Worm Unit

by Karyn Walmark from Mississauga, ON

In grade two, my beloved teacher Mrs. Hossack taught the class a worm unit. We read How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. We wrote a story on a construction-paper worm that coiled round the classroom and out into the lobby. We made worms out of clay. My creation, a Cyndi Lauper worm with a red beehive and red lipstick, still sits on my father’s desk.

One of our final tasks was to keep worms as pets in the classroom. Finding the worm to bring into class was delegated to my father, as I was too squeamish to dig for it myself. And so, on Sunday night, there was my father, hunting through the grass in our side yard, flashlight in hand, worm-hunting.

I have no doubt he did his share of grumbling while he was out in the dark, getting mud under his fingernails and a crick in his neck, all in the name of primary education.  

He was probably remembering the many other times he’d “volunteered” his services—adopting the classroom gerbils during the previous summer, for example, and playing the Sultan (wearing his housecoat and a towel turban) during our dance studio’s production of Aladdin. He might have been thinking how thankless a job being a father is and hoping I’d appreciate him more when I was older. Most of all, he would have wanted to get back inside where it was warm and dry so he could put his feet up and watch some TV with my mother before bed.

He was probably thinking all of these things when the police cruiser rolled by.  

The officer slowed down when he saw the suspicious-looking flashlight moving in the dark. He turned on the strobe light, made a u-turn and pulled up alongside my father, who felt a brief moment of panic. All of a sudden he realized what he looked like, skulking around on someone’s property in the middle of the night. Painted in the cruiser’s red and blue lights, he felt like a criminal.

The officer stepped out of the car and strolled around it towards my father, who was desperately trying to figure out the simplest way to explain the situation without embarrassing himself. But before he could say anything, the officer spoke.

“Looking for worms?”

Apparently there were three other fathers in the neighbourhood also out worm-hunting that night.  

I hope their children are as grateful for their dads as I am for mine.