Growing Up, I Was A Ball Of Worms

Libby Marshall
Published in
3 min readJan 28, 2020

“Critters found while working at Natural Bridge” by vastateparksstaff is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hubert, stop playing with those darn Lego Logs and get on Grandpa’s lap. See, this is a picture of me in 1956. That little girl in the rocking chair is your great-aunt Miriam. And see the boy holding that ball of worms? No, that boy was our neighbor, Stanley. That’s me in his arms. When I was your age, I was a ball of worms.

Don’t be frightened. I’m still the same Grampy with a Werther’s in his pocket for his favorite grandson even though I used to be a tangled writhing mass of soil covered earthworms.

On the day I was born, when the doctor pulled a handful of bloody worms out of Momma, every single person in the delivery room fainted. Momma swore up and down she’d never cheated on Daddy with another soul, man or worm. Daddy figured it was a trick the Nazis played on his manly fluids to turn the next generation of hardworking Americans into useless piles of spineless nematodes.

The doctor said I’d never amount to anything more than catfish bait, but Momma and Daddy treated me just the same as their other kids. Here we are racing in the soapbox derby, on a trip to The Grand Canyon, and even all dressed up for Halloween. I went as a plate of spaghetti.

Now, Hubert, I bet you’re wondering how I went from a thrashing mass of slimy invertebrates to the man who falls asleep every night watching NCIS. Have you ever heard of swarm intelligence? It’s when the collective intelligence of the group is greater than its parts, like a school of fish or a colony of ants. Well, that’s what happened to me. Or more accurately, the constantly multiplying horde of worms that comprise me.

All the worms started working together to make a boy. In this picture, I’m pitching on my middle school baseball team. See, I’ve almost got arms. And here I’m playing Iago in our high school production of Othello. The school paper gave me a glowing review because most of the town thought I was some type of demon. And this is me on my first day of work in the coal mine. I always had a knack for being underground.

By the time I was twenty-five, I could walk down the street and people assumed I had been in a terrible fire leaving my skin pink and slimy. No one knew I was actually several thousand worms in a tweed suit. Here I am on my wedding day with your Grandma. I was her…

Libby Marshall