waging war with
walked where worms
waited wounded, weak
In my younger years, I would refuse to use worms to bait my own fishing hook because of this same ridiculous fear. My mom used to send my sister and me into our garden and dig up some worms for our fishing trips. I would steel my heart, shielded with a gardening shovel and Osh Kosh B’Gosh denims and trample out to the garden to join Sarah. Sarah, dressed in only cotton shorts and a tee shirt, would pick them up by their tail (head?) and swing them around and fling them towards me. That may have been the start of my aversion, but maybe not. Then we would arrive at our fishing spot. We all would pull out our fishing poles. I, still in my overalls, would bring my 3-foot long Snoopy fishing pole, and look at my mom expectantly.
“Mom, I’m ready!” I said, batting my eyelashes.
“Katie, when are you going to learn to bait your own hook?” Mom replied, a little exasperated at trying to keep my sister from hooking herself with her fishing pole and me unable to touch worms.
Scrunching my nose, I would say, “Hopefully never. Worms are all wiggly and smelly and covered in dirt all the time.”
“Well, so are you, but I keep you around,” Mom chided, “For goodness sake, Sarah, you’re going to kill yourself. Sit down.”
“Hey,” I cautioned, realizing that she just called me smelly.
“Alright, Katie, this is the absolute last time. Next time, you’ll just have to watch us catching all the fish, sorry cuz you can’t bait your own hook.”
“Mommy, please? I’ll be a big girl next time. I’m just not ready yet. They’re gonna be sad that I stuck a knife through their tummies and then come back for me,” I looked around, scared that the worms might think I impaled them.
“But they’re not going to come after me? Why not?”
“You’re bigger than me. I am just a little bit bigger than them. I could be their snack. But you, no way. You’re so tall. They wouldn’t mess with you,” I explain, as if it was the most obvious answer.
Every fishing trip went a little something like that. My sister, fearless in her baiting of hooks, and me, timid irrationally scared. My parents baited my hook until the embarrassing age of 13. Then I learned how to use lures—one: they’re prettier, two: they’re not going to kill me, and three: way, way, way easier to attach to a fishing hook instead of winding a worm eighteen times around the hook. By the age of 15, I realized that fishing all together is not quite my recreational activity. Live bait creeps me out, and I have no interest in eating, touching or caring for fish.
Now that I am older and have stopped fishing, worms still bombard my life, and creep up in the oddest moments. On rainy days, during my college years, I would leave 20 minutes early for a class a block away, clad in my raincoat and pink plaid rain boots. Carefully, I tip toed through campus avoiding the beached worms searching for oxygen in the air as opposed to their flooded home of underground. I would dart from open patch to open patch to avoid stepping on the worms. Because campus was beautifully green, with a lot of open space, there were many worms seeking refuge, which made my journey perilous.
I think this may just stick with me, regardless of its fantastical nature and will never happen. I am not a superstitious person. I just like rules and patterns. If I change this constant in my life, how can I expect the rest of my life to stay together. It is as if this absurdity glues together my Crazy, or perhaps, it’s just the tip of it.