Have you ever noticed how something you can't see, like the exhaust from an automobile, can still cast a shadow on the pavement in bright sunlight? When I see this phenomenon, I remember my high school friend's funeral.
Sixth period biology. The dissecting pans, one for every two students, held one large dead earthworm each. Mr. Burns said, "Today we're doing a basic dissection of Lumbricus terrestris. You have a scalpel, scissors, forceps, and pins. Please try hard to avoid cutting into the intestine, and be ready to make a drawing of your completed work. Each of you is responsible for his or her own drawing; you may divide the actual cutting and pinning any way you wish. Steady hands, now." And he sat down, leaving us to our task.
Jerry Grant, my partner, was more interested in girls than in biology, but he set to work with a delicate touch, and soon the worm was open from stem to stern, its digestive tract unmarred. Suddenly he turned, distracted, and said, "What's she doing here? She's gorgeous!"
I saw no one. But he continued to stare at an empty spot in the room. Then his head tilted back and he sighed with pleasure--just before collapsing to the floor in what appeared to be an epileptic seizure. We all cleared a space for him, and Mr. Burns called the school nurse, who evidently summoned an ambulance, since I heard a siren approaching fast just as Jerry's spasms started to lessen.
When he could speak, he muttered, "Something got inside me when she kissed me. It felt like a worm."
He grabbed for his groin. "It's in here," he muttered.
But then he writhed around and put a hand on his lower back. "It's moving up!" he said, sounding panicky, as paramedics arrived with a stretcher.
Then Jerry was clutching his head, his face gray and his breathing labored.
Once at the hospital, Jerry got steadily worse, the grayish pallor suffusing his whole body. The doctors in Intensive Care could do nothing for him, nor could they diagnose his condition, though one suggested a psychosomatic reaction.
His words were worse than his physical deterioration. Pointing with a quivering finger, he rasped, "She's right here. Don't you see her? She's here in the corner of the room! Help!"
My friend died at four the next morning. The funeral took place two days later. Throughout his graveside service, a girl shaped shadow moved on the grass. I watched, hardly able to look away, and I wonder still if anyone else saw it.
Posted: 05/07/2012 21:27:35