Woolly Worm

And Lawnmower Man.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY HEATHER GRAHAM


My husband, Charles, used to do the mowing, until the very end of his life when, for a while, I did it. I was afraid of our large machine, though my children always said, “You can do it, Mom“—so I did.

Mowing is dangerous, not only to the mower, but to the mowed—and I don’t mean the grass. Charles once mowed a box turtle, and another time he went over a hornets’ nest. He was philosophical about the hornets, but really upset about the box turtle.

After he died, I, of course, did the mowing—until a friend and neighbor (who also hunts on my land) said he would take it over. Gratefully, I made him a large loaf of home-baked bread. That soon became a routine. Saturdays he mowed and I baked bread, and we each said we got the better bargain! His name
is Bill, but I called him “Lawnmower Man.“ My puppy stopped barking when he arrived.

The grass was long and Woolly Worm, left outside, must have been half hidden. The accident happened.

Summer is over now and the mower in the garage. We are indoors. Obi, my pup, sits surrounded by his toys, especially “Woolly Worm.“

Before Obi, we had Lulu. Woolly Worm had been Lulu‘s favorite toy, accompanying her to bed until she died. He was made of fake leopard skin and about a foot long, with a narrow tubular body ending in a snake-like head. When Lulu died, I considered burying Woolly Worm with her ashes, but I ended up scattering the ashes all over the ground in the various places she often hid while I frantically called her name. Lulu was the most wonderful dog, but coming when called was not her thing.

Even after being loved for 15 years, Woolly Worm was miraculously intact. So Obi inherited him along with all the other toys, collars, leashes, etc. It soon came clear that Obi—like Lulu—thought Woolly Worm was special.

It took me a long time to love Obi and let him fill the gap that Lulu left. This was not Obi’s fault. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight and often put his head lovingly on my lap, though he, too, did not believe in coming when called, even for a treat.

One day when Lawnmower Man came, the grass was long and Woolly Worm, left outside, must’ve been half hidden. The accident happened. Woolly’s innards were spread on the grass, but his body, though the head was severed, was more or less intact. Obi picked up the pieces, but you could see he recognized that Woolly Worm had had it. Only a shell remained of the enticing, wriggly body. His Spirit was no longer with us.

I picked him up, thinking, as one does, of the irretrievable past, of the days when Lulu was a pup, when my husband was young, and the children played on the lawn. I even thought back to a recent (now seemingly far away) time when I could go out without a mask! All gone now. Still, I kept Woolly’s remains.

One day in December, I don’t know why, I decided to revive him—perhaps because so much had disappeared. It was only a matter of mending his rent body, attaching his head, and stuffing him again. I got out my work box.

It seemed, once I started, that Woolly had a history of his own. The outline of his head had been traced in blue chalk on his lining. I wondered who followed the chalk line with stitching. Who had stuffed him? I presumed it was someone somewhere far away (Hong Kong? China?) who had had a job stitching together a leopard skin dog toy. It must not have been a well-paying job, for Woolly had not been expensive, even in an American pet shop. Did other Woollies survive for over 15 years? If he had been a human, I could have gone on a genealogical search for Woolly’s birth family. Was whoever worked on our Woolly still alive?

Once stitched, it was only a matter of pressing fresh stuffing into Woolly’s body—and there he was, alive again! Obi immediately took him out to the lawn, for now Lawnmower Man was just a memory. And, after all, Lawnmower Man hadn’t meant it—he had killed without knowing. But this time there had been a resurrection.

Just as, sitting here in Winter, I know Spring will come.


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