shell game

My dream last night was forgotten until something I saw pulled it from the recesses of my mind.  I was almost home.  One more step would land me on the sidewalk in front of my house but my foot stopped in mid stride and set back down in the street on a patch of wet leaves.  There in the gutter was the perfect half of a walnut shell.  It was slightly blackened with dirt and wear but fully intact.  It was a contrast to the torn leaves and mashed bits of dirt and debris that litter the street in this rainy season the Northwest knows as fall.

It was somehow crisp in it’s wholeness and it made me think of fall in California.  Sitting under the big walnut tree in my grandparents’ back yard watching their German Shepherd, Charlotte crack walnuts open for their Cocker Spaniel, Annie.  I would watch as Charlotte cracked open the nuts and gently set them at Annie’s paws.  Annie would nose through the cracked shell for the meat of the nut inside and Charlotte would lay back down gazing around the yard with pride.

Charlotte never left the nut shells unscathed.  They would shatter under the power of her massive jaw.

From that dream scene of my child hood came the most horrible pang of guilt.  Of sorrow.  Of worry for this poor snail that was traveling its way through their backyard.  Its shell was cracked and mangled as though Charlotte had gotten her teeth into it but withdrew quickly, realizing it wasn’t the shell she was looking for.  I watched it with wonder in my child eyes, idly playing with something in my hand.  As I looked away from the snail I realized I was playing with a walnut.  One whole, perfect walnut that I had picked up from the patch of grass I was sitting on.  I’d simply cleared it out of my way to make a softer seat and had been turning it over in my hand again and again as my thoughts traveled.

With my tiny delicate fingers I pulled on each side of the shell and it came apart smooth.  Clean.  I placed the empty half over the little snail and set the rest at Annie’s feet.

It was a little like playing God.

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