It happened not very long ago. But when you’re a snail, days move at snail’s pace, too. So, if you were to ask our friend the snail when this happened, she’d tell you, it was y-e-ars ago…

Well, to get on with our story. In the shade of a cool, damp log, snoozed a shy snail. She wasn’t alone in her cosy home, oh no. She had company. There was a slug the snail called Cousin Glug because, you see, snails and slugs are part of the same family. Now, since they both lived on land, they didn’t know, of course, that they had other cousins in the ocean!

A Friend in Need
A Friend in Need [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]

Fancy that, perhaps they could have gone visiting cousins oyster and octopus, had they been wiser! Anyway, under the log, there lived a family of greedy woodlice who spent the day munching the wood of their log home. No one called them by any good name because they made such a maddening din, gnawing into the branch, that the other residents were rather cross with them.

Cousin Glug called our snail Sister Slither – Slith, for short – because she left a silvery wet trail. Slith was too polite, of course, to tell him that he did the same, it’s just that he didn’t look behind him when he moved!

Slither snoozed through the day in the shade of the fallen branch. She knew she was safe there from hungry birds that watched the ground with beady eyes. And when the day went to sleep taking most of the birds with her to dreamland, Slither crept out and twitched her two eye-stalks nervously to check if all was safe.

Then, she inched her way along, stopping by a juicy stalk. Munch, munch, munch. Sleeping all day made her hungry! Cousin Glug joined her, and it was a bit of a race. He waited for Slither to halt by a stalk and overtook her.

“Snail’s pace!” he laughed, looking back at poor Slither trying to catch up. Slither waited her chance. At the next plant, as Glug dug into a juicy leaf, she took off. A few steps down, she laughed, “I’d heard of a sluggish creature. Now, I’ve met one!”

A cartoon snail: A Friend in Need - A story for kids

That bothered Glug. He had never learnt to take a joke and so, he thought out ways to run down Slith. “Imagine moving around with your home on your back!” he giggled.

A ripple of rude laughter went around the ants and the dragonflies and the mites. Poor Slith looked rather uncomfortable. “And it even slows her down,” continued Glug, munching through a mulberry leaf. “Now, if you’re slow, you can’t run from trouble, can you?”

Slith was silent. She wished she could tell them that she couldn’t help being the way she was, just as Glug couldn’t help being without a shell. Of course, sometimes, she wished she could fly like the butterfly, and chirp like the birds or nod in the breeze like the flowers. But most of the time, she was happy being a snail and thankful that she could curl into her home when she felt tired.

One night out, Slith was happy when Glug finally announced it was time to get home. He led the way while she trailed along.

As they turned the last corner, Glug gasped. “What’s happened?” he asked the crowd of weeping, wailing, waiting, ants and centipedes, millipedes and earthworms. “Look,” sniffled a centipede, pointing to what was home when they left, “Our home’s gone. Boo hoo hoo!”

“Did an elephant carry it away?” asked Slith.

“Did the tiger stamp it down?” squealed Glug.

“And where did all this dust come from?” wondered Slith, staring at a heap of powder where their log home stood.

“It’s the woodlice,” wailed queen ant. “I’d been telling them to move on, but would they listen? They chewed up their own home.”

“And ours!” wailed the crowd.

“Where do we go now?” whimpered Slith, looking at Glug.

“Fancy that. You’ve got your home on your back. I should be the one to worry. And to tell you the truth, I AM worried,” sniffled Glug, bursting into tears.

It would soon be morning and the hungry birds would be out. They didn’t have much time to act! “Let’s set out looking for a new home,” said Slith, touching Glug with her eye stalks. “And so what if I carry my own home. I’m not leaving you. You’re my friend!”

Glug gaped. How kind of Slith, he thought, after he’d teased her so often about her home! They set off. For the first time, Glug waited for Slith to keep up with him. It took a while before they found another log of wood rather like their old home.
As they tucked in, nuzzling against each other, Glug gave Slith a tired smile.

“You’re a brick, Slith,” he whispered.

“Not at all,” she grinned, “I’m a snail. And you’re a slug!”