In those gruesome, dark moments of wakefulness in the middle of the night when you start to have visions of mass destruction and racial suicide, what sort of pictures flash through your mind?
Horribly and excessively be-medaled generals inspecting their nuclear arsenals??
Vast herds of lemmings thundering over the sub-artic plains in wild abandon??
Letting-out time at your local school??
Well I was just like you until the other day, but now my eyes have been opened.
The other day I was going for my morning run (This, I should note in passing, is the only really American thing that I do---No true Englishman would jog and no self-respecting Englishman would admit to it even if he did---so there).
Anyway it was early in the morning and a quiet rain had been falling, but had now stopped and the world (or at least my part of it) was drying out. I felt, and I feel I must be honest in this, well almost happy---at least for me.
At least I felt happy till I looked down to see how my feet were getting on. There, about my feet (shades of lemmings and generals and third graders!), were a host of vermicidally inclined worms. Dozens of them were lying on the hard, and now just about dry, concrete path; for all the world like PBS listeners who had switched off during a membership drive. I recoiled, which is not a bad feat if, unlike the worms, you weren't coiled to begin with, and was driven for the first time to contemplate these long, lowly, vital beings.
Heretofore I had always thought them far too down-to-earth to so prodigally throw off their mortal coils all together like this. And a sudden realisation hit me in that vicious way that sudden realisations have of going around indulging in random violence, a sudden realisation, I say, hit me that perhaps the worms were driven to choose an untimely end by us.
Consider this---When was the last time you said something nice to a worm? I know I haven't, not for ages. In fact the most pleasant and understanding thing I can ever remember having been said to a worm was "Bad luck old chap" by Raymond Gillings, a chum of mine at school back in England, as he scraped one off his boot. People just aren't kind to worms.
Think too of the press they've had, down the years. Never anything happy or jolly, or up-beat, its all been about corruption and death. No wonder the balance of their minds has become so disturbed.
Think of it: from the Bible, where we have Job in one of his less jolly moments Jeremiah-ing "I have said to corruption, thou art my father: to the worm thou art my mother and my sister"; through Sir Andrew Marvell hinting to his coy mistress that if she doesn't join him in some nooky soon "Then worms shall try that long preserved virginity"; Shakespeare's "Let's talk of graves, of worms; and epitaphs" to e. e. cummings suggesting that his terribly unsuccessful agricultural Uncle Sol "went down and started a worm farm" by way of dying, the story on worms has been the same. After a few thousand years of put-downs and insults and nasty comments on their dietary regimen and all that constant harping on death, you can hardly blame them for being a bit suicidal.
So what are we going to do about it? I think it's about time we left them alone for a while, to sort themselves out. So no more calling people worms in insult or sticking them on hooks to torture fish (the worms I mean - people who get stuck on fish-hooks probably have only themselves to blame) and finally, and most importantly, tell the worms of your change of heart.
Jump out of bed, or the shower or your car right now; run to the nearest piece of open ground, bend over, stick your head right down near the earth and shout to the worms "Cheerio for now!!".
And so. . .
Cheerio for now to you,