BY Rachel Levy
Halfway home you notice a worm on the sidewalk. You crouch for a better look and find him stiff and rubbery, but moving a little. He appears to be in pain, though you know nothing about the worm’s physiology. You do not know how, or when, or if worms experience pain. And then there’s the question of whether they can express what they experience. You vaguely remember dissecting one in school: inside were thousands of nerves and no brain. Maybe they do feel pain, but aren’t conscious of the possible outcomes. Death, for example, is probably the worst possible outcome; too much pain can be an indication that something is fatally wrong. You don’t know if it’s too late for this worm. For all you know, his body works like a kitchen sponge. He is dry and shriveled like a sponge and it’s easy to imagine that he will revive instantly in the wet ground. Your gut says it’s too late – he’s so stiff. You pick him up and toss him onto the adjacent lawn. Afterward you realize he might not possess enough mobility to burrow; he might need you to dig him a hole. Unfortunately you didn’t notice where he fell. But you’ve got time, so you look. You walk in a spiral, outward from the spot where you think it’s likely he landed. Recent rains have softened the lawn and now your footsteps are turning the grass to mud and pulp. You can’t find him. It’s possible you’ve trampled him. Plus you’re trespassing. He’ll have to do what he can on his own. Along the sidewalk there are dozens just like him, but now you see them for what they are: proof. You start flinging them, as many worms as you can, onto neighboring stretches of grass. They are proof, or rather your tossing them is proof. Proof is the action of tossing them to safety, and you are quickening your pace. You tell yourself you will remember this moment; the impulse. You tell yourself again. You say to yourself: You will remember. You’re using both of your arms now, flinging worm after worm after worm. You, you say to yourself, and your breath is short. You are a good person.
Rachel Levy is currently working toward an MFA in Fiction Writing at the University of Colorado. Before Colorado, she lived in southern Ohio, where she acquired an MA in English at Miami University. At Miami, she received both the Graduate Fiction Writing Award and the Outstanding Graduate Writer Award. Before Ohio, she lived in New York. And before New York, she lived in North Western Pennsylvania.