Big Billy – As the worm turns


You’ll probably wanna give me a boot in the arse for sayin’ this, but thank cripes for all the rain we got lately. I know, I know – everybody’s all up in arms because the calendar said it was June but the whole month it rained like it was April. And the thunder and lightning was mental! Did we have a hurricane warning somewheres in there? Us? Really?

Anyways, I know yis are sittin’ there with your towels over your shoulder waitin’ to go Big BIllyto the beach, and your ball gloves are probably collectin’ cobwebs from all the games that got cancelled, and poor teenage girls are only half as orange as they usually are by now, but for a fella like me who sells worms and nightcrawlers you couldn’t ask for better weather.

Some of yis might remember last year I told yis about Bull the Worm King. He was this mysterious fella that I wasn’t really sure existed until he pulled into the yard one morning last year in his big, shiny black truck with the flamin’ white horse on the hood. Turned out he did exist, and he pretty much owned the whole worm industry in Cape Breton. If you ever bought a worm, chances are Jimmy “Bull” MacDonald, the Worm King, got a few coins in his pocket for it.

Anyways, if yis remember, he bought three dozen worms from me and then came back that night and wrecked about 30 dozen worms I had all done up in styrofoam containers on the back step. He was sendin’ me a message that I was cuttin’ in on his territory, because I sold my worms for $1 a dozen, which was half what he’d sell them to people.

It was a few months ago the first few fellas pulled in the driveway and came knockin’, lookin’ for worms, and I thought nothin’ of it. I only started sellin’ any worms at all a few weeks ago, but I got way more guys lookin’ for them. I’d pick about as much as I did last year, but after they sold out each day, there’d be more guys stoppin’ in. So each night I’d try to pick some more. I couldn’t make sense of it.

So one mornin’ I was down at Horton’s with the usual bunch and I started tellin’ them about how all these fellas were stoppin’ in.

Ahhh, Tommy said. That’s because Jimmy the Bull’s gonna be workin’ out west all summer. They got nobody to buy their worms from.

Now, Tommy’s the best fisherman out of all of us, and he’s right serious about it. He does a lot of fly fishin’, so he don’t use worms too much himself, but if there’s anything to know about fishin’, Tommy knows it.

Yeah, he said. There’s gonna be an awful lot of fellas that’ll have to go somewhere else to find their worms.

And holy cripes, it was like a lightbulb went on in my head. All at once, I had the idea that I could make a fortune sellin’ worms this year and in my head I could see the contraption I’d rig up.

I went home, took what was left of two rolls of duct tape from the junk drawer in the kitchen and headed out the baby barn.

Whatchya up to? says my googly-eyed tool of a neighbour, Dave, yellin’ from his back step.

None of your GD business, Dave, I said to him (only I didn’t say GD, I came right out with it).

Anyways, I dug out an old pair of hip-waders, found what was left of two rolls of duct tape, and emptied these two big, white plastic buckets I was keepin’ junk in. You know the kind of buckets – you get them at the grocery store and they got “pork riblets” or “salted cod parts” or somethin’ written on the side. (How come nobody I know has ever actually eaten any of the stuff that comes in these buckets, but every house in town got a couple of these buckets just layin’ around? Maybe people throw away the riblets or the fish heads just so they can use the buckets.)

Anyway, I put the hip-waders on, taped the two big buckets to each leg and walked around the yard for a test spin.

Some costume ya got there! yells Dave again. I kinda forgot he was out there, or I wouldn’t have went ploddin’ around the yard like that.

I’d tell ya what I yelled back to him, but that would have to involve a lot more letters, and I think you’d be able to guess what most of them mean anyway.

Now, the best time to go huntin’ worms is when it rains all day and then it clears up by the time it gets dark. So I waited until that night and I got the flashlight from the junk drawer and went out to start pullin’ the wriggly little friggers from the dirt and turnin’ them into money.

I could hear Dave was outside again, but this time I just ignored him and kept my nose to the grindstone. I was out there for a good three or four hours, but I had both buckets damn near full of worms.

The next morning, I got a flap of cardboard, and was about to write the price as a dollar a dozen, same as last year. But then I remembered. These fellas are used to payin’ more from Jimmy the Bull. So instead I wrote they were $2 a dozen and went out and nailed it to the pole at the end of the driveway.

That’s when I noticed three cars parked in front of Dave’s place and another one in the driveway.

What’s this? I says. And that’s when I seen the sign at the end of Dave’s driveway – “Worms, $1/dozen.”

You realize, this means war.

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