People call me with all kinds of worm problems; I guess that’s just how it’s going to be from now on. Over the holidays my mother phoned from work to tell me that earthworms were crawling out of the flower beds in her office’s courtyard and slithering under the door, where they perished on the nubby grey carpet.
“My co-worker Colette keeps picking them up off the carpet and trying to revive them,” she said. “I hear her over there saying, ‘Oh, it broke in half. That’s OK, it’ll regrow. Oh, it broke into three pieces.’ I try to tell her these worms are dead, but she won’t listen.”
“Let me talk to Colette,” I said.
Colette got on the phone and explained the situation. It had been raining all day and the worms were rising out of the ground, massing on the sidewalk, and squeezing under the door. They only made it a couple feet inside the office before meeting certain death through desiccation.
“Ewwww,” I said. “Dead worms on the carpet.”
“I’m glad something still grosses you out,” Colette said. I guess I have a reputation for being immune to gross-out now that I’ve written a book on worms.
“Well, the real solution is to improve the soil in that courtyard and pile on the mulch, so the ground will drain better and they won’t leave in the first place,” I told her. “Failing that, you just need some way to keep them out of the office. Maybe a piece of weather stripping along the bottom of the door would work.”
“We can try that,” she said, “but we’re about to close for the holidays, and I’m worried about coming back after New Year’s and finding dead worms all over the carpet. How about sealing up the gap with some foil and maybe weighing it down with rocks?”
“Could work,” I told her. “Those worms can really flatten themselves if they’re determined to get under something. Try to make a tight seal.”
I can only hope she won’t return on Monday to a carpet covered in earthworm carnage. It’s not a sight for the faint of heart. But Colette seemed genuinely concerned about the plight of the worms, who are so unhappy with their living environment that they lost their lives in search of something better. Maybe that’s a lesson for the new year: sometimes, the next best thing is not just around the corner. Sometimes it’s right here at home, if you can only slog through the wind and the rain and hold out for spring.