When I was young, I loved bugs. I loved dirt simply because bugs living in them. I used to pick up the bricks that lined the garage to find worms half in the dirt and pull them out with my fingers. If I couldn’t get them out, I’d move on to the rolly polies; watch them curl up in my palm and then sometimes I’d leave them somewhere else. Sometimes I put them right back where I found them but sometimes I’d put them somewhere else and see if they can find their way back. I watched them like that, a teasing giant, careful not to step on them, careful not to squash them, just watch them.
The worms were a different story. After it rained, I went out and collected them in clumps. They were easier to find in mud and rain.
“I am saving them from being dried up when the sun comes back out.”
“No, you’re a weirdo who plays with bugs,” my brother said.
He sort of kept an eye on me as we rounded the block and also let me pick through the fallen pine needles for trinkets to pocket; stones, straws, rubber bands. I was very into picking things up and feeling them, twisting them, moving them and seeing what sensation came over my body as a result. But with worms it was different.
“You cannot control worms.”
“Eww Ava no one wants to.”
My friend Leana, nor any of my other friends, enjoyed this game or supported this habit. On muddy days, I played alone, my brother nearby often to watch me. I was little in stature and rarely aware of my surroundings. He also liked going out after the rain. On his bike, he would whizz by, circle the block a few times, try to scare me on my hunt for the “best” thing which could be anything really. But worms I loved. I knew they’d be underneath the bricks, but I also knew they were now scattered all over the neighborhood. I picked them up just to feel the way they slid and wriggled over my hand. I moved them from concrete to grass to watch them dive into the ground, unphased by the dirt. The dirt was slick now. Easy squirming in after the rain.
I loved watching them do that; come out of the ground go back into the grain.
“Amazing,” I said to no one.
No one shared this passion. The only time Alex, that’s my brother, enjoyed it is when I fed them to our alligator snapping turtle, Michaelangelo, my brother named him after the Ninja Turtles. I loved catching crickets in my palm and throwing them in the tank or bringing worms in, maybe a tiny centipede. Catching crickets was a feat and I was proud of my abilities.
“You gotta make them jump right towards you, Alex.”
“No, that’s gross, you do it. I’ll watch.”
I preferred being the best at everything anyway. I enjoyed being Queen of the Bugs. I enjoyed watch Mike eat them.
“I ate one once,” I looked up at him to make sure he was still listening.
I looked back down at the floor and smiled. How preposterous.
“Oh you sure love games.”
“Yuck,” I stuck my tongue. “It helps if you listen.’
“I am listening.”
“One more guess and you’re close.”
We held gaze. Good. I could see him relax into something on edge about the crafty strange to something more intrigued by her innocence and playful manner. I could see him visibly relax in the armchair as I pressed both palms to the floor, finding ground in the middle of the giant storm outside his doors.