The baby snails had congregated at the White and were looking restless. Sophie knew that the recent heavy rain had brought them out, and they could be a handful when they were in groups. The tiny one with the light section of shell finally turned to Sophie, and, nearly shouting with excitement, asked “has Gaston reached the Red yet??”
Inwardly, Sophie groaned. Asking about Gaston…she hadn’t heard from him since his postcard. She had had her own misgivings about the trip, wanting to be a supportive friend, but fearing the dangers that lurked out there. The sharp-eyed robins still ranged the periphery of the White, just waiting for a mistake like a sudden movement to draw their attention to a plump snail. Had Gaston met his fate during his journey?
Of course, even if it was true, there was no way of knowing that Gaston wouldn’t be coming back. And she certainly couldn’t tell these impressionable youngsters that an adventurer had embarked on a courageous quest, only to be vanquished before he reached the end. Plus, she knew in her heart that she would always believe that Gaston had reached the Red and that he was simply so happy and enthralled with what he had found there that he just forgot to send word to Remy and her. Sophie knew she had to keep hope alive.
Addressing the eager miniature mollusks, Sophie started by saying “Gaston is still on his journey. In fact, here’s a postcard that he sent not long ago!” The babies oohed and ahhed over the message from the Great Gaston. Another tiny snail exclaimed “Gaston said to eat something delicious! Let’s find some juicy plants and eat them in his honor!” With that, the group of babies headed out to the Green, which was not far away. They knew there were tasty weeds and even berries there, the kind that Gaston would like.
Sophie sighed with relief. They have the attention span of gnats but they’re cute, she thought. She, herself, headed to the small stream that separated the White from the Green, with the intention of finding something tasty for herself. As she climbed a tall plantain leaf, she spotted something hunkered down in the mud. Something small, but unusual. Sophie decided to get closer.
“He’s far away from here in the Green,” a voice said. “Gaston is alive and well, but he may be lost.” Sophie looked into the muddy bottom of the stream, and saw that it was a tiny turtle speaking to her. “I heard from my aunt that he was still making his way to the Red, but that he needs to find the Path to it.”
Sophie moved a bit closer. “How do you know about Gaston?” Perhaps Gaston had become a legend already…or a myth. The tiny turtle – Yves was his name – swiveled his head toward her. “My aunt met him on her way to the nesting pond, and he was well. She said he was the most determined snail she’d ever met.”
Sophie smiled, knowing the tiny turtle really was talking about the Gaston she knew. He was a brave soul, and he had his convictions. She wished she could tell him how to find the Red, what would be waiting for him there, and how to get back home to them, but she didn’t know how. Sadness rose as a lump in her throat – would she ever see him again?
“We’ve eaten some delicious plants for Gaston!” came the triumphant cry from the baby snails returning from the Green. “Now he must be successful in his quest!” The jubilance and naïveté of the youngsters brought a smile to Sophie’s face. If they had hope, she must also.
“Of course he’ll be successful,” she said. “You must keep wishing him the best fortune in his journey, and a safe return so he can tell us all about what he found.” The baby snails, growing sleepy, had quieted down. “Tell us about Gaston,” one asked. “We want to be brave snails like him one day.”
Sophie smiled again, knowing how pleased Gaston would be. “Of course,” she said. “It all started here in the White, when Gaston was born on that rock face. He was an unusual snail right from the start…” As the baby snails closed their eyes, they imagined the Great Gaston, once as small as they, dreaming his big dreams.