His official name was SLUG: 997 Quadrillion Plus 746, but most who loved him — and that was eighty-eight percent of the living slug population this year — just called him Horace, a one-name hero. But before he became Horace the Valiant, Horace the Legendary, he was simply an extraordinary army major with a brilliant future. Utterly spectacular as a young slug, he still didn’t become a household word until he and his sluggish army surrounded and drained the blood out of Terence the Terrible, a gigantic slug-eating toad. The death of that warty executioner, experts estimated, saved as many as 10,000 slugs a year.
Skipping the rank of lieutenant colonel, Horace was immediately promoted to full-bird colonel. Basking in the triumphant euphoria of his new rank, the gallant Horace for the first time dared hope to win the love of the gorgeous Sabrina, the slug equivalent of Charlize Theron. He had watched Ms. Theron in The Cider House Rules one hundred twenty-eight times.
Barely a week later, Colonel Horace and his merry band of slugs accosted Nefertiti, the detested slug-devouring newt. They crawled all over this homicidal salamander, sliming her until she felt less like a newty Egyptian queen and more like a hawker hacked up from a coal miner’s lungs. When she couldn’t tolerate being herself, the sophisticated murderess bit off her left forepaw, then slowly bled to death.
Nefertiti had barely begun to molder in her grave when Horace was named major general. It was a small-enough reward because that evil hag had eaten more than 20,000 slugs in the last year. Could Sabrina resist a major general? Horace certainly hoped not.
Not one to depend on past triumphs to tittle the libido of the grand Sabrina, Horace quickly confronted Sally the Shrew, a grouchy old bitch who ate more than 30,000 slugs before she had the extreme misfortune of meeting the heroic slug general. The ingenious major general acted alone this time, filling her nostrils and mouth with slime as she slept, then waited for her to wake up and get serious about dying. With the death of the bloodthirsty Sally, Horace became Supreme Commander of Slug Forces. He had proved himself so spectacularly successful in battle that the army promoted him past the point where he could ever again engage in combat. Ideally, though, he felt he should take down Hecuba Hen, but she ate only a few hundred slugs a year. Besides, the thought of confronting that horrible hen — or any chicken, for that matter — left him quaking like a craven. No one ever found out, and his record remained unblemished.
“Wait till Sabrina sees what I can do as an author,” Horace said to himself, then set about creating the greatest oeuvre in the history of slugdom. Off on a Fitzgeraldian trip, he quickly wrote The Great Slugby and Tender Is the Slug. Next he wrote The Slug Also Rises and For Whom the Slug Tolls. These were followed in rapid succession by Slime and Punishment, A Sluggish Tale of Two Cities, Slugs Lonigan, Finnegans Slug, Slug on a Hot Tin Roof, The Sound and the Slug, and the movie script for The Slug from the Black Lagoon.
“Ho, ho, ho, Sabrina,” he said. “Let’s just see you resist that.”
Still, Horace wanted to be sure. He wrote one more short piece — “A Slug’s Christmas in Wales” — then embarked on the massive historical tome, The Rise and Fall of the Sluggish Empire. Nobel Prizes followed, Pulitzer Prizes, and even an Oscar for his role in the classic remake of Citizen Slug. He held doctoral degrees in every subject from astronomy to zoology. Then, as if to enhance ice cream with brandy, he marshaled a towering assemblage of iambs to write Two Slugs from Verona, The Slug of Venice, Julius Slug, Slug and Juliet, King Slug, and the book and lyrics for the musical, Kiss Me Slug.
Finally, he learned a dozen languages while he was becoming the greatest slug ever to play tenor sax. Running down a golden saxophone at about a million notes per minute was gargantuan for a slug with no fingers. His fame reached such pinnacles that no one disputed that Horace was the greatest slug the world had ever known — or would ever know.
Thus it was that he approached the glamorous Sabrina in a royal carriage drawn by sixteen caterpillars. Slug nobles bowed down before him as he approached his feminine prize on Christmas Eve. Although he could not kneel because he had no knees, he stood before her and bowed gracefully. “Sabrina the magnificent,” he said, voice quaking for the first time in his life. “Will you marry me and be my slug?”
Sabrina looked infinitely sad, understanding the gravity of the situation and knowing that whatever she said on this day could never be unsaid. Finally, though, she answered. “Are you nuts, Horace? You are indeed the wisest, boldest, most handsome slug ever to crawl. But damn it, you’re still a slug. That’s all you are, all you can be. I’m sorry, sweet Horace, but I can’t spend my life married to a slug.”
Sobbing, Horace admitted that he had gone as far as a slug can go. That night the greatest hero of slugdom ate a small pillar of salt, melting immediately into a puddle of sticky goo on the sidewalk, a wet spot on the concrete mutely proclaiming that life is indeed slimy and that it’s bad luck to be born a slug.
DAN SEITERS was publicity manager for Southern Illinois University Press for more than two decades. He wrote jacket copy for about 1,500 books. His novel is The Dastardly Dashing of Wee Expectations. His nonfiction book is Image Patterns in the Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Among his short stories are: “The Killer, Trained and Devastating” in The Viet Nam Generation Anthology, “The Untimely Demise of the Other Frank Sinatra” in the anthology, When Last on the Mountain, and “Bones and Blue Ribbons” in Front Range: A Review of Literature and Art.