GOD OF WORMS • by K.C. Shaw

Rue walked next to Ivan on the other side of his umbrella, which wasn’t quite big enough for both of them. Rain had darkened the blue cloth of her right sleeve. Her jeans cuffs flapped damply.

Ivan was in mid-pontificate, as usual. “It’s absurd, saying that God chooses to save this person and it’s a miracle, when so many others aren’t saved. A God who doesn’t save everyone is no god at all. It’s like someone who walks along and notices a worm on the sidewalk, feels sorry for it and puts it on the grass so it won’t die. That’s a miracle to the worm. But then the person notices another worm, and another, and another, and they don’t stop to pick them all up, right, because who does that? Ergo, God either doesn’t exist — since he doesn’t save everyone who needs him — or he isn’t a god but a supernatural creature who sees us as nothing but worms and occasionally picks one of us up and puts us back in the grass.”

Ivan smirked, waiting for Rue’s argument so he could demolish it. Rue thought, “Your logic is faulty and your theology nonexistent,” but she didn’t say it. She didn’t feel like arguing with Ivan, who was always right.

They stopped at the corner and Ivan leaned over to punch the traffic button. Rain showered from the edge of the umbrella onto Rue’s hair. She frowned down at her wet shoes.

An earthworm writhed in a puddle near her feet. Did worms drown? Rue bent over and picked it up between her thumb and forefinger, careful not to pinch. Its wet pink body was soft, helpless.

She set the worm in the grass near the gutter. It lay for a moment as though stunned, then wriggled down between the grass blades. Rue smiled.

Ivan said, “You are so literal-minded,” in his patronizing way.

The WALK sign lit up. Rue said, “You are such a jerk, Ivan.” And she walked away from him.

She stopped and picked up every worm she saw on the way home.

K.C. Shaw lives in East Tennessee. Her stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies.

Rate this story:
 average 0 stars • 0 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Helen

    Thanks for the hidden message. May we all be more literal-minded!

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Sentence 1 – ‘the other side of the umbrella'(What?) Sentence 2 – ‘had darkened’ lacks immediacy. Why not just ‘darkened’? Sentence 3 – ‘jeans cuffs’ should be ‘jeans’ cuffs’ or ‘jean cuffs’.

    The rest of the story flows well, although there’s not that much substance to it. However, those first three sentences had already set the mood for me.

  • Bob

    The umbrella thing put me off a little as well – just not an apt description. And shouldn’t Ivan have been in “mid-pontification”?

    Other than those two points, I liked this. It was simple, clear, and without expository fat. It may have smacked a little of a Reader’s Digest vignette, but that’s not a bad thing every now and then.

  • Interesting. Not much else can be said about it.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I suppose it’s “God makes me a responsible agent, but not me and me-alone.” But why did she walk away from Ivan? If he didn’t get it he needed some discussion. The good thing is Rue wasn’t afraid of getting wet if she walked off from his insult. The bad thing is Ivan didn’t run after her with his umbrella calling, “Hey, don’t you think you need me?”

    “Jeans” is singular.

  • Very good sensory descriptions but I don’t get the point that Rue is trying to make: if I were god, I would pick up ALL the worms?

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Why should he attempt to stay with her after she runs from HIS insult and then calls HIM a jerk? Because HE has the umbrella.

  • I thought this was terrific, KC. I thought you portrayed the relationship beautifully.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Russ –
    No, I think God would designate a good number of deputies.

  • JohnOBX

    I did appreciate the care the writer took in the set up, symbolism and even the character’s names, but overall the story didn’t do much for me.

  • Excellent story. The way I see it, there’s more than one point of view here, and both points of view are expertly woven into the tale. I don’t think Rue gets Ivan and I don’t think Ivan gets Rue. The story is more about the relationships than about who’s right. This would be a fun story to debate in a Literature or Sociology class. I didn’t really care too much about the mechanical issues. It still flowed enough.

  • I liked your story. It was sweet that instead of responding with some angry visceral argument to someone just spoiling for a fight (someone who would never believe in words), Rue let her actions speak for her and behaved in the most godly manner she could imagine. Nicely done.

  • Excellent. I thought it was delightful and I loved the last line.

  • Jen

    Npt exactly my kind of story, but I *did* like Rue waling away from Ivan. He was a jerk and sometimes you just need to walk away from them.

  • The dichotomy of the couple is well characterized. I think I have witnessed this very event many times over, without the worms.

  • BT

    Nice little flash story, KC. Excellent portrayal of a dysfunctional relationship between a deep thinking woman and a pompous asshole.

    Joshua is spot on with his opinion.

    In my opinion, people must try to read as a reader first, unless they are asked to be in a critique group, or are working as an editor who is about to publish this work. If you can’t allow yourself to enjoy a story, or at least try to, then there’s not much point in putting up an opinion. You just come across as a little shallow and anal.

  • Sharon

    KC, I liked this story very much indeed. Grammatical “nits” don’t usually bother me–my first read is all about the story, and this one fully satisfied me.

    Ivan is like many people I know or have known: self-righteous, asking a question but refusing any answer but his own. Why did Rue pick up all the worms? Simple. As a free moral agent she felt like it, that’s why.

  • Really liked this one. Right up my alley.

  • Lindsay

    Cute! Go Rue!

  • Chris

    I really liked it. Everyone has opinions about theology, or lack there of, and whenever two people have opposing views, it’s always an argument. Sometimes we invite them and sometimes we don’t.

  • Edward Caputo

    I really liked this too — unlike some of the other comments, I didn’t see this as a ‘message’ piece at all. I took the philosophy/theology as character development: it told us who Ivan was, and more importantly, by her reaction, who Rue was and why she could no longer be with him. In other words a perfect little flash piece showing a crucial change in the protagonist’s life. I gave it a solid 4.

    As an aside: I disagree with BT that we should be “readers first” as if readers aren’t critical judges of our work – they may not have the terms or the words that fellow writers in a group would put forth, but they will pick up on the things mentioned and judge the quality of the writer accordingly. Nor do I agree that the writers don’t want critical feedback.

    I don’t get why people think that critical comments are a disservice to the writer. I see them as a compliment. Once I get over the ego-hit, I am actually grateful to those who take the time to tell me what they didn’t like about my writing – even the pedants and the nitpickers show me ways to improve. As long as it’s not attacks on the writer, but feedback about the writing, it’s invaluable perspective. Much more valuable than non-critical praise (however good that makes us feel when we hear it).

    Thick skin and honest self-awareness are as important to a successful writer as the ability to craft a sentence. Those that take the time to provide critical feedback here do the writers a service, and this would be a poorer site without it.

  • BT

    We will have to agree to disagree.

    It is true that constructive criticism helps create a better writer, but this is not a forum for that. I perhaps wrongly assumed this was a place to share a story, not workshop one.

    I would have thought comment on the story, if the reader enjoyed it, would be welcome, but if not to the readers liking than perhaps saying nothing would be prudent.

    To find use in technical comments the writer must have trust in the commenter otherwise none of us would be able to develop a voice as we are pulled in multiple directions.

    But, as I said earlier, here we must agree to disagree.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    BT – This is a forum for that and any other relevant thoughts a reader may have. Edward Caputo has said it well as have others, such as Bob in other postings. Furthermore, the comments should comment about and criticize the story regarding merit or fault, not the readers.