Chapter 9 of Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
The next afternoon, Ben handed Jinny a basket and said, “Hey, will you and Ess go to the tide pools for me? I need snails for dinner!”
“Really?” said Jinny. “Well, I mean, can’t someone else?”
Ben looked surprised. “Why should someone else? You’re not doing anything right now.”
“Oh, come on. It’s just that I’ve been fetching a lot lately, and I’m busy with Ess. She won’t be any help in the tide pools, and she still can’t swim.”
“Oh, perfect,” groaned Eevie from the other side of the kitchen. “Because you’re too lazy to teach Ess to swim, you also get to be lazy about snail duty. That seems very fair. . . .”
Ben ignored Eevie, but he also shook his head at Jinny and handed her a sack. “The tide pools aren’t deep,” he said. “I need your help.”
“Fine, fine, okay, sorry,” grumbled Jinny as she stomped off to collect Ess, who was digging happily in the sand with a stick.
“Hi,” said Ess brightly, looking up at her Elder. “I digging.”
“Yes, I see that,” said Jinny. “And you’re doing a great job, but Ben needs some snails for supper. I want you to come learn how to gather them.”
“Otay,” said Ess amiably, brushing sand from her knees and following Jinny down the beach and off to the tide pools.
Of course, Ben had been exactly right. Ess was delighted with the tide pools. Jinny showed the girl how to be careful not to cut her feet on the rough patches of coral and the barnacles, and she pointed out that the purple jellyblobs would sting if you let them brush against your legs when they floated by. Ess spent a while gazing at the beautiful petalfish, and then together the two of them gathered snails, setting them gently in the sack over Jinny’s shoulder. After a few minutes, Ess looked up thoughtfully and held out a delicate shell. “When we eat them, dey get sad?”
“What?” Jinny wasn’t sure what Ess meant.
“Dis!” said Ess. “Snail get sad, when I eat him up?”
“Oh,” said Jinny. “Well, no, he won’t be sad. Because he’ll be dead.” Was this something she needed to explain? She didn’t think Sam had ever asked as many questions as Ess.
“Dead?” Ess looked into the shell closely.
“Yes, dead. He’ll . . . stop moving. And be gone. He’ll be chewed up and finished. Dead. Like a fish or an erster or a dried-out scuttle. Dead.”
“Oh, no,” said Ess. “Poor snail.”