Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Night Crawling for Night Crawlers

A few days ago, having delayed a dog walk until night-time, I came around a corner to find two men with flashlights scrutinizing the pavement in front of a house. They were looking for a couple screws that had somehow gotten dropped next to the curb. The screws were black, the flashlights were dim; they'd have to wait for daylight to find them.

That was about as much life on a suburban street as I had seen in a long time, and was of no account other than it reminded me of how, as a kid looking for fish bait, I would take a flashlight out at night and crawl across our lawn, hunting for night crawlers. Catching big fish in the nearby lake, largely imagined but occasionally real, meant first catching big worms that would venture partway out of their holes at night. It worked best to point the flashlight down and angled towards me, then focus on the leading edge of the circle of light it cast upon the ground. 

The worms, thick, long and sure to lure a big fish if only I could catch them, were lightning quick and easily spooked by vibration, light or movement. Most of the time, they would slip instantly back down their holes before I could grab them. But if everything went right, if I was stealthy and soft in my approach, sharp enough to see their shapes in the dim leading edge of light, and quick and accurate as my hand shot forward, I could grab the end of the worm and pull the rest of it out of its hole. 

In retrospect, it's the closest I'll ever get to thinking and acting like a cat, and often proved as memorable as the subsequent fishing expedition.

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