Pedro Perez felt he had been plunged into a nightmare when his daughter called his attention to one, no, two “weird caterpillars” crawling under their bedroom door.
Pedro Perez felt he had been plunged into a nightmare when his daughter called his attention to one, no, two “weird caterpillars” crawling under their bedroom door. He was wearing undershorts; he was working on an idea for a short story, which would become his breakthrough. He would be so tired after pouring all his ideas on the page that he would fall into a deep, restful sleep. That was his simple plan for that night, but of course, life always has other scenarios in mind.
[End of five minutes]
Those do not look like caterpillars, he thought. He had not seen such ugly worms before. Stay away from them sweetie, he said to his daughter. He picked up the two worms with a piece of paper.
He opened the room’s door, which led to the patio. It had started to rain. That can’t be good, he thought, not with the sewage problem they had. There was another black fat worm heading towards him. These things were fast crawlers, disgustingly fast fat crawlers.
Pedro Perez crouched to see the damn things better. He asked for his glasses. He wife brought them to him. Honey, said his wife. There is another one that way, and that way. He lifted his head and saw that several black worms were crawling out of the tall plastic container they had turned into their home dumpster. Since the trash collection service started to falter, they had resisted the impulse to throw their garbage in the streets, like everybody else was doing, and started accumulating it in a bigger container hoping that the truck would pass one day and they could hand it over to them as neatly as possible.
They had lost track of when was the last time the truck passed. Usually, after a few weeks, they had had to deal with the tiny thin white worms and that was the alarm for them to pack everything in big black plastic bags and carry them to the closest corner turned landfills.
This was different. There were dozens of fat black worms crawling out of the container from every crack available. They were dropping from the tap, which had been banged up by the sanitation workers last time they passed. They were also slithering away from the big clack that split the container in half after another sanitary worker dropped it from the top of the truck, even though Pedro Perez had asked him to pleased handle it with care because it was new. These workers seem to take special pleasure smashing the cans of those they perceived as pretentious; it was probably their way of getting even at having to work buried in their trash.
This was bad. This was definitely bad. Pedro Perez was going nuts about how to handle the worm crisis. He grabbed a dustpan and a broom and started to sweep the worms into it. It was full in a minute, but they were crawling out of it as soon as they were in. He did not want to have to smash every one of them. Desperately, he grabbed every chemical he had at hand. Bleach, disinfectant, vinegar, and even gasoil. He poured the cocktail unto the worms and when they were drown in it he stopped. Soon after, the damn things started to twirl and twist. The cocktail was boiling with damned souls looking for salvation, he thought. It’s working. He placed the dustpan against a wall in a position that allowed the liquid to stay in place.
He kept adding more and more worms, which he kept picking up with sheets of papers he snatched from the pile of documents he had on the these-things-must-finally-go-to-the-trash table. They were meant for something else. Old students papers, research articles, photocopied books. After years of deferred dreams, of packing and unpacking, he guessed they were probably meant for this nasty purpose. After a while, he reckoned the worms would not stop coming out of the container and they had no plans of dying either, no matter how strong the cocktail was. We need to take the container out, his wife said. Are you sure you want a trail of nasty worms all over your house, he asked. It was going to be a long night, he thought. They put on their face masks, got plastic bags for gloves and got a couple of big black plastic bags to distribute the disgusting load. His wife volunteered to exhume the small, decomposed, bags in the container and transfer them into the big black bag.
The stench was unbearable. Half way through, he asked her to let him finish. He tied three huge black plastic bags of filth ordering his stomach not to turn. He’d deal with the worms in the patio later. They opened the doors of the long colonial house, set up a home-made unstable cart and loaded the bags, one at the time.
The couple of blocks Pedro Perez had to walk pushing the cart with trash became a tortuous shame road. He felt he was actually carrying the bags on his back. Every stumble on the bumpy pavement and sidewalk felt like lashes on an already broken back. He wondered what he had done to deserve that. The idea of an all-powerful god that allowed so much injustice in an allegedly perfect creation disgusted him more than the container full of maggots. It was a rotten world indeed that world of his, he thought, as he walked two dark blocks under a drizzle.
He got home eager to pour endless fresh water to cleanse his disgust. He felt he would have to live with the stench; it felt it would not go away, even if he bathed with the most expensive soap. He wanted to shoot the patio with a jet washer, but he did not have one and too much water in the patio would only mean sewage water coming out of the hall bathroom. The house was cursed; the country was cursed; they had all been cursed.
That night, Pedro Perez did not rest. He would not rest for many nights to come either. He felt maggots crawling all over his imaginary limbs. In his nightmares, he still had flesh; he still could feel his skin being haunted by these vicious maggots. He knew, though, that the maggots were in the plastic bags, and so were his remains.