A Worm Named Fred

December 6, 2012
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There was a worm named Fred and it lay on the sidewalk. The sky was blue, and he had a perfect view of the clouds seeping across it in a pillowy train.
He was a worm, and should be used to it, but being on the ground irked him. He preferred to soar like an eagle, or have the adventures of a hero, climb mountains like an explorer, investigate crime scenes like a detective. As he had told his daughter Angela many a night in the past as she curled up to sleep in the warm crumbly sweet-smelling soil, he might have been a worm, but he was also a Montague and therefore quite unordinary.

"Papa, am I quite unordinary too?" The little worm would ask.

And Fred always assured her that yes, she was quite unordinary.

"You and I," he would say, gazing dreamily at the stars through the cracks in the dirt covering his face, "We're magical. There isn't a creature on earth more magical then us."

"Why, Papa?"

"Because we have the gift." The tall wiry grass stalks shivered in the evening breeze that drifted far above their heads. Fred's wife thought he was crazy for sleeping aboveground, but Angela understood. Something about the stars awakened something in you, something melancholy yet hopeful, ancient and adventurous.

"We have the gift of language." Fred would pause. Then he would say, "We can weave magic from the tangled thread of our souls. We can create hope where there is none, we can see the beauty of life and recreate it."

"So we're storytellers."

"Exactly, my dear worm child. You and I are storytellers."

And then Fred would tell Angela her nightly tale. Sometimes it was about child who was lost and lonely. Magical creatures hunted and revered, a bird seeing sensational views, views that were so ordinary to itself yet only a dream for the two worms. Sometimes the story had ogres. Or maybe snowy mountaintops, brilliant leaves, friendship and sorrow, the murmuring of a forest, the cackle of a squirrel.

So Fred the Storyteller lived a very rich life indeed. But then one day it rained, and he had straggled, gasping for oxygen, out of the muddy ground and hauled himself to the sidewalk. It was the most dangerous place for a creature as tiny and delicate as he, and Fred knew it well. But what could he have done? He was drowning. As he lay there, the stars came out. Brilliant beams of light shooting down from the heavens, and a serene disk of bright tarnished white. It all shone down on him, and Fred got another taste of moonlight and starlight, received in the deep calm of night. Hours passed and then the sun came out and heated the sidewalk so he lay hot and woozy, longing for the coolness that had almost cost him his life. Then the people came, little girls who stepped gingerly over him. And then came a shoe that didn't bother. It crushed him, and the little worm named Fred Montague was gone. He had once been a storyteller who believed he spun magic, but now he was nothing at all.

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