Now, I never claimed I could make a million bucks or anything sellin’ worms, but the truth is, I do pretty good at it. It’s not quite here yet, but I’m gearin’ up for worm season. It’s right around this time of year, when the snow is meltin’ and the ground is all softenin’ up and there’s no frost overnight anymore (or at least not very often), that you start to see the wriggly little friggers poppin’ their heads out of the dirt and you can pluck ‘em up and plop them into the tobacco cans I got duct-taped to my gumboots.
This early on, I’ll just stick to the backyard, eh. I get up early in the morning, especially if the ground is a bit smooshy after it rains the night before or somethin’, and I just walk around, spottin’ one here or there and pluckin’ ‘em up. After I see they’re goin’ pretty good in the backyard, I’ll drive down to the ballfield or somewheres like that, where there’s a big open field or somethin’, and I’ll just walk around until my worm-can gumboots are full to the top. Take ‘em home and put them in little Styrofoam containers with a little dirt in there, and they’ll keep like that until they’re sold.
People are always talkin’ about how tough it is to go into business for yourself or whatever, but all I did was, after I started sellin’ a dozen here and there to Timmy and Tommy and a couple of the boys from down the club, I realized there might be somethin’ to it, so after I plucked a bunch, I took a flap of cardboard off a box Minnie had some old shoes in, and I wrote “Worms $1 / doz.” and nailed it to the pole at the end of the driveway.
I remember the Saturday morning I did that, I had about probably 20 little Styrofoam dishes of worms in a box out by the back step, and by 11 in the morning, they were all sold. I guess a lot of guys were goin’ fishin, lookin’ for cheap worms, and here I come along, new guy on the block, with the best price anybody can find.
That’s what made me realize bein’ in business for yourself is pretty easy. You just go pluck stuff from the dirt for a couple of hours, put up a sign at the end of your driveway, and the money starts rollin’ in in no time.
Anyways, it turns out the worm-sellin’ business here in town as about as territorial as the mafia.
This black truck rolls in one day and honks its horn. That should have told me somethin’ right there, because most guys will get out and knock on the back door to ask about the worms. But this fella made me come to him.
I stick my feet in my work boots with the laces undone and go outside. There’s this fella in the truck, about my age, with his hair slicked back and one front tooth missin’.
You got any wormsth? he says, with a bit of a lisp and then sticks his tongue sideways into the space between his teeth.
I eyeballed him and he eyeballed me. As I got close enough. I took one look at the big, fiery, white horse painted on the hood of his truck and I knew.
This was Bull the Worm King.
(At least, that’s what everybody calls him. I think his name is actually Jimmy MacDonald, or MacKinnon or somethin’.)
He was scopin’ out the competition, and that competition was me.
Way back when I started sellin’ worms, Timmy and Tommy told me about this mysterious figure of the Cape Breton worm trade. They said he only hunted for worms at night and that he wore great big cowboy boots with reinforced metal braces strong enough to hold five-gallon buckets of worms. Some said ten-gallon buckets. I used to laugh at them because I didn’t think the guy really existed, but they told me, if I was going to try to sell worms, especially at cheaper prices than he did, then Bull the Worm King was going to find me.
And that morning, he finally did.
I asked him how many he wanted and he said three dozen. I got them out of the box by the back step and passed them to him through the window, and he handed me three dollars in return and then backed out the driveway without sayin’ anything.
I went out worm huntin’ that night and I had 30 dozen worms all done up in containers in the box by the back door. They’re practically jumpin’ into the buckets tonight, I told Minnie when I came in, and she told me to frig off and wash my hands.
The next morning, I learned a valuable lesson – when you mess with the Bull, you get the horn. Somebody took all 30 containers and – this is the weird part – they just spilled them out on the grass and let the worms go free. There were great big cowboy boot prints all over the soft grass in the yard and there was no doubt in my mind that Bull the Worm King was sending me a message.
Little does he know that this year, I’m going to be ready for him.