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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–Worms 4


“I’m ready for the influx of this business.”





That was a new idea!  Up to this point I’d been digging worms every time there was a demand—I’d run out and dig worms.  Now, to keep worms—to lay in a stock!

I say, “Yeah, that’s a good idea!”  So I went out and really worked all day digging up worms.  I must have dug up three or four hundred worms.  I’ve got a big wooden box down in the basement now.  I put dirt in there and put in the worms.  I’m ready for the influx of this business.  Sure enough, it comes.  Monday morning the old man says, “Listen, Zudak wants some worms, he’s going on vacation.  I rush down to the basement—they’re all dead!

Aha!  Through adversity, one learns one’s business.  You do not think that the first Ford that Henry Ford made turned into the Mustang, do you?  Not at all.  I run out and I dig up more worms, and it was that week that I began my research into worms.  I consulted with other eminent worm men, I went to the library and found out all I could about worms.  Some kids have got that kind of mind and I became really hung up.  By the end of the week I knew more about worms—theoretically, see—than almost anybody ever knows in a whole lifetime.  I just discovered what you have to do to keep worms going.

And I will never forget the heady thing that happened.  It must have been about the first week of July.  Up to this point, remember, I am dealing only with Zudak, with Gertz, and I now have a new customer from my old man’s office, a guy named Sherbie.  Once in a while I would provide worms for Flick’s old man.  Schwartz’s old man particularly liked grubs and I would provide him with grubs.  But these are all people.

Then one afternoon I come home from playing second base and my mother says, “There’s a man looking for you.”

I say, “Who?  What?”  Immediately a little fear in the gut.  No telling what man.

“Some guy came around here looking for worms.”

“Who was it?  Mr. Sherbie?  Was it Zudak?”

She says, “No, I never saw him before.”

“Just a man came here?”

“Yup, just knocked on the door and asked if you were here.  I said ‘No, what do you want?’  He said he wanted worms.”

“A man just came up here and wanted worms?”

“Yes.  He said he’d come back.”

I’m all excited, walking around.  It’s about eight o’clock and sure enough the bell rings.  My old man says, “Yes, who’s there?”

“This is Mr. Gumpocks.  Is this where they sell the worms?”

The old man calls out, “Hey, Jean.  Your customer’s here.”

I come running up from the basement.  I’m all excited.  There’s a guy, just a guy I never saw before.

He says, “Do you sell worms?”

I say, “Yes sir, of course.  Yes.  What sort of worms do you want?”

“You know, worms.  I’m going fishing and I heard that you sell worms here and I’m looking for some worms.  I want a couple of dozen earthworms.  Throw in about a dozen night crawlers.”

“Yes sir, yes sir.”  So I run down to the basement.  I now have a box of worms.  I fill a can full of worms and I put in a dozen night crawlers and I come back upstairs.

He says, “Yes, they look very good.”  He shakes the can and looks in.

It’s kind of nice to know that guys are approving of your merchandise.



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