Consider the mouth, which Touch Pool visitors almost never get to see:


the donut hole where the radula dwells, on the sole of Gumboot Chiton’s

long, muscular, snail-like foot, up front where, in humans, the big toe would be.


Consider, too, the donut around it: golden and spongy, fissured, resembling


nothing so much as clotted cream, or maybe a brain, which this remarkable,

dark red, leathery, shoe-shaped mollusk does not have—and, therefore,


ruminates not on its own self-worth or whether its stunning beauty


serves any purpose. No feelers, either. No eyes, though it does have a sense of touch

and the drive to slink ceaselessly forward—slower than seaweed growing—plus


the amazing dexterity, given its bulk, to firmly glomp said foot onto even the roughest


walls of Pacific coast tidepools and rock-bounded bays, where, below the lowest

low-tide line, an otherworldly crazy quilt of oh-so-tasty algae—


lavender, red, pink, and golden, hard as the rock it clings to—must be scraped off,


if Gumboot’s ever to eat. Which brings us to the scraping tool itself—the radula—and

its rhythmic, hypnotic, two-part routine: out of the mouth, the thrust of a moist,


nail-less thumb, or bubblegum pushed by a tongue, before it fills with air.


And then the swift retraction. And in its place, a steady unfurling; and, like cookie dough

swirling around the beaters, a curling under of two, parallel, mini-strips of bacon:


two, long, bright orange scarves; two halves of a split tongue zipping together along


rows of razor-sharp, tiny black teeth—merging and furling in one seamless motion,

back into the cavern they came from. Over and over, this radula stops for nothing, not


even when Gumboot hangs in a backbend at water’s top edge, searching for footing,


just as this stunned observer is doing, under the spell cast by Gumboot’s

mindless determination, all conventional frames of reference scraped clean.