The Sadness of the Shells

I recently went to Tybee Island, Georgia (USA) for a writing retreat. There, I collected sea shells, which I brought home. The following sadness ensued.

THE SADNESS OF THE SHELLS
by Marian Allen

I walked on the beach in December
And picked up some shells from the beach.
I made it a point to remember
What posters endeavor to teach:
Do not collect living crustaceans
But only the ones that are dead.
Inspect each with infinite patience.
Yes, that’s what the posters had said.

I thought I had followed the order
In gathering gifts from the foam
And socked away shells like a hoarder
And packed them and carried them home.
I showed them to this one and that one
Who “ooh”ed o’er each lovely shell
Including one wonderful flat one.
And then the shells started to smell.

I washed them in hot soapy water
And put them to drain on a rack.
“They stink the place up!” said my daughter,
So I packed them back in a sack.
I soaked them in bleach and the flat one
Came open. My sorrowing eyes
Beheld the sad truth, which was that one
Was not a legitimate prize.

It had, in fact, contained two living creatures
With gooshiness and stinkiness their features.
So I’m repaid for taking what was living.
The smell is everlasting, unforgiving.
Oh, Mortal! take a lesson from this telling!
Be very, very careful in your shelling.

Okay, so I rinsed all the shells off, threw away the stinky one, washed the remaining ones in hot soapy water again … And they STILL smell. Is it residue from having been packed with Neptune’s Vengeance, or do I have another Hideous Surprise lurking? Time will tell. Time. Will. Tell.

WRITING PROMPT: An innocent mistake rebounds disastrously.

MA

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About

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “The Sadness of the Shells

  1. Leslea
    Twitter:

    January 12, 2012 at 9:06am

    Oh, Marian. I did that a few years ago. I went to Florida with my mom & her husband, for Thanksgiving. My mom found a shell on one of the inlet sides. It seemed fine. I had already returned several living beasts to the Gulf side. This one came home with me, and I didn’t realize it was truly inhabited until I ran my “shell bucket” under hot, soapy water, and I found it clawing for it’s life. It really broke my heart, and creeped me out at the same time. I couldn’t part with the shell, of course, after that sacrifice. I left it on the front porch in the bucket through three seasons, while it froze and thawed in bleach water. That’s always been such a guilty memory. I don’t even mess with shells anymore, now. 🙁
    Leslea would love to share..Sometimes we just click. Writer WednesdayMy Profile

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    • Author

      Marian Allen
      Twitter:

      January 12, 2012 at 4:28pm

      Leslea, I hear that! I’ve just been thinking that I’m going to be extremely careful before I carry home any more shells. 🙁

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  2. Jane

    January 12, 2012 at 10:35am

    While some secondary inhabitants, i.e., shell squatters, may take up residence in a battered-looking shell, I don’t believe one should cease snatching up the little cuties. Maybe isolating the ones intact enough to harbor lifeforms might be a remedy. (One would carefully examine these, of course.) All I know is that most of my finds are already pre-sanitized by considerable oceanic activity, i.e.. busted into pieces already.

    Good luck with future aquatic endeavors.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen
      Twitter:

      January 12, 2012 at 4:29pm

      Jane, that’s what I thought mine were: pre-sanitized and all bus’ed up like a chiffarobe. I THINK they’re just all stunk up by that one. My next move is to soak them in baking soda water.

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  3. Sarah Reece

    January 12, 2012 at 11:17am

    Marian, Your poem reminds me of this little piece of poetry that I had come across the other day and felt was so beautiful…

    THERE’S A PRETTY LITTLE LEGEND
    THAT I WOULD LIKE TO TELL
    OF THE BIRTH AND DEATH OF JESUS
    FOUND IN THIS LOWLY SHELL

    IF YOU EXAMINE CLOSELY
    YOU’LL SEE THAT YOU FIND HERE
    FOUR NAIL HOLES AND A FIFTH ONE
    MADE BY A ROMAN’S SPEAR

    ON ONE SIDE THE EASTER LILY
    ITS CENTER IS THE STAR
    THAT APPEARED UNTO THE SHEPHERDS
    AND LED THEM FROM AFAR

    THE CHRISTMAS POINSETTIA
    ETCHED ON THE OTHER SIDE
    REMINDS US OF HIS BIRTHDAY
    OUR HAPPY CHRISTMASTIDE

    NOW BREAK THE CENTER OPEN
    AND HERE YOU WILL RELEASE
    THE FIVE WHITE DOVES AWAITING
    TO SPREAD GOOD WILL AND PEACE

    THIS SIMPLE LITTLE SYMBOL
    CHRIST LEFT FOR YOU AND ME
    TO HELP US SPREAD HIS GOSPEL
    THROUGH ALL ETERNITY
    Sarah Reece would love to share..BluehostMy Profile

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    • Author

      Marian Allen
      Twitter:

      January 12, 2012 at 4:30pm

      Sara, that sounds like a sand dollar! I have one of those–dead dead dead dead really really dead and not stinky. I’m not going to break it open, though. It’s too pretty!

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  4. Liz

    January 12, 2012 at 11:41pm

    I love your poem, your such a talented person.

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