“A centipede?”
“Yep! But it was like, one of those smaller ones, not a real centipede.”
He made kind of a pursed lip motion as if he was trying to understand but also waiting for me to move on.
“Well it tasted like dirt and I was disappointed. It was the last time I ate bugs, definitely. It was not the last time I hurt them”
Sometimes I fed worms to Mike but what I preferred was to cut them up in pieces on the picnic table outside. In my house, it was easy to get away with things. You see, I made good grades, straight As and because of that I usually ran amok quietly and privately the rest of the time. A well studied, polite young girl can go on undetected in her duplicity. I was raised in the south, not sure if I said that,
“You do have a bit of a drawl.’
He cut in.
“Ah yes, some can detect, others cannot.
Well, yes I was raised in the south and I always said “thank you” and “please,” and as I grew, “excuse me” and “so sorry to intrude.” Politeness is a way to glide through the world. Something I still cherish. But I was curious about the micro world spending hours watching nature and animal documentaries by myself or with my mother. I read lot of nature books, specifically fascinated with dinosaurs. i enjoyed watching the seasons and learning how to predict weather trends, catching on early when monsoon season was, when hurricane season started and the difference in two. My favorite subject was Math and Science. I was a boyish girl. I was nine years old.
I cut the worms up with scissors or whatever I found, I am sure. Generally unsupervised, no fear of reproach in my actions. My brother mostly minded his business and also taught me how to spray paint my name into the garage so not the best influence either. I don’t think we even got in trouble for it. My dad was more concerned with wasting paint but I shook the can above them anyway.
“I’m gonna paint you silver and your friend gold,” I told the two helpless worms on the table.
I wanted to see how long it would take them to die or if they could exist like a metallic zebra underground. Memory is fuzzy but I recall an increase in movement and then a flatness taking over them. I felt guilty.
“I didn’t think you would actually die or I would have never played Sparkle Shine with you,” I buried them with a forlorn, detached reverence.
I know it was detached because I continued to cut them up for a while, longer that day, maybe another year.
“If you cut at it’s heart, it will survive.’
“I think that’s wrong, Ava, you have to cut it clean in half.”
“Ummm,” and I pointed to myself, “I do this all the time. You cut them and they wriggle and then you wish them luck and throw them in the ground.”
“It sounds you like killed them.”
I gasped.
“Are you joking? I make them stronger. Now they are many.”
I was at school in the lunch line with my best school friend, Leah, not Leana, Leah. They have similar names. The truth was, a lot of them died for my enjoyment but I didn’t want them to. I was pretty typical: salted a few slugs, stepped on a few beetles, chopped up a few worms and fed crickets to my turtle, but I was no sadist. Curious. I loved bugs. You could not convince me I was not in tune with them. They always found me.
Because of my creepy tendencies and proclivity for dirt, my girl friends weren’t always around for my escapades. Nine years old is the time in life when you’re understanding that you’re going to be an adult one day but it’s so far away that it bares no consequence to you. What you did at nine was inconsequential to who you were going to become. We were all a bit supercilious, me being the worst, and unafraid of walking the block, going into the ditch that separated our neighborhood from the “bad neighborhood.”
“There were projects, a church, it was a black neighborhood.”
He didn’t say anything.
“I don’t think this now. I am speaking from my nine year old to paint the picture of how I got here.”
“I am listening to you, Ava.”
And I felt that.

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