodle of a blind gangster. Tallulah totally outshone the lead part and became a movie star in her own right, starring in ‘What are you looking at now?’ This was when things started to get difficult for me. Tallulah was by nature vain and egotistical, as her fame grew, so did her outrageous demands. Not just things for her convenience but things for my humiliation to add to her ego. She would stand by the biggest dog poo in the park and pretend it was hers so that I had to pick it up and carry it in a bag and people would think she was a real dog. At parties, she would tell me to make chicken noises and then pretend I had laid an egg which I would have to present it to her as an offering and splat it on my forehead. I was only allowed to speak in baby language when other people were around. She would only eat ice cream and she insisted on sleeping on a bed of kittens every night. I stuck with her though. I created her. She was everything to me.
Then she started to turn yellow and shrivel. It was painful to watch her slow decay and as she aged she became even more cruel. One day she made me shave off my eyebrows and replace them with snails. She said it was a new fashion. Then she laughed and said, ‘what’s that on your face?’ My cheeks burned with humiliation but I let her do what she wanted with me. Eventually she was just a pile of mould and I had to move on with my life.
My other vegetable pets were not so distinguished. I made a penguin out of an aubergine and called it Mr Tippy. He had a smart purple dinner jacket and pasta bow tie. We would sing songs together. When Mr Tippy went all mushy I made a dolphin out of a banana and called it Squeak. Squeak didn’t last long as I had to eat her after ballet class. Then I made a tortoise out of half a pineapple with a carrot head and legs and called it Flash. Flash lived a long time- it seemed like years but eventually his rubbery carrot legs fell off and his face turned black and I felt like I didn’t know him anymore.
Now I’m grown up I could have a real pet if I want to but I just never got round to it. I still have a passion for vegetables although I never eat them because all I see are the faces of my dead pets looking at me. My passion for vegetables has led to my present state of unemployment. I was working in an organic fruit and veg shop but I got fired for drawing faces on the vegetables and painting clown faces on the eggs. I don’t really mind, it’s given me time to work on my children’s book about an egg who wants to be a clown but is scared of falling.
I try and keep busy. It’s easy to get depressed when you’re at home all day. I like to go out, take a walk, sit in a café for a bit. One afternoon I’m sitting in a trendy café when the waitress puts my coffee on the table. It’s a black coffee but there’s a snail in it. A big one, with pink glitter nail varnish on its shell. It’s hanging on to the rim of the cup, waving its little antennae at me.
‘Excuse me, I don’t mean to be a pain, but there’s a snail in my coffee.’ I say to the waitress.
‘Yes,’ I point at the coffee to emphasise the situation and make sure she knows I’m not doing one of these ‘waiter waiter there’s a snail in my coffee’ jokes.
‘Yeah, I know, it’s the new thing.’ She says this like I’m stupid.
‘But what’s it for?’
‘It’s just something new.’
‘But what do I do with it?’
‘I dunno, whatever, it’s your snail now.’
I don’t want to look like I’m not cool so I say, ‘yes of course, we’ll probably go nightclubbing together.’
I can’t help myself, the snail is beautiful. Maybe it’s the nail-varnish, maybe it’s the jaunty wave of its antennae. I think I’m in love, it moves on its own! My heart swells. I take the snail home and put it in a shoebox.
‘What am I supposed to do in here?’ it says.
‘This is your home now,’ I say.
‘It’s boring in here, I want to watch tv.’
I put my i phone in the box so the snail can watch you tube videos. Sometimes we watch them together, me looking through a hole I cut out as a window. We watch a video of two slugs mating.
‘I’m lonely,’ says the snail,
‘But I’m here, I’ll never leave you!’
‘I’m lonely for my kind, I want to feel the touch of another snail, someone who can completely understand me. Find me another snail and don’t come back until you’ve got one.’
I’m sad that the snail rejects me but I want it to be happy. I go out into my small piece of garden and look around for snails. I can’t find any but I know how to deal with the situation. I cook some sushi rice. When the rice is cooked and cooled in the proper Japanese way, which takes a bit of time, I carefully shape a spoonful into a rectangle. I place a slice of smoked salmon on top. Then I get the seaweed paper out and make some maki rolls, using red peppers, ripe avocado and organic carrots. When cut into slices these will form a beautiful millefeuille pattern on the shell that can’t fail to enchant the snail. Then I take an edamame bean for the head and make two holes with a pin. I push two pieces of cress in for antennae and stick two seeds on with wasabi paste for eyes and draw a wasabi smile.
I proudly take the sushi snail and put it in the box. After a short courtship dance my snail shoots a love dart through the edamame bean head of the sushi snail and then copulates with it. I watch through the window as they copulate until the sushi snail is a pile of rice and shredded seaweed.
‘Are you happy now?’ I ask.
‘Thanks for nothing. Now get some nail varnish and paint my shell.’ says the snail, ‘and don’t use so much wasabi next time, my genital opening is burning.’
Every day I make a sushi snail for the real snail to copulate with and every day the real snail fucks it to pieces. Its appetite seems to be insatiable. Making sushi snails is a time consuming process and work on my childrens book halts completely as I cater for the sexual demands of my snail. At the end of the week, I ask, ‘don’t you think all this copulating is getting out of hand? Wouldn’t you like to settle down, spend some quality time with someone special? Maybe start a family?’
‘No, emphatically not,’ says the snail, ‘I will never be a monogamollusc. Now make me another snail, I’m horny.’
A vision of my future serving the snail stretches out before me, days, weeks, months of cooking sushi rice, always putting my needs second to the snail, being told what to do and when, bossed around and belittled.
The fury rises within me like millions of grains of rice in a whirlwind, all the insults, injustices and disappointments of my vegetable pets come rushing back to me and in a blind rage I pick up the snail. Dashing it to the floor I stamp on it and shout, ‘YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!’
The crunch of the shell is a sickening contrast to the soft squish of its body as it splats out from my foot. Then there is silence, just me standing alone with remnants of snail shell and slime on me. ‘I’m the boss of me,’ I say to myself, and I sit down at my desk, pick up my pen and get to work on my children’s book.
Isabel Rock is an artist, printmaker, writer of short stories, amateur gardener, professional imaginator, an avid reader, a slow and unmotivated runner, a big fan of all the meals in the day and the owner of three kimonos. Her most asked question is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ The answer is ‘whatever I am eating.’ Currently working in a port-a-cabin at a secret location in the UK she makes a modest living selling artwork while perfecting a long term financial plan of winning scratchcards.