Fiction: Dear Worm

By Karen Walker

I sliced you with a steak knife then cut myself.  Found that Nelson and Mother and my brother Allen were wrong: we’re not made of dirt.
Thank you, Worm, for climbing out of the can onto my kitchen counter, for dying in front of the toaster. 
Your pink innards and my red blew my mind. The apartment spun. I went to work and slumped in the lunchroom until someone called an ambulance.
Nelson said I was heartless. He left a ring on my pillow, texted day and night to ask if I had found it and would accept.  But our mating done, I no longer wanted him. I put away the black silk sheets because my springtime urges were gone. Nelson called me dirty.
Then Mother and Allen called me bloodless — no love or loyalty inside — because I wouldn’t give them money.
At seventeen, I left home for this apartment in a basement. I grew up here, finally washing my toes in the cold stream dripping from a crack in the wall.
I didn’t bathe as a child. Mother would come home too late, too tired to check behind my ears, between my toes. She told Allen to make sure I cleaned. I locked the bathroom door.
I chewed my nails and ate dirt, and, when the toilet clogged, I pooped in dirt. Using the yellow bucket was awful so I snuck behind the garage. It was strange at first, but became easier thanks to the little wigglers I met by flashlight. I told them my troubles like I did with you.
Mother could have set me straight at five when, sitting on the back step, I asked if worms were made of dirt. Could have saved you and me. Instead, she let the screen door slam and had Allen answer me. Of course, they’re dirt, he said. They eat dirt. Later, when Mother had gone to work, he rubbed my face in my stupidity.

Karen Walker writes shorts in a low Canadian basement. Her work is in or forthcoming from FlashBack FictionThe Bear Creek GazetteEmerge Literary JournalBullshit LitBlank Spaces, Janus Literary, Atlantic Northeast Magazineminiskirt mag, and others.