Sep 28, 2005

Digging worms

A worm, the author says in a short sentence in a short story, was cut in half. That's all she says. Her character’s hearing things and crazy digging holes in the backyard and on the way digging down she cuts this worm in half, and that's all she says.

What? Wait, I say, she didn't notice? And she didn't, neither the author nor the character. She didn't notice the way both sides of a cut worm wiggle, the way the inside is gooey but doesn't bleed, the way you can't tell worm-up from worm-down but both sides nose back into the earth. She didn't notice the way worms look like little strung out accordions, bright pink with a few grains of dirt caught gritty on the shiny slime. The ways worms feel rubbery and not slimy, when you pick them up, and they don’t seem to have eyes or noses or mouths or ears.

Some people call them night crawlers, but only when they’re selling them for fish bait, and earthworms, when they’re for dissecting. But when they dig one up people just say worm - wurm, wurrm. - and never really "a" worm but always "the" worm. Like they were looking for it.

One day, when we were kids and it was raining, we became obsessed with worms. But we couldn't find any. We dug a hole in the backyard, a big wide hole with the rain wiggling down, making mud and a pool, although there were no worms. So we dug another until we had a series of muddy empty holes filling up with water. I wore the yellow raincoat and the mud boots that made me look like a hatless Mussolini. My brother wore the green coat with blue crocodiles. I dug and he dug and my sister dug and we never saw any worms, except the dead ones washing down the gutter.

We said if we found one, we should cut it in half so there’d be two.