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Bobbie Hayse

The Shit-eating Nightcrawlers

Jordan and I were sitting on my back stoop after we’d grilled some fish; enjoying the zenith and drinking some hard ciders, when she shifted her gaze to the grass after a while.

“There is a worm, or worms, moving around over there,” she said in the direction she’d been staring.    

I followed her eyes and confirmed that, yes, there did appear to be a slither kind of motion going on the tall grass to the left of us. I went inside to retrieve my flashlight and began my investigation, careful to avoid the piles of dog shit, which were plentiful.

Sure enough, in the gleam of my artificial light, brown and gray, translucent nightcrawlers retracted quickly; as if the earth were a big mouth slurping up their noodle bodies.

I squealed, and Jordan and our two dogs ran to me, thus scaring the rest of the worms. In an instant scurry they all burrowed back into the ground.

Upon closer inspection, we learned the worms were all feeding on the many piles of dog shit littering the back yard. We kept surprising groups of worms, four or five stretched long and thin, attached to a gray piece of turd.

Like a family at a buffet, they all feasting on pieces of shit.

After several minutes, I still had no success catching any with my flashlight and fingers. I wasn’t quick enough to grab the worms as they slid into the earth for safety.

“Try it without your flashlight,” Jordan chimed softly from the steps where she had been watching my attempts. “Just crouch and use your eyes.”

And so, crouching down, I clicked off my flashlight and just used my eyes.

It took a few moments, but soon, I could see their shiny emergence in the moon and street lamp light. The entire yard moved with their slithery glisten.

I sat for a long while watching them move.

Then I slowly reached out and gingerly picked up one near me.

It resisted, writhing in my palm, worried. I tried my best to ease its concern, and placed it inside of a flower pot on my porch where I had a resurrection chive plant I’d been growing for eight years.

The worm scaled the dirt, quickly feeling the perimeter. Once it reached the wall of the chive pot, its body bent upward, as it attempted to investigate the new environment.

“It’s not very happy,” Jordan said, taking another pull of her cider. She had refused to even hold the worm in her hand when I brought it to the porch.

“Yeah...I thought maybe I could keep it for fertilization,” I said. “The chives dig fresh and natural.” But even as I spoke the words, I felt guilty.

The worm moved to another wall in the chive pot, and waved its little body in the air to feel for an exit. This happened again and again, until the worm was back where it began.

“I feel guilty,” she said.

Reaching into the chive pot, she picked up the worm with her index finger and thumb, and walked down the steps to the backyard slowly, cupping her other hand under the dangling worm.

She then squatted and lay the worm near a pile of feces, stood up and faced me, smiling.

Back on the porch, we stood in silence and watched the worm try to find its way back to normalcy.

I took a swig of my cider; she took a swig of hers.

Bobbie Hayse mostly lives and writes in Glasgow, Kentucky and shares a home with a canine roommate named Mr. Frank. They enjoy serenading women with the poetry of Pablo Neruda, and the zenith from their back porch as they cook delicious fish.

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