By Angel P. Vermicelli

I really don't know where to begin. Aw, what the hell, if you're here and reading, at this website, you're probably either not just a wee bit bored, or not just a wee bit WEIRD. Either case, I figure you'll brook a raggedy get-go.

What I want to talk to you about is....er....earthworms. Now WAIT, don't click away-earthworms are very important, and deserve maybe just a little bit of your attention. They keep you alive you know, indirectly. Okay, I used to feel the same as you do now, but today I know better. I have learned. (Although I generally try to avoid learning anything, sometimes the experience is unavoidable-because it happens to ME, right in MY OWN HOME). So begins this Tubular Tale and superfluous back-story:

About a year and a half ago, I'd been hitting the bottle pretty hard due to a nervous breakdown. The breakdown happened while I was sitting at the computer working on this analogy from Paul Cooijman's Nemesis Test, and my mind snapped. I think it went kinda like, "ENN, ZZZRR", and then "THWANGG". Although I didn't realize it at the time, it happened on question number XX. This question, by the way, comes with the author's own Mental Health Advisory, "This analogy is so hard I should really advise against trying it out". Like I already told you, I don't ever learn much unless forced, and I certainly never used to pay any attention to something so silly as an Analogy Warning. Man, I'll never ignore one of those again.

Anyhow, I went bonkers and started drinking to excess, in order to escape from my insanity (Analogy XX was stuck so firmly in my mind that the only relief was through more and stronger drink). Naturally, my dear wife was concerned, er..let's say....actually sorta pissed off. But, my torture was so great that just about all I did was drink ALL THE TIME. Elizabeth had not yet discovered the passive resistance philosophy so eloquently taught in various Step groups-and it seemed like she was successfully finding every single good hiding spot I had for my booze-almost before I'd think to utilize it!! I was constantly exhausting my precious supply and then would, with a satisfied smirk, remember and seek out my well concealed reserve-only to find it GONE!!!! For the longest time I thought it was my delirium. It really did take me a long time, through some testing and experimentation, to figure out just what was happening.

I am sorry I had to explain all that, but it was necessary so you'd understand why I was prowling around in the darkest corner of my basement looking for secure spot in which to stash a bottle. Flashlight in one hand, Absolut in the other, I trained the beam slowly along the wall and Eureka! There it was, a dusty cooler of sorts, with a LID!! I stepped over to it for a closer look, lifted the lid, the flashlight beam moved inside the box and illuminated what looked like a hundred thousand little SNAKES. MY HOLY GOD!! The Absolut went a-smashing on the cement floor, and my heart leapt up completely through my esophagus directly into my mouth stopping only just behind my front teeth. I ran madly upstairs, called the number of the treatment center my wife had scrawled in purple graffiti paint above the telephone, screamed something about needing help RIGHT #%^#-ING NOW, checked in and haven't had a drink since.

That's how I come to know all about composting!! Those weren't snakes in the cooler. They were worms!! Hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of them Elizabeth later explained while visiting me up at the asylum....

The Tubular Tale
It all began with Pixie, our next door neighbor and '60s child. In her day old' Pix used to really tear'em down and was pretty "hot" to boot-modeled for the motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson. These days, though, Pixie is mellow, spiritual, and into earth-stuff. Everything about Pixie nowadays is organic and spiritual. She eats "organic" vegetables (I hadn't realized there was any other kind), last year went on vacation to Taos, NM to study Indian Pottery and some kind of Indian Philosophy, respectively-- feeds the bunny rabbits and birds in her back yard, voted for Ralph Nader for President of the USA in the last election, and is into COMPOSTING WITH EARTHWORMS!!!

Elizabeth explained it all to me, while I was lying prone on my asylum bunk--still in the "intake" ward:

"Honey, worms are what keep our whole earth 'moving', and cause things to grow by producing the necessary richness in the soil. While 'worms' are a very broad and twisty topic, the worms I'm talking about are form the phylum Annelidia, class Oligochaeta, genus Lumbricus, and species L. terrestris. Earthworms--and more specifically, 'Red Wigglers'! Did you know that worms were even important to be the subject of Darwin's last major botanical treatise "The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms"? It was THE pioneering work in quantitative ecology. Anyhow, Pix turned me on to it a few months back, but you didn't even notice because...oh never mind hon', but I've had my Wigglers for quite a while now and they're doing fabulous work..

Pix showed me where I could pretty much go one-stop-shopping, to get the show on the road. It's called the "Happy D Ranch" for worms, and they even have a website!! You can get 1 lb, or 1,000 worms for $30, 2,000 worms for $40, and 5,000 for $90. That's 3 cents, 2 cents, and 1.8 cents per worm. (Note from Vermicelli: Even though I was on a high dose of librium at the time to prevent DT's, I was yet a bit confused at the pricing structure-while taking advantage of volume purchasing power, the price breaks seemed out of whack) You just conveniently add them to your on-line shopping cart and next thing you know they show up in a brown box on your doorstep. Open the box and inside is your plastic bag choc-full-o-worms. It's just terrific, don't you think?

That's where I got the "cooler"-their little home, and the book on how to care for them, and that's how I came by what you wound up finding when you were looking to stash your filthy bot...oh, I'm sorry hon', that's all in the past now-I know you will be your old self again when you finally get out of here."

At this point, unbelievably, I was becoming intrigured. Though I suspected I'd regret it I then asked, "So...just what do earthworms eat, and now that we are talking about it, what is this 'fabulous work' they're doing?"

"They eat coffee grinds, egg shells, vegetables, and the newspaper'n'peat they have as their bed", she chimed. "But I do have to 'water' them". "Water them?" "Yes, I have my special squirt bottle and I just squirt them a little every once in a while. If I don't water them, they will dry up and all die. That would be terrible, because they are working so hard and I need the compost for the garden. You see, I can't just go out and buy the compost, because I need extra rich organic compost for my organic vegetable garden, the kind you can only get through "composting" the old fashioned way out of doors, or through the action of earthworms, "vermi-composting" indoors."

At this juncture, dear reader, I was pretty ready for another dose of librium. But, the nurse said it wasn't time, so I had to white knuckle it through the rest of the story.

Elizabeth continued, "So they eat the grinds, and shells, and veggies, and paper, and it goes into their little gizzards and gets all ground up and comes out the other end as rich COMPOST. It's just super! Each day one worm produces approximately 1X its own weight in compost. Multiply that by several thousand worms in you head, hon' and how soon do you think I have my WHOLE COOLER FILLED WITH RICH, DELIGHTFUL, COMPOST!!?? When it's all done, I strain out the compost and put the worms back to work. They don't seem to mind at all. Then, I apply the compost to my garden, or make compost "tea" to water the flowers and plants, or both.

Best of all, I don't even have to buy any more worms if I don't want to. They have sex and make more of themselves. Did you know that each worm has both male and female components-they're hermaphroditic (actually I did know this). 'Course, one worm does not reproduce all by itself. It still takes "Two to Tango" hon' - isn't that funny!! (that part I didn't know, or if I ever did know it once I'd forgotten). Well, hon' visiting hours are about over, and it's a long drive back home, but I'm glad we had this little talk and that you found out that it wasn't snakes after all-just some earthworms eating and screwing around that saved your life. Gotta go now, I love you, and don't take too much more of that librium, okay??"

Elizabeth my wife has many enthusiasms, and the earthworms were certainly one of those enthusiasms-for a while. Unfortunately for the worms, the "new" eventually wore off and she neglected to water her worms-which resulted in the effective mass extinguishing of several thousand worm-souls. I think Elizabeth truly felt bad about that, as she made her sheepish confession of neglect. I felt a little loss myself. After all, those worms did save my life-and produced some really fantastic organic tomatoes!!!

Author's Note: While much of the tale you just read is fictional, the worm facts are true. And there really is a Happy D Ranch, and it really does have a website, and you really can start your own worm farm. That is, if you're in the mood.