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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–Worms 5

“Well, I’m selling them for a quarter a dozen now.”

 

 

 

 

He says, “Very good worms.  How much is that?”

“Oh, that’s a quarter.”

“How much?”

“A quarter.”

“Oh yes, of course.”  He gives me a quarter.  He looks a little startled.

A bell goes off in my head.  He goes down the steps with my can of worms and I turn back and walk through the living room and I say, “A quarter.  A quarter. Ah-hah.  I’ll be darned!”

So that night I find out that worms are not sold by the can, they’re sold by the dozen.  And, as a matter of fact, worms go for anywhere from a quarter to a half-dollar a dozen.  I’ve been selling worms for two-bits for a whole can.  A large bunch of worms—I just put worms in there and cover them up and the guy gives me a quarter.  Well, then the cold light of monetary calculation begins to settle in my head.  I become unbelievably financial.  You know how so many kids get hung up on counting their pennies—“Heh, heh, heh!”—cackling?  Worms sell for about two-bits a dozen and night crawlers went for anywhere from thirty-five to fifty cents a dozen.  Now a night crawler is a different breed of worm, you know.  He looks like a regular earthworm but he’s about one-and-a-half times as big.  This is a big worm.

So I’m out there digging up the night crawlers, digging up the worms, and the business is beginning to pick up.  Sherbie is going fishing a lot more.  And I remember the day I raised the prices.  The old man comes down in the basement.  He says, “Gertz wants a can of worms.”

I say, “How many does he want?”

“You know, a can of worms.”

“Does he want one dozen, two dozen, three dozen worms?”

“What do you mean, ‘dozen’?”

“Well, I’m selling them for a quarter a dozen now.”

He says, “Twenty-five cents a dozen?  That’s twelve worms.  That’s better than two cents a worm!”

I say, “Yep.”

“I guess I’ll have to find out how many he wants.”

He goes upstairs and calls up Gertz and he comes down and says, “He wants three dozen.”

I say, “What does he want?  Does he want night crawlers or does he want regular worms?”

“You mean you’re charging extra for night crawlers?!”

I say, “You bet.  For every fifty little ones, you only dig up one night crawler.”

“Oh, well, I’ll have to call him.”  So he goes back upstairs and calls Gertz.  He comes downstairs and he says, “He wants three dozen night crawlers.”

“Let’s see, that’s thirty-five cents a dozen, that’ll be about a dollar-ten, give or take a couple of nickels.”

“That’s what he wants.”

I fill the can with three dozen night crawlers, and I realize well over a dollar for my work.

Now this began to be something.  By the end of that month there were two or three dozen people showing up a week.  Total strangers looking for worms.  Apparently there weren’t many people selling worms in the area.  Word was getting around.  When fishermen find out the word gets out.  Just a fantastic business.  At that point I must have had ten or fifteen boxes, all spread out in a row next to the wall in the basement.  I’d given up baseball and everything else.  Because when you start digging worms and raising worms, believe me, it becomes a full-time business.  A worm doesn’t just lay there.  A worm demands constant care.

He also demands constant solace.  They’re very nervous.  If you leave the worms down there without anybody messing around with them, they’ll form a whole ball about the size of a tennis ball.  That’s the beginning of the end of the worms.  So you have to keep going down there and telling them it’s going to be alright.  That they’re going to like going fishing, tell them how exciting it is to belong to Mr. Gertz and all that stuff.

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