I’ve hated worms since I was seven, when Billy Gentry hid one in my unsuspecting sneaker and I threw up. The riskiest worm season was during the spring rains, when they’d creep out in droves from wherever they lived and slime their way across the sidewalks. They were repulsive, plump from yeasty new soil, and wiggly, like they had a new lease on life. I coped with them by pretending I was a frog, keeping my eyes on the pavement and playing worm hopscotch. Only once did one get the better of me, squishing underneath my new pink Mary Janes and setting off a fit of ew, ew, ew, ew! I heard the neighbor guy snicker and gave him a killer scowl.
I still hate worms. You’d think I could spot one from 100 yards, but no. When Alex crept into the hollow place my absent father left inside me, I didn’t even notice. He lured me with his bedroom eyes and seduced me into forgetfulness. I thought I’d learned my lesson from the chain of fools who’d come before him, but no. Alex scrubbed my memory with soapy charm and slithered in unnoticed, like a worm vanishing into the grass.
The first time he punched me, he looked stunned. He said it was the first time he’d hit a woman. I should have demanded proof, but no, I took his word for it. He was on his best behavior for months before he struck again, this time by hurling a saucer-shaped iron weight at the bridge of my nose. He stumbled toward me, crying, begging my forgiveness. I screamed at him to not lay a finger on me and drove myself to the hospital, my blood gushing like worm guts. The x-ray revealed the chips of bone, but not the daddy-shaped hole I let Alex crawl back into one last time.
The next time he detonated, I was ready. The knife sliced through his center and I cut him in half. I spit him out and vowed to be done with worms, finally plump within myself.
Traci Mullins writes short fiction and has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Dime Show Review, Spelk, Ellipsis Zine, Palm-Sized Press, Fantasia Divinity, CafeLit, CommuterLit, and others. She was named a Highly Recommended Writer in the London Independent Story Prize competition.