Forests and Worms

A Novel

It has happened. The Great Expulsion. The winds, the seas, and the skies have joined forces
and driven the human race from aching Mother Earth.
All but Annie’s family, that is.

Chapter 1

Annie knelt on the hard ground of a tomato patch. She pulled an immense dock weed from between two tomato plants. A creature the likes of which she had never seen wriggled through the plant’s roots. She gaped at the one-inch-long pink cylinder writhing downward through the weed she held in her gloved right hand and at the thin cuticle that enveloped it. Its miniature body shone in Earth’s bright sun.

Her heart leapt. An animal! An animal made of not one but two parts joined together and shaped like a piece of string.

She knew about animals. The family had used to house a pair of cowdles. The tawny, curly-haired, long eared creatures stood forty-four inches tall and weighed eight hundred pounds. The female gave the family a nourishing four gallons of milk a day. On the day Annie turned three, the male died. As the two cowdles grazed in a grassy field, a rogue tornado spirited him away. The female died three months later.

Annie summoned her gentlest instincts, lowered the weed to the ground, and gave it a tender shake. The helpless invertebrate—a creature who could go anywhere yet remained underground and who preferred the dark moistness of the earth’s depths to the clean air warmed by the sun’s rays—dropped to the ground and disappeared into the soil.

Annie closed her eyes and pictured the determined creature pushing, pushing through the ground, searching for sustenance, for the prolongation of life. Her light brown hair flying in the wind, she sped from the tomato field on long legs that gave her speed. At the prepubertal age of eleven, she was already five foot two. She darted through a corn field and sped up a dirt path. She burst into the kitchen of a mammoth stone house surrounded by shrubbery and tulips.

“Mom!” she cried. “Grandma! I found a little animal!”

May We Raise Children Who Love the Unloved Things
by Nicolette Bowder

May we raise children
who love the unloved
things—the dandelion, the
worms and spiderlings.
Children who sense
the rose needs the thorn

& run into rainswept days
the same way they
turn towards sun…

& when they’re grown and
someone has to speak for those
who have no voice

may they draw upon that
wilder bond, those days of
tending tender things