A man reminisces about old times...
Kurt gently threaded the worm on the hook. It wasn’t a very cooperative worm—they never were—but it was still no match for his experienced fingers. He smiled as he watched it wiggle and squirm (is it screaming?), while at the same time wondering just how it would die. Would it slowly succumb to the piercing of the hook? No human being could survive that. Would it be eaten by the hungry catfish he was hoping to catch? Just part of the food chain, my friend. Or would it simply drown in the cold water of the lake? Hell, he didn’t even know if a worm could drown, but it was still something to ponder.
He cast the line out as far as he could and propped his pole up on a log. It was a warm summer night, the stars were out in full, and there wasn’t another living soul out here to bother him. After sitting down and lighting a cigarette, Kurt thought about the times his grandfather brought him here when he was just a kid. There were a lot of things Poppa had taught him, but what he enjoyed most was how the old man had taught him to fish. And hunt. Those were the things a man needed to know in order to survive, Poppa said. He called them the basics of life, and even added a little proverb about giving a man a fish to eat and he’ll eat for a day, but if you taught him how to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime. Kurt almost felt closer to Poppa than his own father, who was always at the office in his suit and tie, pandering to those fools who lived in the concrete jungle. That’s why he cherished the summers he spent here in the country with Poppa, who detested city life. Kurt thought he was the one who coined that term, ‘concrete jungle’, (he’d never heard it before) and it didn’t take much for him to hate the city as much as Poppa did.
Back in those days, some fifty years ago, people caught their own worms. You couldn’t just go to the store and a buy a dozen night crawlers for two bucks. Who’d want to? Like Poppa said, part of the fun of fishing was catching the worms, too. He remembered going out into the yard just after dark with a flashlight and bucket, tiptoeing around in the wet grass after Poppa had watered it (“be quiet or they’ll hear you”) and hunting for the little underground dwellers (“don’t shine the light right on them or they’ll suck right back into their holes”). Yeah, you had to be sneaky. And you had to be quick. Sneaky and quick. Grab ‘em and pull ‘em out slowly (“but not too hard or you’ll break ‘em in half”).
Kurt was still reminiscing when his pole suddenly fell over, snapping him out of his reverie. He quickly rushed over and jerked it up, hoping to set the hook, but he was too late. The damn cat was quicker.
Damnit! Kurt thought. That was my last worm, too.
He sat down for a minute, wondering what to do. He hadn’t been out to this lake for years, and he wasn’t about to go home without something to show for it. He thought about what Poppa would do, and then he remembered something else the wise old man had told him. Catfish were primarily bottom feeders; they’d eat practically anything.
Kurt looked at the dead man on the shore, just twenty feet away. He’d asked him politely to leave, after all this was his lake, and he felt bad about having to shoot him, but the guy just wouldn’t leave. What else could he do?
Just then, another memory of those summers flashed into his mind. During the days when Poppa took his naps, Kurt would sneak into the shed and play with the worms in the ‘worm hold’, as Poppa called it. There was usually about two or three hundred worms living in the leaves and mulch, and Kurt couldn’t help himself from reaching into the box and taking out a handful. He loved the way they felt in his hands with their cool slimy bodies wiggling around in his fingers. He remembered holding them up to his face and savoring the dirty smell as it seeped into his nostrils.
Just him and those worms.
He was still looking at the man when an idea popped into his head. He grabbed his knife, walked over to the corpse, and knelt down beside it. He lifted the guy’s shirt up over his nipples and pulled his pants down; not something he wanted to see, but hey, a guy had to do what a guy had to do, right? Then he carefully stuck the knife into the guy’s navel and sliced up to the breast bone and down to his groin. He had to laugh a little at what he was doing. Just like cleaning a fish, he thought. Then he reached in with both hands and scooped out the guy’s intestines. They felt just like those worms, except these didn’t wiggle and squirm, and they were a lot warmer than those worms from his past. And they smelled better.
But at least they were slimy.
And they were a hell of a lot easier to put on the hook, too!
He threw the line out, sat back down, and reminisced some more about Poppa while he waited for his next bite.
Ah, yes. Good times, indeed.
Published in INFERNAL INK (OCTOBER, 2013)