Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Herman the Vermin vs. Swine Flu

Today, the Sanchez kids brought a worm to Luis’s tutoring session. Miss Amber, the three siblings cried in unison, we found you a present. Apparently Luis and Javier were digging with sticks in the dirt just minutes before arriving at the Main Library.

Oh, I said and peered down at cloudy plastic gum ball container that contained the worm. It was not a one-shoed chappeaued Lowly worm. Nor was it a thick brown earth worm like the kind I had kept for a pet in a Tupperware as a kid, the kind which promptly got cooked when I left it out on the back stoop in the Florida sun. No, this was a short, thin, yellowish-white thing with a hooked black tail. Apparently the children had brought me a giant parasite from the Tenderloin playground.

You have to name him, they informed me. I failed at creativity as I was searching for other words. Herman, I offered weakly. Than I added Herman the Wormin' and this served to amuse them enough.

Then, they added solemnly, we want you to give him his freedom. You can let him go or keep him at your house in vase with dirt.

I had to be thrilled. Herman was not just a gift, it was an honor.

As it turned out, the unit for today was measurements.So I let Luis take half-dead Herman out of his gumball case to be held against the tape measure I had brought in. It was too late, I figured. Luis and his siblings had touched that thing a dozen times before they brought it to me and Luis had touched me a dozen times in the two hours we spent estimating length with paper clips and crayons. (Because length is width turned sideways, centimeters and inches are meaningless for some 8 year olds the way half hours and hours used to make sense to me in only terms of a Scooby Doo or a Scooby Doo and a Flintstones episode.)

I did let the worm go after the kids left. In front of the pee sodden library benches where there is some tattered grass. At the last minute, I kind of lost it, closed my eyes and flung the hook-tail thing away from me and almost threw his plastic coffin (he may have been dead by then, though he had been writhing when they brought him in) on to the grass as well. i am only proud to say that under such circumstances, i still refrained from littering and instead carried the contaminated gumball case to the trash. And yes, I did advise the kids to wash up after, but who knows what they found on the way home.

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