Raspberry delight

A pelting rain slated Mickey as he waited for the bus and watched the worm. Big droplets splashed and plopped against his raincoat, seeping into it, dampening his shirt underneath. Mickey shivered, folded his arms and bowed into the wind. He angrily wished there was a proper bus shelter to wait in. 

The worm, totally unperturbed by the downpour, continued to make its winding way along the pavement. Mickey’s nose wrinkled as his eyes followed the worm. He watched it methodically contract and spring forward, like a shiny pink coil. The rain slid off its skin, giving it an extra slimy look. 

His uncle Jake had told him once that you’re more likely to see a worm after it rains. The conversation had started because of all the worm corpses strewn over the footpath. It had been a hot summer’s day and they were on their way to the dairy to get an ice cream. It was the first break in the weather for a week and the sun had been a compensating furnace. 

Caught out by the unforgiving heat, the worms had baked, nice and crispy, into the concrete. They were a gross and pathetic sight, but to ten-year-old Mickey they had looked like long, thin strips of raspberry fruit roll up – his second favourite flavour after cherry. 

“Why do they come up out of the ground when they end up dead anyway?” Mickey had asked his uncle.

Uncle Jake had responded with his own question, “Would you rather drown in the dark or fall asleep forever in the sunshine?” 

Mickey thought about this, his brow furrowing in serious consideration, mulling over the two options like it was some kind of riddle. After a minute or so, he guessed he’d take the sunshine. His uncle had nodded and smiled knowingly. 

As they continued down the street, Mickey had started playing a game with the worm carcasses, sidestepping around them on tiptoes with a childhood rhyme playing in his head, ‘Step on a crack, marry a rat. Step on a worm, you‘re a germ!’ Mickey didn’t want to be a germ, no siree. 

Once or twice Mickey had looked up from the footpath and he saw the wobbly warmth rising off the ground in thick lines. Cicadas had clicked in loud, raucous conversation. When they finally got to the dairy, Mickey was hot and sweaty, but he hadn’t stepped on a single worm (or crack for that matter), no siree. Smiling toothily at the lady behind the counter, he asked for a double-scoop ice cream. The flavour: raspberry. 

Now Mickey watched the worm and wished the sun was out again. A strong breeze whipped down the street, spattering more scattergun rain against his already soaked jacket. The bus was late. The driver had overslept and wasn’t in any particular rush to make up for it. Mickey stamped his feet against the cold, trying to bring some warmth into his toes and wished for a second time that there was a bus shelter. 

His thoughts wandered back to worms baked on concrete. Even though he’d told his uncle he’d prefer to die in the sunshine, the idea of all the worms wriggling up from the ground to escape the water had given his ten-year-old self the creeps. Nightmares frequented his sleep anytime it had rained, with vivid images of a writhing wiggling mass erupting from under the front lawn. Pushing their way up through the soil, the worms’ pink fleshy heads would flop this way and that as they groped upwards through the grass. He imagined them wrapping around his ankles and pulling him down into the dark dank earth, like hundreds of cold undead fingers clawing over him on their way to the surface. Even though he was an adult now, and Mickey knew this wasn’t going to happen, he still preferred to see worms crusty and dried than wriggling and alive but as he continued to gaze at the worm, something strange started to happen.

While watching it inch its way forward, Mickey started to feel something odd bloom in his stomach. A slow warm feeling seemed to be growing there. He became utterly transfixed by the undulating march of the grub, watching it coil and spring forward, coil and spring forward. The odd warm feeling in his stomach grew into an ache, a hungry ache, and he was somewhat perplexed to find himself suddenly salivating. Mickey abruptly shook his head as if trying to shake his senses back to normal. What was going on? 

The worm was about to reach the gutter. A flush of water was running towards a nearby drain. If the worm reached it and fell in, it would surely be swept away by the current, along the temporary stream and down into the depths of the city’s storm water system. Its desperate fleeing attempt would be for nothing. Strangely, Mickey didn’t want that, no siree

A gust of wind blew past and the rain seemed to be falling in slow motion now. The hunger in Mickey’s stomach came alive, growling and clawing. It seemed to be urging Mickey to pounce on the worm. A strong scent of raspberries suddenly filled his nose. It wafted up, a mixture of sweet syrup with a tart tang that made him lick his lips. Mickey tried shaking his head again, to regain control of his senses but the beast in his stomach continued to swell. 

Looking up, Mickey saw the bus had just turned the corner. In a minute it would arrive and Mickey would have to step on board. The worm teetered on the gutter edge, a moment from falling off and disappearing. He couldn’t let it happen. The hungry beast propelled Mickey forward. In two quick steps he stood above the worm. Like a bird of prey, his hand swooped down from above and entrapped the grub between his fingers. He could feel its wet body writhe in his hand. 

Bringing his fist up to his face, he uncurled his fingers and observed the worm in his palm. With dilated pupils, Mickey admired the grooves along its fleshy body, its fat middle and pointed ends. A naked plump snake with no teeth. Leaning forward, he brought his nose up to his hand and inhaled that sweet scent of raspberries again. The hungry beast purred and drooled. 

With one swift motion, Mickey cocked his head back and cupped the worm into his mouth, as if he had just popped a pill. Instead of swallowing though, he let the creature wiggle on his tongue for a moment before crunching down with his teeth.

Juicy and ripe, the worm’s body burst, spilling its sweet raspberry blood into Mickey’s mouth. He closed his eyes, savouring the gush of flavour and then continued to chew. Each bite popped a new delicious berry for him to enjoy. 

A moment later, the bus arrived. The rain tinkered as it hit the metal car and its tires slapped on the wet road. As it pulled into the curb, Mickey wiped a snaking bit of worm juice from his chin. When the doors hissed open, Mickey smiled at the driver, flashing her a red stained grin. He then swallowed one last delightful bit of raspberry and stepped on board.


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