Title: There's a Hair in My Dirt!: A Worm Story.
Author: Gary Larson.
Genre: Picture books, fiction, humour, satire.
Publication Date: 1998.
Summary: It begins a few inches underground, when a young worm, during a typical family dinner, discovers there's a hair in his plate of dirt. He becomes rather upset, not just about his tainted meal, but about his entire miserable, wormy life. This, in turn, spurs his father to tell him a story--a story to inspire the children of invertebrates everywhere. And so Father Worm describes the saga of a fair young maiden and her adventuresome stroll through her favourite forest, a perambulator's paradise. It is a journey filled with mystery and magic. Or so she thinks.
My rating: 9/10
♥ "I hate being a worm!" he screeched, his tiny body trembling. "We're the lowest of the low! Bottom of the food chain! Bird food! Fish bait! What kind of life is this, anyway? We never go swimming or camping or hiking or anything! Shoot, we never even to go the surface unless the rains flood us out! All we ever do is crawl around in the stupid ground. Oh, and how can I forget? We eat dirt! Dirt for breakfast, dirt for lunch, and dirt for dinner! Dirt, dirt, dirt! And look—now there's even a hair in my dirt! The final insult—I can't stand it any longer! I HATE BEING A WORM!"
And with that, the little worm slumped back in his chair, exhausted by his outburst.
Mother Worm, an expression of concern on her face, looking from her pouting son to Father Worm. She had constantly tried to make their home as cheery as possible, even going so far as always putting silverware on the table—despite the fact that none of them had arms.
But Father Worm, a proud invertebrate and a learned member of the Annelida phylum (even with his small, rudimentary brain), was glaring at what he considered to be an ungrateful and ignorant son. "Well, well, well," he said, breaking the awkward silence. "Let me get this straight: Not only is your mother's dirt not good enough for you, but you feel being a worm isn't exactly a charmed life, eh?" A strange glint fell across Father Worm's eye. "My boy, I think it's time I tell you a story."
..And so Father Worm cleared his long, primitive pharynx, took a futile puff on his dirt-filled pipe, and began his story.
♥ With her first steps, Harrier took a deep breath and filled her lungs with the fresh air. "Oh, thank you trees and other plants!" she called out. "Thank you for making the air so crisp and clean!"
Well, as any worm with half a ganglion knows, the plants did a little more than just make the air crisp and clean—they made the air air! Every molecule of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere was put there by a plant, and—last time I looked—the Living were quite fond of oxygen. (Heck, even the Dead need it, or they'd hang around a lot longer and get on everyone's nerves.)
♥ Soon Harriet met a family of squirrels, who came bounding toward her, unafraid and looking for a possible treat. Gathering nuts from a nearby tree, Harriet was quick to accommodate them. "Oh, you's all so cute!" she gushed.
To be sure, these furry creatures had that "cute" thing down real good—regrettably. You see, Harriet was feeding Gray squirrels, a large, aggressive species that had been introduced to this forest and were taking it over from the native Red squirrels, a smaller, more timid species.
All squirrels are rodents, but in the wrong time and place, some are rats.
♥ "I'm gazing at a painting! Oh, Mother Nature! What an artist you are!"
"Oh, Mother Nature! What a sex maniac you are!" may have been a better choice of words, for Harriet was actually gazing upon a reproductive battlefield. Using bright colors, nectar, mimicry, deception, and whatever other tricks they had up their leaves, these floral sirens were competing for the attention of pollinating insects.
In a field of flowers, all is fair in bugs and war.
♥ "Hello, Lumberjack Bob!" she called, waving with happy excitement, knowing him to be a gentle man with a quick smile and a big heart.
Well, kind, big-hearted, and rosy-cheeked he might be (the latter caused by expanded capillaries in his skin's dermal layer), but Lumberjack Bob was really just a regular guy with little education doing the one job he knew how to do—cutting down ancient trees that were here long before the first intestinal worms came over in the Pilgrims.
♥ "Mr. Turtle!" she squealed, excitedly scooping up the startled reptile. And then, with a sympathetic smile, she added, "What are you doing out of your pond, Mr. Turtle? Well, I think I'll just send you right back home!"
So Harriet wound up and hurled the bewildered animal into the middle of the marsh, where it landed with a loud and satisfying keerplunk!
Well, unfortunately, "Mr. Turtle" was not a turtle at all, but a tortoise, and while turtles are well adapted for aquatic life, their land-dwelling cousins never even evolved into decent dogpaddlers. Sadly, the little reptile sank to the bottom, where it promptly drowned. (Even worse, who knows how many of our parasitic loved ones went down with the ship!)
♥ Harriet thought she saw something move in the tall grass near her feet. Dropping gracefully to her knees, she almost put her hand on a small slug that was wandering by. Recoiling in disgust she cried, "Stay away from me, you slimy little thing!"
And then, seeing the real object of her desire, she lunged forward and came up with her prize. "Hello, Mr. Frog!" she said, laughing. "Should I kiss you and see if you turn into a prince?"
Fortunately for Harriet, she didn't kiss this little creature, for it wasn't "Mr. Frog" she was holding, but "Mr. Toad," and like most toads (and some frogs), this one packed a powerful, sometimes lethal, toxin in its skin. On the other hand, the slug slime was actually quite harmless, if perhaps a bit gooey.
Kissing out of your species is not really recommended, Son, but if you have to, always choose a gastropod over an amphibian.
♥ The trail soon brought her to the edge of a small river, where she saw a most remarkable sight: Large, hook-nosed fish, their red scales shimmering in the sunlight, were struggling to get upstream. "Salmon!" she joyfully declared. "Looking for their spawning grounds, I bet!"
Well, technically speaking, the salmon weren't looking for their spawning grounds—they were smelling them. When salmon hatch, the smell of home is branded into their brains forever, and even though the may wander in the ocean for years, their incredible noses will one day lead them right back to where their life began.
Now, we earthworms have our own little miracle when it comes to breeding: Each of us contains both male and female reproductive organs! (But that's a story I'll tell you when you're a little longer, Son.)
♥ Soon it was over. The snake was dead. (Boy, was he ever.)
Catching her breath, Harriet reached down and gently removed the unconscious mouse from the snake's lifeless coils. And as the fair maiden watched, a miracle occurred: The little mouse stirred. He was alive! A minute later, he got groggily to his feet, looked up at Harriet, and wiggled his nose.
Harriet beamed. As she held the little mouse in one hand, she wiped a tear away with the other.
She put the little fellow down at her feet, where he quickly bounded off into the tall grass, safe and sound. Harriet headed home. Good had triumphed over Evil, and the forest was just a little bit safer for everyone.
Well, actually, the snake Harriet killed was a Kingsnake, an efficient, rodent-eating predator, and that "cute" little mouse she saved was a vector for a deadly disease. When Harriet wiped the tear from here eye, a virus, which was living on the mouse's fur, invaded her body. And one lovely spring morning, Harriet, delirious with fever, stumbled out of her little cottage, fell over, and died.
♥ "You see," Father Worm began, "Harriet loved Nature. But loving Nature is not the same as understanding it. And Harriet not only misunderstood the things she saw—vilifying some creatures while romanticizing others—but also her own connection to them." Father Worm paused, his eyes narrowing. "Ah, connections, Son. That's the fateful key that Harriet missed, the key to understanding the natural world."
Father Worm sat back, stretching himself out to his full, glorious three and a half inches. "Take us worms, for example, We till, aerate, and enrich the earth's soil, making it suitable for plants. No worms, no plants; and no plants, no so-called higher animals running around with their oh-so-precious backbones!"
He was really getting into it now. "Heck, we're invertebrates, my boy! As a whole, we're the movers and shakers on this planet! Spineless superheroes, that's what we are!" And since Father Worm didn't have a fist to bring down on the tale, he just yelled, "BANG!"
♥ "Okay, I get it—being a worm ain't so bad. But you're wrong about one thing: That story didn't have a happy ending! You said it had a happy ending!"
"Well, it does," replied his father, "if you're a worm." And the he leaned across the table until his face was very, very close to his son's and said, with a big grin, "Which brings us back to that hair in your dirt. Or should I say...