The Worm

by Jessica Reese

“Damn you!” Damned thorns. I sucked the blood from the
knick in my finger and wiped an ounce of sweat from my
brow. This year I’d finally decided to cut down the rose

Winter had lasted longer than usual this year, so when we
had one full week of sun and temperatures above 50 degrees,
I bolted to the Garden Center like a mad woman.

I bought tomato, cucumber, herbs, green bean, melon,
garlic, and radish plants. Soil. I didn’t need compost this
year. I had faithfully cultivated my own with the past two
year’s fruit and vegetable scraps and fall leaves.

“Looking good Eliza.”
“Thank You Mr. Brooks.” I barely looked up at him, but I could feel his stupid little grin with that one shiny gold tooth.
“Got yourself some tomatoes this year, huh?”
“I plant tomatoes every year Mr. Brooks. Every year right next to the cucumbers, behind the basil, exactly a foot away from the melons.”
“Right. Well, I’m look forward to em’ this year Ms. Eliza.” “Mmm Hmmm.” I forced a fake smile, being sure to not make any eye contact. There was an awkward silence.
“Well, if you ever need a break, Ms. Eliza, you know where to find me.” He pointed across the street. I peeked up beyond my hat and was nearly blinded by that damned gold tooth reflecting the welcoming sun. I frowned. He winked, tipped his hat, and whistled away. There was no way in hell that I wanted a break with that man.

The soil was tough to break through. I bent the handle of
the first trowel. I worked a little more of the soil,
turning it and turning it, readying it for the plants. East
Memphis. Some hated the driving, others the crime, I hated
the soil.

I worked for another hour when a slither of hope sprung. A
solitary worm wiggled through the thick clay soil like a
pot of gold. Any gardener worth his weight in compost knows
the irrefutable value of the worm. Few things made me
smile, but that damned worm made my day. Before I knew it, there were five, then ten. Twenty. Twenty worms. I beamed
and gave myself a little happy chuckle.  I looked across
the street to nothing in particular when, suddenly, my
beaming smile went south. I turned the corners of my mouth
awkwardly and waved a depressed wave at Mr. Tooth. He had
put a bag of worms in my garden.

I scowled and stabbed the soil with the trowel as if it were my enemy. As if him and I were in a bad, bad relationship. Freaking soil. Stupid, hard clay soil.

Nature must hate its creatures being cursed because a moment later, a thick, white substance landed on my shoulder. Bird shit. I twitched my body, let out a faint scream, and started going at the soil again. Clay flung up, weeds scattered, and the worms danced around my feet like The Rockettes. Damned worms. Stupid gold tooth. Without a thought, my trowel came down on one of them. Tiny worm blood gushed, staining my trowel and my pants. I couldn’t stop myself. I bashed, gutted, and smashed the worms until they were no more.

I was perched over my mess of worm parts and weeds, huffing and puffing. I closed my eyes trying to remember how I’d gotten here. I was a wreck. I let myself lie down in my mess, pushed my plants to the side, and spread out like a toddler. The sun was going down, and I’d accomplished nothing. I looked around my yard. It was blanketed in weeds and uncut grass. I’d accomplished nothing. Nothing. In two whole years.

I told myself this year’d be different, that I’d break
through the soil and finally get over John. It had been two
years since he’d died, and every year since, I’d try to
plant our garden. Tomatoes. Right next to the cucumbers,
behind the basil, exactly a foot away from the melons.

I lifted myself out of the soil and peeled off a plastic bag that had gotten stuck to the side of my pants. The bag read, Garden Worms with a small note attached reading, “This is the year.” I began to cry. The tears slowly breaking through my pain like those worms did the soil. I looked across the street at Mr. Tooth. He tipped his hat, winked, and I did the same.

Posted on May 13, 2015 .