The Worm by Julie Long

I couldn’t put the worm on. I prided myself on being a tomboy – I hated Barbies and baths, and loved climbing trees and playing with Tonka trucks – but something about sticking a hook through a wiggling worm gave me the heebie-jeebies. Dad had somehow understood, but how could I tell old Mr. Lyons, who never had any kids? I almost hadn’t gone fishing with him because of it, but Mom talked me into it. Then, the closer we got to the river, the more it worried me.It was nice of Mr. Lyons to take me fishing. Since my dad had died the fall before, it was just my mom and us four girls, and I knew we wouldn’t go fishing or camping or canoeing anymore. I missed my dad and had taken to hanging around Mr. Lyons’s yard as he worked on building his houseboat. I loved the smell of sawdust and stain – a scent that was fading from my dad’s unused workshop. I think Mr. Lyons liked my company, too. He’d be hammering a nail or planing wood with his eyes squinting in concentration until his dog Brownie would announce my arrival with a bark. When he’d look up and see it was me, he’d set his tools down and scratch his gray, scruffy chin and say he was glad I came by because he needed a break.Mr. Lyons had finished the houseboat in the spring, and he’d already taken it down to the river. He pulled the truck up next to the houseboat.”Well, how’s she look?””Real nice, Mr. Lyons.””We’ll just fish right off the front bow. It’s nice and shady there. The fish’ll be keeping cool and waiting for a worm to wiggle on by.”We got the fishing poles out of the bed of the Ford. Mine was just the bamboo pole I had dug out from the camping supplies in the basement. Dad had tried to teach me how to cast his rod and reel but I had tangled the line up something awful. Maybe now that I had turned eleven I’d have better luck.Mr. Lyons reached back in the truck bed for the tackle box, then reached in again and handed me the Styrofoam container of worms. I followed him down the bank and onto the boat, keeping an eye that the lid stayed on.Once on the bow, Mr. Lyons started getting everything set up. Any minute now I’d have to admit to him my aversion to worms. Then he’d probably never ask me to go fishing again. He handed me my pole, then set the container between us and fished out a worm for his pole. Then, just when I was ready to confess, Mr. Lyons confessed to me instead.”Always hate this part,” he mumbled as he held the worm in one hand and his hook in the other. “It’s silly, but stickin’ the poor little guy with a hook makes me feel, I dunno what you’d call it. . . .””Like you have the heebie-jeebies?” I offered hopefully.”That’s it exactly. The heebie-jeebies. You get ’em, too?””A little,” I admitted, relief washing over me.”Yeah. I guess sometimes we gotta go through the bad to get to the good. Want me to hook your worm for ya?”There it was. My way out. All I had to say was “yes” and I’d be off the hook and my worm would be on. But I felt bad making Mr. Lyons put the worm on if he hated it as much as me. So I reached into the cool dirt and picked up a fat worm between my fingers. I tried not to think about how slimy it felt as I quickly poked the hook through its middle and wiped my hand on my jeans.I had done it! It definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I had gotten through it. I looked up at Mr. Lyons. He gave me a wink. I grinned with pride and tossed my line in the water. The bad part was over.Today, of course, I realize my mom must have shared my problem with Mr. Lyons; I’m fairly certain he didn’t have a case of the heebie-jeebies at all. But I also know that he helped me grasp, on a child’s level, the principle of persevering through the bad to get to the good. My mom and sisters and I never did fish together again; the days of camping and canoeing died with my father. But we struggled through the grief and, when we got through the bad, we eventually found other good times to enjoy as a family. And I continued to fish with Mr. Lyons . . . And bait my own hook.

BUTTERFLY DUST by James “PoppyK” Kisner

Remembering when I was young so many years ago,About the things that kids will try because they want to know.Someone had told me way back then of something I should try,Then I could flap my arms and fly just like a butterfly.I didn’t know if it was true or if he fibbed to me,But I had to try because of curiosity.He told me if you caught a dozen butterflies or so,And gently rubbed them on your arms and legs and let them go.The dust that was upon their wings would start to make you light,And if you caught enough of them the dust would give you flight.So all day long out in a field I did what I was told,And thought of being Peter Pan when I was 5 years old.I caught the little butterflies and rubbed them on my skin,My arms and legs and everywhere, I even rubbed my chin.He had said a dozen but I strived for even more,I wanted more than I would need so I could really soar.Late that afternoon I felt that it was time to try,I now had all the powder of a giant butterfly.Excitement overwhelmed me as I climbed upon a fence,In my mind it had to work, it had made so much sense.So standing on the fence post with my arms outstretched and tight,Planning all my destinations on my maiden flight.Should I go see Mikey and land in his yard some place?Or should I just fly by my mom so I can watch her face?Maybe I should just take off and plan it in the air,Once I get the hang of it, I can go anywhere.Now the moment has arrived; I leap and look around,But suddenly I find myself just sitting on the ground.I must have done it wrong, I should have flapped my arms I know,Even butterflies must flap their wings to make them go.So on the fence post I would go and find the secret power,Trying everything I knew which took almost an hour.Finally sitting on the ground after my last try,I faced the grim reality that it was just a lie.Dusting myself off and sadly going on my way,I realized at that young age to watch what people say.Thinking back over the years the lessons I have learned,Thinking of that first time when my trusting heart was spurned.Realizing now as then some people can be cruel,Getting much enjoyment out of making you the fool.But such is life and as we age we learn from our mistakes,Sometimes trusting brings you joy but other times heartaches.But trust we do and trust we must to live in harmony,Realizing in this life that what will be will be.Life is never what we want or goes how we have planned,Sometimes life will throw you curves that we don’t understand.Sometimes in our happiness our life comes crashing down,And in our pain we feel as if we’re sprawled upon the groundOne day we feel as if we soar like eagles in their flight,When everything that life can bring seems beautiful and right.But in a moment life can change; the pendulum will swing,And painful heartache mixed with tears is what the day will bring.As life goes on you realize that everyday is new,And what you thought was in the future now comes into view.Life has a way of fleeing by before our very eyes,And suddenly we realize it caught us by surprise.So as you plan the future and whatever comes your way,Don’t forget to take the time to just enjoy today.Tomorrow is not promised it is just a future plan,Today the sun is shining so enjoy it while you can.Then as you do remember life will sometimes bring you pain,But always brings experience and wisdom we can gain.So as we travel through this life we live and love and trust,And smile and know that sometimes life can be like butterfly dust.

Buster

Sister Mary sat at her battered old desk holding the stack Of bills in her right hand and her imported wooden-bead Rosary in her left. She had been in these predicaments before and had always Managed get through them. Plus she knew worrying Would not make them go away. And as much of a believer as she was, she didn’t think she Could make the unpaid bills disappear with prayer alone. She knew it would take more, but at this point, she didn’t See any miracles on the horizon. The knock on her door was a welcome interruption and Sister Angelina entered carrying a small box and the daily Mail. “Sister Mary,” Sister Angelina began, “There is an old black Dog at the back gate and I do believe he is hungry. May I Take some of our leftovers to feed him in the backyard?” Sister Angelina loved all animals. She knew that they were God’s way of bringing comfort and companionship to people. She kept the bird feeders filled in the gardens and always Left out food for any stray animals that came by St. Patrick’s Hospice Center. The nuns at St. Patrick’s were a dedicated group serving The needs of people who were at the end of their lives. They carried on a tradition of dignity with peace for the Families and friends of the loved ones who were about to Leave this earth. Sister Mary replied, “Of course feed the dog! Would you Ever expect me to say no? Sister Angelina, did you see What is written on this box?” “Yes Sister, it says to be opened only after the death of MARTHA MARY MILLS.’ Mrs. Mills is one of our patients In the hospice ward. Perhaps you should ask her what Is in the box,” she said while walking out the door.Sister Angelina let the black dog into the kitchen. She Had placed the leftovers on a tray on the floor in front of The pantry where the elderly dog began gobbling up the Food. “Well, Buster (that was Sister Angelina’s generic name For all male dogs, two-legged and four-legged alike) looks Like you haven’t eaten in a week.” The black dog, a Lab-Terrier mix, looked up at her, Barked once, and then continued searching the tray for Any remnants of food. When he had licked all of the Plates clean, including the tray, Buster sat on his Haunches and looked up at the nun. His graying muzzle Gave him a dignified air. “Buster, do you want to follow me today on my rounds?” The sister knew that most legitimate therapy dogs have To pass a course, be up-to-date on their shots, and be Bathed. But she also knew that most of the patients at St. Patrick’s did not have a lot of time left and petting An animal was a great source of comfort and solace. She Would take care of the bath and other things tomorrow. So she invited the dog to follow her and he did. After visiting some of the other residents they arrived At Mr. Franklin Thomas’ room. Buster immediately Stood and put his front paws on the side of the bed, Turned toward Sister Angelina and barked. “You want up with Mr. Thomas?” she asked. Buster Barked again. The nun picked up the small dog and placed Him next to Mr. Thomas on the bed. Mr. Thomas stirred. “You have a visitor, Mr. Thomas. Someone who would Like a little petting,” the sister said to the still man. Sister Angelina did not know if Mr. Thomas could hear Her but she never let an opportunity to speak with the Patients go by. Sometimes she felt compelled to shout But she always wanted them to know that there was Always someone near. Instinctively the old man’s hand began to move seeking Out the small black dog and started to pet him. Sister Angelina was amazed. She left the room to seek out the Sister-on-duty. When she returned a few minutes later with Sister Bernadette all was still in the room. Buster had his Head on Mr. Thomas’s leg and he was whining softly Almost like a crying baby. Sister Bernadette checked Mr. Thomas’s vitals but there was no sign of life. He Had passed on sometime after Buster had gotten on the Bed. Sister Angelina picked Buster up from the bed and put Him on the floor. She looked at him and said, “Well I Guess you knew his time was coming, didn’t you?” Buster barked back at her. Sister did not think of it as A reply, but rather as an acknowledgment that she was Speaking to him.Sister Mary walked down the hall toward the infirmary. Mrs. Mills’s room was coming up on the left. She hesitated outside the door not knowing what she would say or would ask. She knew Mrs. Mills was cognizant of her surroundings at times but she was also going in and out of a coma at a regular rate. Finally she knocked softly and let herself into the room. Mrs. Mills was awake listening to the soft music serenading the room. “Mrs. Mills, I received a package today — from you. Can you tell me what is inside?” “It is something special for St. Patrick’s. Someday, Sister Mary, we’ll share a little secret, but for now let me get some rest.” That was the last thing she said before entering a coma.Sister Bernadette let Buster into the backyard for his nature call and waited by the door until he returned. Buster raced down the hall to Mrs. Mills’ room, sat, and barked to be let into the room. There again, he stood and placed his front paws on the side of the bed. Sister Bernadette picked him up and placed him next to Mrs. Mills on the bed. Buster lay quietly beside the comatose woman and never moved. Sister Bernadette checked on them both every 30 minutes. Buster would open his eyes but he would never raise his head. This went on all night long. At sunrise, when Sister Bernadette came into the room, Buster was whimpering again as he had in Mr. Thomas’ room. Mrs. Mills had passed on sometime between her visits to the room. Sister picked up Buster and placed him on the floor. She did not speak to the dog and the dog did not bark but followed her as they both left the room.In the hall, Sister Bernadette looked at Buster and said, “Let’s go see Sister Mary.” Buster’s nails clicked on the shiny linoleum floor as they walked the infirmary halls to Sister Mary’s office. The sister knocked softly and an immediate reply to enter was forthcoming. Sister Bernadette said, “I believe you can open that package now. Mrs. Mills has left us.” Sister Mary opened her bottom desk drawer and took out the small package and opened it. Two small pieces of paper fell out of the box and onto her desk. “For my fine care during my final moments, a gift for St. Patrick’s,” signed by Mrs. Martha Mary Mills. Sister Mary sat at her desk holding the gift from the lonely old woman. She had never seen so many zeros in one place — a cashier’s check made payable to the St. Patrick’s Hospice Center for $1,000,000. “Well, Sister, looks like this will put St. Patrick’s back in the black. And, Buster, I guess there’s an extra boneor two in this for you too!”~James Colasanti Jr~