The Adventures of Willy Worm

Once after reading some dozen children's stories for a class in college, I decided to try my hand. This is the result.

Life is a dangerous place and children as well as worms should take care as they take on the days, one after the other.

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A Bird's Eye View

         Now Willy Worm, who was rather long and thin most of the time and at least hopefully a bit slimy, had never been out of farmer Brown's pasture. He had never even been out under the lawn nor had he dared venture out across the driveway to the garden. Willy had never even seen the garden.
          One day Willy was wiggling along as he did quite often, when he bumped smack into his Uncle Wilber Worm. Now if worms could travel any faster they might have gotten hurt from their collision, but instead they looked like they just kind of oozed together for a moment and then backed away from each other.
          "Excuse me!” Willy said, as he pulled back and raised his head a bit "I should think so," replied Willy's Uncle. "You should really watch where you are going, there are many dangers out here in the big world, and if you don't pay attention all the time, you will certainly meet with misfortune.
          "I really am sorry Uncle Wilber," said Willy "but I was in a big hurry to get to the apple tree near the driveway."
          "Why were you going there so early in the morning?” Asked his Uncle, as he rubbed the side of his nose, where Willy had run into him.
          Willy took a deep breath and said, "I was hungry and I thought that rotten apples sounded very good for breakfast."
          "Apples uh," snorted Uncle Wilber, as he began to crawl in the direction of the driveway. Willy watched for a moment and then followed his Uncle. "If you like apples Willy you should try some carrots and potatoes sometime," his Uncle said finally.
          "Carrots," asked Willy, "and potatoes, what are they?”
          "You don't know what a carrot is uh, well, well Willy, you do have a lot to learn about this big world don't you?” Remarked Uncle Wilber.
          "I guess so Uncle, but I've just never heard of carrots or potatoes. What are they anyway?” Willy asked.
          "Carrots my boy," began his Uncle, "are one of the very finest foods that a worm could ever eat, and potatoes are even better. The only thing that is better than a potato is a big fat rotten tomato, and you can have them all if you like."
          "How can that be Uncle?” Willy asked. "There are none of these things around here."
          “Follow me Willy," said his Uncle, "and I will show you where you can find many of these wonderful things that lie on the other side of the driveway."
          "The driveway" squealed Willy, "no one can cross the driveway. It just isn't possible."
          "You have a lot to learn Willy," laughed Uncle Wilber. "I have been across the driveway many times. It’s not easy, but it can be done.” With this, Wilber wiggled on toward the edge of the pasture with Willy following close behind him.
          Soon they came to the fence that surrounded the pasture, and Wilber stopped and turned to Willy. "This is where I leave you son," said Willy's Uncle. "You have to find your own way from here."
          "But Uncle," protested Willy. "I don't know what to do, or how to get across the big driveway, or even what any of those wonderful things you mentioned look like."
          "Oh Willy, I think you can find your own way if you really want to get there," his Uncle told him. "You climb this fence post and look across the driveway to farmer Brown's garden where you will see many wonderful things to eat. Think hard and you will find a way to get there."
          "But, but, but Uncle Wilber," pleaded Willy. It was no use, Wilber had already begun to burrow a hole in the ground near the base of the fence post, and he was soon out of sight.
          Willy thought for a moment and then started to climb the post. Willy had not done much climbing, and it was very hard and quite slow. After a long and difficult struggle, he finally made it to the top of the fence post, where he lay panting for sometime before even looking around.
          After he had rested, he began to look around at the beautiful view. He could see clear to the other side of the pasture. He could see all the cows and chickens. Willy could even see all the molehills that dotted the pasture. As he turned around toward the garden, Willy could see the mailbox near the end of the long driveway and he could even see the hard rocky driveway itself. He could see all the pretty wild flowers that lined the edge of the pasture, and he could even see farmer Brown's cat crouching in the tall grass hunting for mice.
          Willy could finally see the garden that his Uncle had told him about, and it was as beautiful as he had imagined. The soil looked soft and moist, and easy to squirm through, unlike the hard packed ground of the pasture. Willy knew that he would be very happy living there if he could only find a way to get to this new paradise. Between the pasture and the garden lay the wide gravel driveway full of stones, with no cover to hide from birds and other animals that might like to eat a juicy little worm like himself. The driveway was also quite dry and dusty, and Willy was sure that he would dry up and die before he could wiggle and squirm his way across this vast desert of gravel.
          Willy Worm sat on top of the fence post dreaming of the soft, moist, fertile soil in the garden. He wanted very much to go to the garden, but he was afraid of the dry barren driveway, and he knew of no other way to get to the other side, but across it. Willy could see that the driveway stretched as far as he could see in both directions, and he sat sadly on the fence post wishing his Uncle would have told him more.
          As Willy sat looking enviously at the garden, he could see many other little critters crawling, and wiggling, and flying about, in what appeared to be an easy search for their breakfast. Willy spotted a large worm crawling along the stem of a big bushy green plant near the edge of the garden. Willy raised up as high as he could and called out in his loudest voice, "Hey Mr. Worm. Hey over there in the garden.” The large worm turned slightly toward the pasture, and Willy called out again. "Hello Mr. Worm. How did you get over there to the garden?"
          The worm raised up from the stem he was crawling on and yelled back at Willy. "Hello yourself, I have always been in the garden."
          "Do you know of any way to get across this driveway?” Willy yelled. "I want to come over to the garden."
"There is no way to cross the driveway," called the large worm from the garden. “You must be born here to live here."
          Willy was beside himself, and he began standing on his head then his tail and then his head again, and then his tail again, over and over he switched from his head to his tail until he didn't know which he was standing on, his head or his tail. This is a very easy thing for a worm to become confused about, and Willy was certainly confused.
          Suddenly Willy could hear the worm from the garden calling to him. "Look out! Look out!" He was saying. Just then, Willy saw something out of the corner of his eye. It was a big bird swooping down toward him from a nearby locust tree. In his confusion, it was all Willy could do to fall over and roll off the top of the fence post. He fell end over end, and finally landed on a blade of grass growing up from the bottom of the fence post. As he slid down the blade of grass, he began to see things more clearly. He wasn't confused anymore. He was about to be eaten by a large fat robin.
          Suddenly Willy hit the ground with a plop. He could hear the sound of the robin's wings whipping the air right above him. Thump! The robin landed right on top of Willy Worm. Everything was dark. He was sure that he was in the robin's stomach, but he still felt the same as before. He could still feel the ground beneath him, and he didn't have any sharp pains, only a slight head ache from where he had landed on his head. Willy was quite confused again. He wasn't sure where he was now, but it was very dark and scary and he didn't like it at all.
          Then suddenly it was light again, and he could see the robin flying away. He could also see that he had fallen into a small hole. Willy just sat there for a few minutes rubbing his head, and thinking about what would have happened to him if the hole had not been there. Willy was a very lucky little worm and he knew it
          Willy looked around the hole and discovered that it was actually a tunnel, made by a mole, and leading in the direction of the garden. He was very happy about this good fortune, and he wiggled and squirmed with excitement Finally he pulled himself together and began to crawl down the tunnel toward the garden. It was very dark in the tunnel, but Willy didn't mind because he knew that soon he would be squirming in the soft soil of farmer Brown's garden.


The Tunnel

          The tunnel was long and dark and damp. Willy was happy to be back underground and even happier to be headed for the garden. He knew that it would be a long journey, but he didn't mind. He had never eaten a potato or a tomato, nor had he ever crawled around the long slender root of a carrot, but he felt that soon he would experience all the wonders that his Uncle had told him lay across the wide gravel driveway. Willy thought how nice it was to have this tunnel to crawl through instead of having to dig his own like he usually had to do back in the pasture.
          “Yes this is sure easy traveling," said Willy to himself as he squirmed along in the open tunnel, "and maybe a bit too easy."
          He had a bad feeling gnawing at him from somewhere in the back of his mind. It was one of those feelings that you can't quite put your finger on, but you know that it is very important. Suddenly it dawned on him what the trouble was. He was squirming through a mole hole, and moles eat worms for lunch! It was nearly lunchtime, and Willy began to feel cold and nervous. He stopped for a moment and thought, but he decided that he couldn't just stay there, and he began crawling on toward the garden.
          The tunnel seemed chilly and damp to Willy as he squirmed on, trying to think of what to do if he met a mole. He felt certain that the tunnel had been used very recently, and that he was bound to meet up with the mole that made it. Willy had wiggled and worried his way along the tunnel for some time when he heard a strange sound coming from somewhere ahead of him. The sound was different from anything he had ever heard before. He had heard the sound of mole's feet scampering along the ground once before, and this didn't sound like that. At first, this made him feel a bit better, but then he thought that it might be something even worse than a mole. It was kind of a scratchy sort of sound, that would scratch, scratch, scratch for a little while and then there would be some scuffling noises, and then go back to scratching. Willy could tell that what ever was making the sound was in a hurry, and that he was getting quite close to it. As Willy came around a slight bend in the tunnel, he could hear something muttering in a squeaky little voice that sounded quite frightened
          "Oh dear, oh dear, I must get out of the way. Hurry! Hurry!” The little voice was saying.
          Willy forgot his own fear, and spoke out to the little voice in the darkness. "What are you in such a hurry about?” Asked Willy as he came up to whatever it was, scratching away in the dark tunnel.
          "Oh no!" Cried the little creature, 'who’s that? What do you want of me?"
          "Don't be afraid.” Willy said in a soft voice. "I am Willy Worm, and I mean you no harm.” Willy crawled a little closer, and asked, "Who are you, and how did you get here?"
          "My name is Jimmy, Jimmy Cricket." squeaked the little voice out of the blackness. "I shouldn't be here, no, no I never should have come here at all."
          "Well, why did you come here?” Willy asked.
          "I just had to see the tunnel,” said the cricket. "But I'll never come back again, that is if I don't get eaten by that big mole. Oh the mole, I have to get out of here before the mole comes by, but I can't dig fast enough to get away."
          "Well if digging is what you need let me help you, I'm very good at digging,” said Willy, and he began to burrow a neat little hole into the side of the tunnel.
          "Do you really think that the mole will come by here soon?” Willy asked, as he continued digging.
          "Oh yes, I'm sure that it will, very soon." squeaked Jimmy Cricket. "My mother told me never to go into the tunnel, because the mole would surely eat me.
          Willy stopped digging for a moment, and pulled back out of the hole. "What is that? Do you hear something coming?” He asked.
          "Yes I hear it to, it must be the mole. Hurry! Hurry! Dig faster,” cried the little cricket.
          Willy went back to work digging as fast as he could. He could hear footsteps coming closer and closer. He dug faster and faster. He knew that if the mole found him, it would surely eat him for lunch, and the thought frightened him very much.
          "Hurry, Hurry!" whispered Jimmy Cricket. "The mole will be here any minute, please hurry."
          Willy kept digging. He could feel the edge of the hole with the tip of his tail, and he knew that he was safe. If he could only get the hole a little bit deeper, there would be enough room for the little cricket too. But would there be enough time? Willy could feel the cricket pushing on his tail, and he pulled himself up tight inside the hole as far as he could.
          Jimmy crawled into the hole behind Willy, and they both lay as still as they could. Willy could hear the mole's foot steps right beside them in the tunnel. He could even hear the mole breathing as it went past them hiding silently in the darkness.
          Willy and Jimmy lay very still for a long time after the mole passed, afraid to move for fear that it may hear them and return to eat them both. Finally, Willy stretched out, pushing the little cricket backward out of the hole, and then backed out himself.
          "Wow, that was close,” said Willy, very relieved.
          Jimmy Cricket was still so scared that he could barely speak. "I, I'm getting out of here, right now." squeaked little Jimmy. "I knew that I should never have come here. Oh I don't know how I could ever thank you, Willy Worm, for digging that wonderful hole. I never could have done it myself."
          "I am going to the garden,” said Willy. "Would you like to come with me?"
          "I don't know," said Jimmy "what's in the garden?"
          "My Uncle says that there are wonderful things to eat in the garden, and the soil is always soft and moist," replied Willy.
          "How would we get to the garden," asked the cricket, "and how far is it?"
          Willy looked around nervously in the dark, and then said, "I really don't know for sure Jimmy, but I think that if we follow this tunnel, it will take us there."
          Jimmy seemed interested, and he asked, "How far is it?"
          "I can't tell you that either Jimmy," Willy said, a bit discouraged himself. "All I know is that I have seen the garden from the pasture, where I used to live, and that we must be somewhere under the driveway."
          "The garden does sound like a wonderful place," said the cricket, "but it could be a very dangerous journey. What if we get lost, and end up in the center of the earth."
          "It will be a very dangerous adventure," began Willy, "but I won't let us get lost. You are welcome to join me if you like, but I do think that we should hurry, before the mole comes back."
          "If you think it will be Ok Willy," the cricket replied, "I will join you."
          "Then let us get started,” said Willy, as he began to wiggle his way along the tunnel in the direction of the garden with the little cricket close behind him.
          Willy and Jimmy crawled along the dark tunnel in silence for some time before they came to a fork in the tunnel. One fork was a little bit larger and went off to the right. The other fork went down a bit and a little to the left. Both tunnels went pretty much in the direction of the garden, and Willy wondered which they should take.
          "Gosh Willy," said Jimmy, "what do we do now?"
          "We just have to decide which way to go." replied Willy.
          "But which one goes where we want to go?” The little cricket asked.
          "Both of the forks seem to go toward the garden Jimmy," began Willy, "but I think that the smaller tunnel on the left might be safer."
          "Safer, what do you mean safer?” Jimmy quizzed.
          Willy looked at Jimmy with his head cocked to one side, and said, "The mole! The mole Jimmy, have you forgotten about the mole already?"
          "Oh yes, the mole," said Jimmy Cricket, "I mustn’t forget the mole. You're right Willy, lets take the safe tunnel even if it will be a little harder to crawl through."
          Willy started down the left-hand tunnel with Jimmy Cricket right on his heels or at his tail in this case.
          "Boy, this tunnel is tight," said Jimmy, "I can barely squeeze my way through"
          Willy paid no attention to the cricket's complaining, and crawled on down the tunnel.
          Down was right! The tunnel took a sharp turn downward, becoming steeper and steeper. It was so steep, that Willy had to squeeze himself up short and fat in order to hang on to the walls. There were a lot of sharp roots and pebbles sticking out of the sides of the tunnel that kept poking Willy as he half crawled and half slid down through the darkness.
          "Hey Jimmy, are you still with me?” Willy called.
          "I'm here all right," squealed little Jimmy, "but it sure is hard to keep from falling on top of you. This tunnel is too steep for me."
          Suddenly, a large piece of the tunnel wall broke loose and Willy began to slide down, down, down along the tunnel. At first he could feel the sides of the tunnel and the roots scraping his back as he slid downward through the blackness. Willy wondered if Jimmy was falling too, but he didn't have time to think too hard about it, because now he was falling freely through the darkness. It was like when he had fallen from the fence post. He was plunging downward end over end again, and he thought that he could hear something splashing into water below him. All at once he landed. It was water, and Willy was in it. It was wet, and cold, and dark, and he really wished he could see where he was.
          Willy could hear a lot of splashing beside him in the water along with a considerable amount of gasping and coughing.
          "Is that you Jimmy," asked Willy as he wiggled and squirmed to stay afloat.
          "It’s me all right," called Jimmy. "Where are we? How did we get here?"
          "We're in trouble,” said Willy. "Can you swim?"
          "I can swim a little, but not for very long.” Jimmy bubbled, as he took in a mouth full of water.
          "We had better find the shore fast then, if there is one." called Willy, and he began to wiggle and squirm his way along through the cold water in the darkness.
          Jimmy splashed and kind of swam along beside Willy for a little while, and then said, "This water seems to be moving as fast as we are swimming. I don't think we are getting anywhere."
          "I think you're right Jimmy," replied Willy, "we had better swim sideways to the current and hope we come to the shore pretty soon or we're going to be done for."
          Willy and Jimmy wiggled, and splashed, and swam for a long time in the darkness of the underground cave. Willy was getting very tired and he felt as though he could go no farther when his tail touched something solid. "I think I just felt the bottom,” he said, as he held himself up a little with his tail.
          “It’s about time," spluttered Jimmy. "I am so tired that I can't go much farther."
          "Just a little more Jimmy," said Willy. "The water is getting more and more shallow. I think that the shore must be right up ahead of us now."
          "Boy, it better be, the current seems to be getting stronger.” Jimmy bubbled.
          The shore was right up ahead, and the two little adventurers crawled out on to what seemed like a smooth firm beach. They lay there for some time panting and saying nothing. Finally Willy raised up a bit, and said, "Wow, I thought we were goners. I wonder what kind of place this is?"
          "I think that we have fallen into the center of the earth," replied Jimmy, as he too began to pull himself together. "It sure is dark and cold down here, wherever it is."
          "It is too cold to be the center of the earth, answered Willy, "but I think we have found an underground river or something."
          Willy stretched himself as high as he could trying to find the top of whatever they had fallen into, but there didn't seem to be a ceiling, or even any walls. He thought of the soft soil in the garden and the wonderful things that were there to eat, and said, "I think we had better get going if we are going to make it to the garden."
          "But, but which way should we go," stuttered the little cricket, "I don't know where we are or anything."
          "Follow me!" Willy said, as he began to wiggle his way along the shore next to the underground river.
          Now you may wonder how Willy could possibly know which way the garden was by now, but worms have an uncanny sense of direction and even though they have been spun around and turned upside down, they still seem to know which way they want to go.
          The ground was damp and smooth with an occasional lump of dirt or a rock sticking up that Willy and Jimmy had to crawl over or around, but by and large they had a pretty easy time squirming along the edge of the water. Willy could hear what sounded like water dripping up ahead of them, and asked, "Do you hear something up ahead, Jimmy?"
          "Yes I do, it sounds like a waterfall." said Jimmy, "and I think that the little river is moving much faster than before."
          Willy let his tail touch the moving water, and realized that Jimmy was right. The river was traveling quite fast now, and he thought that they had better not let themselves fall into it or they would surely be swept away. He could also feel the sides of the dark cave again, and it seemed that they must be back in a tunnel of some sort. The ground was getting steeper by now, and they were climbing some as they inched along in the darkness.
          As Willy came around a slight bend in the tunnel, he thought he could see a tiny light far up ahead. He blinked his eyes several times to be sure that he wasn't imagining it, but every time he opened them, the light was still there. "Look, look Jimmy!" He shouted. "Do you see what I see?"
          "It’s a light, it really is a light," squealed the little cricket, as he nearly fell into the water that was rushing past them with great speed by now.
          "Yes it is light, and I think that it must be the surface of the ground, and if I am right, we should soon be in the wonderful soft soil of farmer Brown's garden."
          "Wow, I hope so. I can hardly wait. Let’s hurry, this place gives me the creeps."
          "Yes, me too," said Willy, as he continued to inch his way along the ever steepening tunnel.
          The two little travelers crawled along happily in silence, listening to the rush of the cold water beside them.
          Finally, Willy said, "I think we are going to make it after all. Are you still back there Jimmy?"
          "Yes I'm here all right," replied Jimmy, “but it sure is getting to be a steep climb. I can hardly make it."
          "Just a little farther Jimmy," called Willy to his friend, "You can make it if you keep thinking about how wonderful the garden is."
          The light at the end of the tunnel kept getting bigger and brighter, and the climb got steeper, but they were nearly to the end, and Willy began to feel very happy. As he inched his way, up out of the tunnel he could see many large plants, planted in long straight rows. They were very lush and green, and the soil was soft and damp just like he had seen from the other side of the driveway.
          "Here we are," yelled Willy. "We have made it to the beautiful, wonderful garden at last."
          Jimmy pulled himself out of the tunnel, and looked around in amazement. He could hardly believe his eyes. It was even more beautiful than he had imagined. He grabbed Willy and gave him a big hug, and Willy wrapped his long thin body around the little cricket squeezing him firmly as they both rolled around on the soft ground in farmer Brown's garden.
          Suddenly Willy thought of his near mishap with the robin earlier that morning, and he quickly crawled under the safety of a large cucumber leaf, with Jimmy following right behind him.


Checking It Out

          The leaf was like a large tent. It was barely off the ground, and made a very good hiding place for Willy and Jimmy. Willy was beginning to learn the importance of being careful, and he thought again about what his Uncle had told him earlier that morning.
          "You have to pay attention all the time," Willy said to no one in particular.
          "What, what did you say," asked Jimmy, "What are you talking about."
          “Oh, nothing really," said Willy, "I was just thinking about something my Uncle said to me this morning."
          "Pay attention to what?” Jimmy asked in a confused tone of voice.
          "Well," Willy said, "it's kind of hard to explain, but my Uncle says that you have to pay attention to everything, especially those things that can hurt you. And you have to pay attention all the time, not just when you feel like it.
          "You mean that you can't ever think of anything else, but being careful," Jimmy asked.
          "Not really," replied Willy. "At least, I don't think so, but I think he means that you have to keep your own safety in mind all the time. Well, it’s kind of like this morning, when we were in the mole tunnel. Neither of us had ever really thought of what to do in case a mole came along."
          "Yes, but you knew just what to do," Jimmy said in a squeaky sort of voice.
          "I can't explain it all to you right now," said Willy sternly, "but just be "Careful or you will become a meal for a bird or something."
          "Don't worry about me," laughed Jimmy, sounding a little like a 'know it all'.
          Willy wasn't really listening to him, but instead he was thinking about what to do next, now that he was finally in the garden. He crawled over to the edge of the leaf they were hiding under, and began burrowing a small hole.
          "What are you doing know?” Jimmy asked.
          "I am going to look out and see where we are, without being seen," Willy said.
          "What could possibly see you?” Asked little Jimmy, still sounding like he didn't quite understand about being careful.
          Willy ignored the little cricket, and continued digging a place from which to look at the garden.
          It was quite sunny, and the brightness made Willy squint. He could see a whole row of onions, looking like long, thin, green rocket ships coming up out of large white bulbs half buried in the loose ground. He could tell that he was at the edge of a large cucumber plant that sprawled out for farther than he could see from where he was. The plant had many large cucumbers just waiting around for farmer Brown to pick them, and turn them into big fat dill pickles.
          There was a wide path between Willy and the long row of onions, with water running in it like a small stream. The water ran down into the hole that Willy and Jimmy had just crawled out of, and Willy wondered where all that water was coming from. He looked up at the sky to check for birds and robins especially. There were no birds, and in fact, there were no other critters at all, except he and Jimmy and a ladybug on one of the cucumbers, and a little white moth over by the onions. Willy decided to explore a little, and he pulled back out of the hole near the edge of the large leaf. As he turned toward where the little cricket had been, he could see Jimmy crawling out from under the safety of the leaf to the open garden.
          "Where are you going Jimmy?” Willy asked, as he wiggled his way toward him.
          "You spend too much time being careful," Jimmy said. "I'm going to see the garden, and have some fun.” Jimmy was off, hopping in big leaps down the path toward the center of the garden. "Careful little buddy," Willy called after him.
          "Careful of what, vegetables?” Jimmy called back laughing.
          Just then a pretty little blue bird came out of nowhere, snatched up the little cricket and was gone again. It all happened so fast that if Willy had blinked, he wouldn't even have seen it. Willy just sat there for a moment in a daze, thinking about how, one minute Jimmy was there being a smart aleck, and the next minute he was lunch for the blue bird.
          "Wow," Willy said out loud, "my Uncle is sure right, you really do have to pay attention all the time."
          Willy turned, and wiggled off toward the middle of the cucumber plant crawling along the stems at times, and even over the cucumbers themselves. These large green fruit felt smooth and cool to his belly as he slid over and around them. As he came to an open spot near the center of the cucumber plant, he looked up again to check for birds or other dangers in the sky, and he was very pleased to see none. The only thing in the sky was a couple of puffy little white clouds to break up the lovely blue that seemed to stretch forever.
          Willy started out into the opening, and then stopped, thinking again about little Jimmy and how fast he had disappeared into the mouth of the pretty blue bird. The open spot in front of Willy was only about a foot or so across, but he decided to go around the edge where he would always be under the safety of the large sprawling cucumber leaves. Willy was very happy to be in the garden where the soil was soft, and there were so many interesting plants around for him to hide under and play on. As he wiggled and squirmed along, he wondered again where the little stream was coming from that ran in the garden path. He could hear the flowing water as he crawled along, sometimes on the ground and other times along the stems and branches of the cucumber plant.
          As Willy squirmed along a large twisted stem several inches off the ground, he came across a very different looking leaf from those of the cucumber. This leaf was very much smaller than the cucumber leaves, and it had a strange odor.
          Willy crawled cautiously out onto this new leaf and up along the small stem that held it firmly to the main plant. He looked up into the center of the plant where he could see many large shiny red balls hanging heavily from strong stems. He inched his way up a main branch of the plant to where one of the red balls hung silently, looking fat, and firm, and full of something delicious. "This must be a tomato," Willy said, as he wiggled his way out onto the tomato, leaving a small trail of worm slime on it as he did so.
          From his perch on the tomato, Willy could see a long ways. He could see the row of onions back in the direction he had come from, and looking the other way he could see what seemed to be water squirting up out of the ground and coming down all around some funny looking plants on the other side of what looked like carrots. As Willy sat on the tomato in the shade of a small leaf, he thought of his Uncle and what he had said about paying attention. "I've been very lucky," thought Willy, "I could have quite easily ended up like little Jimmy Cricket several times already today.” Willy gazed out at the garden for sometime and finally decided to go see what was making the water squirt up into the air.
          He began to climb down from his perch on the shiny red tomato when all at once he lost his grip and fell. He bounced several times on leaves and stems before finally coming to rest. Or at least he thought he had come to rest, when he began to move slowly. Looking down he could see that he had fallen on a large, shiny, black, ground beetle.
          The beetle was trying desperately to crawl out from under Willy, and it looked quite put out from having this extra burden to carry. Willy was very worried that he may have injured the poor beetle, and he apologized profusely. "Oh excuse me," said Willy. "I am very sorry. I do hope that I didn't hurt you."
          The beetle struggled to get out from under Willy. "Would you get off my back?” said the large beetle, in an angry voice.
Willy squirmed as hard as he could, and managed to get himself off the beetle. "Are you all right," said Willy, "I do hope you aren't broken."
          As Willy pulled himself together from his fall and strange landing, he could see that the shiny beetle was much more mad than it was hurt. In fact, it wasn't hurt at all, but it was very mad indeed. It turned toward Willy, and came right at him swishing it's antennae back and forth, and making a scary licking sound with it's wings. "You'll be sorry, you skinny little worm." shrieked the beetle. "You should have been more careful where you fell, but now it’s too late."
          Willy didn't know what to do. He knew 'hat he could out run the beetle if he was underground, but he was on top of the ground with no chance to get away. The big beetle was only a inch from his nose, and Willy could see it's strong mouth opening very wide and then snapping shut, and then opening and snapping shut again over and over. He knew that one bit from this big beetle could be fatal. He also knew that his only chance was to confuse the beetle. Willy quickly rolled up into a little ball, or at least as close to a ball as he could, and just as the beetle was about to take a bite right out of the middle of him, he unrolled as fast as he could and began wiggling and squirming around wildly. He managed to get right on top of the beetle's back, and while it was trying to figure out what had happened, Willy slipped his long body around the beetle, and squeezed as tightly as he could.
          The beetle was very surprised by this, and it began to struggle violently. Willy could hear the snapping of the beetle's strong mouth, ready to take a bite out of him if he lost his grip.
          "Let go of me you silly worm,” yelled the beetle, as it wiggled all six of its sturdy little legs at once.
          "I would be very happy to let go of you, "said Willy, "if you promise not to bite me."
          "Bite you," said the beetle. "I'm going to eat you as soon as I get loose."
          By this time, Willy had several wraps of his strong tube like body around the beetle, and they were both squirming on the ground under the tomato that Willy had fallen from. The beetle was also quite strong, and it kicked and scratched violently in Willy's grip. Willy was getting very tired, and he really didn't like fighting over something that had been an accident in the first place.
          "What are you so . . .” Willy managed to say just as the beetle got the vary tip of his tail into it's mouth.
          Snap! The beetle closed its mouth on Willy's tail.
          "Yow!” Willy screamed in pain, as he straightened out rapidly allowing the beetle to get free. Both Willy and the beetle were very tired from their struggles, and they sat facing each other just a few inches apart on the ground. Willy's tail was quite sore, and he wished the beetle would go away and leave him alone.
          “Why are you so mad?” Willy asked. "I didn't mean to fall on you."
          "Falling on me was your mistake, little worm," growled the beetle, as it raised up on its hind legs getting ready to charge Willy again. "I haven't had my lunch yet, and you . . ."
          Just then, the ground shook and the beetle disappeared completely, and in its place was a large, red, fat tomato.
          Willy could hardly believe his eyes. He just stared at the tomato in front of him and wondered what had happened. Finally he crawled around to the other side of the tomato, and sure enough, he could see just the tips of the beetle's toes sticking out from under it. Still Willy looked in disbelief at the beetle's toes and the tomato before him, and hoped that his battle was really over.
          Willy's tail was quite sore, and he looked around for the little stream that ran in the garden path. He crawled down to the edge of the water and put his sore tail into it. As the cool water flowed over his throbbing tail, he thought again about the bird, and the mole, and the strange tunnel that had led him to the garden. He also thought about Jimmy Cricket and his being eaten by the blue bird. Willy had never had so many adventures in all his life, much less in a single day. He was tired and hungry, and now he had a very sore tail where the beetle had tried to make a meal of him. "Meal," he said out loud, as he looked around for something to eat.
          Very near the little stream was a large very ripe tomato that had fallen off and gotten quite soft from lying on the ground. Willy quickly squirmed his way over to it, and began munching away with great delight. As he ate his way into the tomato, he thought of how his Uncle had said that nothing was better than rotten tomatoes. And as he disappeared completely into this over ripe fruit, he knew that his Uncle was right.
          Willy ate and ate until he couldn't take another bite. He turned and looked back his long body. It didn't look so long now, he'd eaten so much that he had swelled up to nearly twice as big around. He began squirm his way out from the inside of the tomato, that by now was almost hollow from his having eaten most of it. He found that was very hard to squirm, or even move for that matter, because of his extra size. Willy felt more like a slug than he did a worm, as he kind of oozed his way along the ground under the tomato plants near the garden path. He was rather leery of other critters by now, and he kept a sharp eye out order to help avoid them.
          Willy wiggled and oozed along for awhile, keeping beneath the shelter of the tomatoes in farmer Brown's garden. Under the canopy of leaves, the ground was cool and moist on Willy's belly as he struggled to move. He couldn't travel very fast, but he didn't mind, because he had finally tasted the pleasures of the garden that Uncle Wilber had told him of earlier that vary day. Willy felt that he had learned a good deal about being careful since he left his uncle this morning in the pasture, but he also knew that he still had a lot to learn.
          "Poor Jimmy," he said to himself as he came to what appeared to be the intersection of two garden paths. He could see that the little stream, which ran in the main path, had backed up into the path he wanted to cross, making a small lake between himself and a long row of carrots.
          At first Willy thought that he would like to hop on a stick and go for a sail, but he didn't much care for the idea of being exposed to attack from the sky. He also thought that he might be able to go around the path to get to the carrots, but he didn't want to crawl any farther than he had to. Suddenly it dawned on him that he could go under the little lake. After all, he was a worm, and worms are supposed to travel underground. Making his own tunnel under the path would certainly be the slowest, but it would also be the safest way across to the row of carrots.
          "Oh-me-oh-my," said Willy to himself. "How shall I get across this water? It’s too far to go around, it’s too slow to go under, and it is surely too dangerous to go across. What is a little worm to do?"
          "You do have a problem there, little worm," said a voice from somewhere above him in a tomato plant.
          Willy was very much surprised, and he turned as quickly as he could to see who was talking to him. "Who's that," said Willy, where are you?"
          "I'm up here in the tomato plant,” said the little voice. "If you want to cross the lake, I can help you."
          Willy looked up into the many green leaves above him, but he could see nothing that might be talking to him. "Where are you?” Willy called again looking as hard as he could.
          Just then, a leaf came loose and floated to the ground very near Willy. Then another leaf floated down, landing right on him. As he squirmed his way out from under the leaf, he noticed a green caterpillar with what seemed like a million very short little legs and quite long antennae.
          "Hello there," said the caterpillar. "I can help you get to the other side of the lake, if you like."
          “You can help me?” Willy said. "You can help me to get across this lake?" The caterpillar let itself down from high in the tomato plant on a thin little thread of silk that seemed to materialize magically out of it's tail. "Yes, you can sail across the lake in safety if you like," said the strange little caterpillar. "And I will show you how to do it with nothing more than you see before you."
          Willy looked carefully at this green little caterpillar. It was all wrinkled and covered with what looked like cobwebs, but as probably some of the silky stuff that had oozed out of it's tail. It also had very long antennae that curved up over its head and had tiny orange balls on the ends of them.
          "How do you know that I want to sail across the lake?” Willy asked.
          "Because my young friend, everyone likes to sail the open seas with a breeze at their back," replied the caterpillar with a smile.
          "Oh excuse me," said Willy. "My name is Willy Worm, and you are right, I do want to sail across the lake."
          “Of coarse you do Willy Worm. It’s the only way across that makes any sense," laughed the caterpillar. "My name is Curly, and I am here to help you. Let's get to work."
"I don't understand," said Willy. "How can I sail across the lake without a bird eating me before I reach the other side?"
          "You'll see," said Curly, "but first help me get these leaves over to the edge of the water."
          Willy and Curly pushed and pulled on the first leaf until they had it sitting in the water at the edge of the lake.
          "But, but I'll be seen. A bird will surely see me, and eat me," Willy sniveled, as he crawled back under the shade of the tomatoes.
          "Willy, Willy my young friend," began the caterpillar. "You must have a little faith in my fine work. Come along my boy, we still have another leaf to get to the water before you can set sail."
          The second leaf was a bit smaller and easier to move over to the shore, but when they got it there Curly said, "Ok, now we have to put it up on top of the other leaf."
          "How are we going to do that?” Willy asked.
          "You crawl under the leaf and push up as hard as you can," explained the little caterpillar, "and I will push it up onto the other leaf."
          Willy squirmed under the leaf and lifted up as hard as he could, just like Curly had said to do. Curly crawled to the backside of the leaf and pushed on it. Slowly this second leaf inched up onto the other leaf making an odd little boat with two layers.
          "I think I see now," said Willy excitedly. I can crawl in between the two leaves, and nothing will be able to see me when I sail across the lake."
          "You're starting to understand," Curly said with a smile. "You will be safe from the birds, and you can still go for a pleasant sail."
          "Well Curly, I must thank you very much." said Willy. "Would you care to come with me to the other side of the lake?"
          'No, no my friend," said Curly, "I must stay here, and help other little travelers to get across the lake. You go, but do be very careful.” Willy wiggled his way between the two leaves, and turned back toward the shore and Curly. As he stuck his head out from under the top leaf, he could see the little caterpillar climbing back up the tread of silk to his perch near the top of the tomato plant. "Thank you very much and good-by." called Willy, as he pushed himself off with his tail.
          Willy glided smoothly out into the open water. It was a scary feeling to think that all that lay between him and the deadly birds was one thin leaf. A small gust of wind caught the little boat, and sent it rocking to the center of the lake. As the water calmed, Willy peeked out from under his leaf to see that he was now drifting in circles in the middle of the small lake. He looked up at the sky, and could see two birds flying around looking for their dinner. At least Willy thought they must be looking for their dinner, and he figured that they must be looking just for him.
          Willy felt a shiver go through him as he watched the birds. "I've got to get out of here, and fast," Willy said to himself, as he turned toward the rear of the little boat, and found a place where the top leaf over hung the bottom leaf. This allowed him to stick his long tail into the water with out being seen, and swish it back and forth like a paddle. It worked. His moving tail seemed to push him along quite nicely and in no time at all he had paddled his way to the far side of the lake.
          Even though he had made it to the shore, he still had several inches to go to make it to the cover of the carrot greens. Willy took another look at the sky. He could still see a bird circling overhead, and he knew that if he left the cover of the leaf boat he would certainly become a meal for this winged creature. He looked once more at the long row of carrots and decided that he would borrow underground to the safety of them.
          Willy crawled down through the shallow water and into the soft mud at the edge of the lake. He felt safe as he disappeared into the ground, and the cool soft earth felt comforting to him as he burrowed his way toward the row of carrots. Willy could feel many small roots and pebbles as he slid slowly past them in the darkness. He was very tired when he finally reached the wall of carrots standing under the ground like a tight picket fence. They were stacked so tightly that he could not squeeze between them. Willy turned to the right and wiggled his way along next to this long row of vegetables. There didn't seem to be a break in them at all, and presently he turned and squirmed his way back through the same hole to where he had started. Willy just sat there for a few minutes wondering how he could get to the other side. Finally, he decided to go in the other direction for a little ways, in hopes he could find an opening in this tight wall lying just below the surface of the ground. He had to go only a short ways before he found a small space between two carrots that would allow him to pass to the other side of the row. It was a very small opening and Willy had to squeeze hard to get through.
          Once on the other side, Willy thought that he might look around to see where he was. He crawled up the edge of one of the carrots to the surface of the ground. It was like a jungle. The carrot greens were all bent over touching the ground, making a cool damp place for little Willy to squirm around. In fact, damp was not the word for it. It was down right wet, soaking wet, and droplets of water were dripping from every part of the thick carrot greens.
          Willy wiggled his way out to the edge of the cover, where he could see a fountain of water spraying up out of the end of a long black hose. The water went high in the air, and then came down all around, making the plants and the ground very wet everywhere it reached. This water sprayed up from the middle of a vast area covered with very short plants that seemed to spread out flat along the ground. Willy lay very still in the cool cover of the carrot greens looking at these strange plants. The leaves were small and quite a bright green, and there were many long vine-like stems with little white flowers and brilliant red berries growing from them. These berries looked very sweet, and Willy thought that he would like to taste one of them. He started to crawl out from his hiding place near the carrots, when he thought of little Jimmy Cricket, and his unhappy end. Willy quickly pulled back under the safety of the dripping carrot tops, and looked very carefully for robins, both on the ground and in the air. There were none in the garden, but he could see one bird flying high above him, and he decided to go underground out into the patch of berries.
          Willy began burrowing his way down into the wet soil, and soon he disappeared into the darkness of the earth. The ground was very soft and easy to squirm through for Willy as he made his way toward the center of the berry patch. When he felt that he had gone far enough, Willy headed up to the surface of the garden.
          As he poked his head out into the open air, he looked carefully around to be sure that no dangers had come along while he was underground. Hopping around, only a few inches away, was a big fat robin. Just as Willy saw the bird, it saw him, and rushed immediately toward him. Willy sucked himself back down his hole as far as he could with one quick movement.
          The robin was much faster than Willy had expected, and as he slid backwards down his hole, the light from above went dark, and Willy felt a sharp pain on the end of his nose. He could feel himself being pulled from the safety of the soft garden soil. The bird had a firm grip on the tip of Willy's nose, and was pulling on him as hard as it could. Willy pressed himself against the sides of his tunnel as tightly as he could and tried to squirm farther down into the soft ground. Willy felt like he was being torn in half. He was sure that any moment he might break in two. He could feel himself losing ground. The robin was much stronger than Willy was, and it was just a matter of time before Willy broke in half or the bird would manage to pull him from the soft soil.
          Although Willy held on as tightly as he could, he felt himself slowly slipping up and out of the cool moist earth. Suddenly the struggle was over as Willy lost his last semblance of grip with the ground. The robin lurched backwards and rolled over several times. When the robin quit rolling, it fluttered wildly and flipped Willy high into the air. The blood rushed back into Willy's head where the bird had been holding him, and extreme pain replaced the numbness in his badly mashed nose. The robin quickly picked Willy up again and flew up and out of the garden. "What are you going to do with me." shrieked Willy as he was carried higher and higher away from the garden that he had worked so hard to get to.
          The robin didn't answer Willy, but just flew higher and faster. Everything was blurry for Willy as he squirmed wildly trying to free himself from the strong grip the robin had on him. The more Willy struggled, the tighter the bird held on to him. Willy finally ran out of energy and slumped lifelessly from the robin's mouth. As Willy lay motionless in the grip of the bird's beak, he seemed to forget about the danger he was in. He began to relax a bit and see things around him more clearly. He had never been so high off the ground before. The view was fantastic. He could see the entire garden, and even to the far end of the driveway, where it met with the main road from town. Willy could see the pasture where he had come from with all the cows and sheep. "This robin is taking me for quite a ride," thought Willy, as they flew over farmer Brown's house, and headed for the pasture.
          The robin was holding Willy quite loosely since he had quit struggling, and just as they came to the edge of the large pasture Willy gave a sudden squirm and a wild wiggle. He must have surprised the bird, because he seemed to squirt out of the robin's mouth, and once again, he was falling end over end though the air. He fell and fell, and fell for a long time, and then all at once he stopped. Willy had landed.
          His landing knocked the wind out of him, and he just lay there gasping for breath for quite some time. Willy was confused, he was dizzy, he could barely breathe, and his nose hurt very much. He had no idea where he was. Then he remembered that just before he began to fall, he had been over the edge of the pasture. "I must be back in the pasture,” he thought, as he looked off toward the west and the setting sun. It had been a very full and exciting day for little Willy. Suddenly a quite pleasant smell drifted into his sore and swollen nose. It smelled unlike anything he had ever smelled before. Willy stood up on his tail as high as he could trying to tell where the odor was coming from. He could see a large brown object only a few feet away, and he crawled over to it.
          Sure enough, the smell was coming from this large brown thing. It was a big soft rotten potato, and Willy climbed up onto it eagerly. As he crawled to the far side of the potato, he came to a soft squishy spot that he nearly slid down into. Willy stopped and carefully tasted this soft area. It was delicious. He had never tasted anything so good in all his life. He stuck his head into the area, and began to eat, and eat, and eat. Willy wiggled, and squirmed, and ate his way right into the rotten potato.
          "Well hello again," called a familiar voice. "How was you're adventure to the garden?"
          Willy turned to find his Uncle Wilber, eating away in the same potato. "Uncle Wilber!" exclaimed Willy, quite surprised to see him. "What are you doing here?"
          "This is where I come for most of my dinners," Wilber said. "This is the compost pit, where farmer Brown throws all of the food that he doesn't eat himself. There is always something very delicious here for a worm.
          Willy started to tell Uncle Wilber about the robins, and the mole, and Jimmy Cricket, but he could see that Wilber was busy with his dinner and wasn't listening to him. He thought of what his Uncle had said about this being where farmer Brown threw his left over food, and decided that what was good enough for farmer Brown, was good enough for him.
          Willy took several more bites of the rotten potato and thought of what a lucky little worm he was to have had such a wonderful and exciting adventure, and to now be back with his Uncle, eating the best dinner that he could ever imagine.

 

Copyright 2007. Ed Gnaedinger.