Rubellus, Castaneus & Terrestris – A Short Odyssey

Three brown worms, soaked and bloated, writhed half-dead on the sleet-covered sidewalk. What would become of those worms? What chance, frankly, did they have?

Are there daring stories of worm survival? Homeric tales of chaotic spring floods and tortuous hours squirming on concrete deserts, searching for the way home to roots and dark earth and subterranean safety?

On this frigid spring day, as I hunched and grimaced toward my weekly tennis match, I thought, probably not. “These three worms are dead meat,” I thought.

The deaths of worms seem gruesome at first; smeared by sneakers, bisected by beaks, or simply drowned in pathetic puddles mere fractions of a centimeter deep. And then, when the weather passes and everyone is out enjoying the first warm hours of spring, baked by the sun into brittle mummification.

But our deaths are gruesome, too. And prolonged, usually, by modern medicine. And indoors, most likely, away from the light and the fresh air, however brisk this late in April.

Are there daring stories of human survival? Homeric or otherwise? Surely.

Every human story is one of daring survival, from first breath to last. Though our puddles are deeper and we are less prone to smearing.

Perhaps I underestimated them. Those worms. Maybe one would bravely bear hours of freezing drizzle while I slapped and scampered at tennis balls (for naught: I lost) and live to see the clouds break. Maybe a dozen sidewalk-goers’ random walks would miraculously eschew her. And then, spongy and addled (though brainless), she would blindly vermiculate in the lucky direction of the grass, not the street.

There she would rest a moment, marveling, tasting once more her native soil, before taking renewed strength in thoughts of loved ones, and burrowing down into the dirt.

Except I didn’t. Underestimate them. Because I came out of my match two hours later, sweaty and defeated, and saw the three of them right where I left them. Super dead. Seriously.

I took the loss better than usual, as you might imagine, since I was in a mental state of picturing deaths worse than my own. Any defeat is quite bearable, actually, compared to those sad, drowned, frozen worms.

Somehow just the possibility of their heroism – though not realized that day, still entirely plausible – buoyed me. Maybe it was the sunshine, but I got back in my car thinking not of my seven double-faults, but of resilience and determination and stoic bravery. And of loved ones

All those things and more standing between me and my own native soil, which I, too, will someday taste.

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