Digging for Bait.

My dad and I spent hours at low tide
searching for worms.
Special worms.
Nothing like the ones at home.
Worms straight out of science fiction,
worms from lurid, shouting posters,
worms from the pits of hell.
Evil worms.
They had thick black hairy skin
and their pulsating bodies
lay hidden beneath the sand.
They were right there
under your feet.
Waiting.

Each worm lay between a tiny wet circle
and a little swirling pile of sand.
It was my job to look for these,
my dad’s job to dig.
Fast.
As soon as the worm felt that sand move
it sensed danger,
and it tunneled downwards
in a race for its life.
Rippling muscles, fear,
soft sand and the incoming tide
were pitted against my dad’s skill.
The losers ended up
squirming in a dirty bucket,
guts spilling out,
dying by inches.
One more body among many.
A freak show for visiting children to stare at-
objects of disgust and loathing.
All dignity gone.

It was the razor clams
who I felt sorry for.
They were hard to catch.
Long and elegant.
Beautiful. Sharp. Fast.
They lay far out on the beach,
low down in the sand,
like a special secret.
Sometimes if I begged hard
my dad allowed me to take one from the bucket,
lay it down on the sand and watch.
Just when I had lost hope
a strong white tongue
would slip out from the end of the shell,
curl downwards,
and stroke the sand gently,
preparing a way.
Finally, in a sudden lunge
that made me feel like cheering,
the whole shell would rise in the air
and shoot downwards
in a rush of celebration.
Gone.
Each one a life saved.

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