The Worm

When the ape arrives in the land and becomes a farmer, he pulls down trees and plucks out rocks to set up his homestead. Immediately, the Worm plagues him.

Armyworms plow through his turf, wire worms drill into his roots, and earworms bore into his grain. To defeat them, the farmer burns the fields and turns over the soil and plants an orchard.

The Worm graduates to the trees, plaguing them with bark borer and fruit maggot and codling moth. Incensed, the farmer exterminates them with sprays and concoctions, smothering eggs, paralyzing adults.

But the Worm is tireless. It occupies the farmer’s livestock, bloating their stomachs, riddling their brains, infecting their eyes. Undaunted, the farmer culls and slaughters and roasts until the Worm is routed.

Then the Worm infests the farmer’s children. It inhabits their intestines and resides in their blood. The outraged farmer invents potions that kill the Worm in place. After he purges his children, they inherit the world.

Finally, the farmer is down to one last Worm that dwells in a far corner of his pantry.

“Aha!” the farmer says, before throttling it. “What say you now, Worm?”

“It’s a wonder,” the Worm says, “your own pestilential nature never offends you.”

– Mike Bendzela

Mike Bendzela has published fiction in several North American periodicals and anthologies. He won a Pushcart Prize in 1992. He teaches at the University of Southern Maine and lives with his husband on a small orchard and farm.