art by Melissa Mead
Looking for a Knight in Shining Armor
by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
I appreciate your showing up. I know. Putting that ad onto OKCupid probably wasn't the best way to deal with this. I just... I didn't know where to turn for help. Maybe I should have just explained outright, but I was worried you might not come. I'll tell you everything, I will.
It started with the caterpillars. Seriously.
The spiky little crawlers were clustered in the snow-covered trees behind the cabin. They spun nests around the pine needles, sticky white balls of thread hanging from the branches.
"Infestation," grunted Ezekiel when I went in to buy some groceries. He pulled a spray can of insecticide out from under the counter, put it next to the milk.
"I don't like to use that stuff, Ezekiel. It's not good for the environment."
"Take it." When I hesitated, he shoved it into my hands. "So you've got it if you need it."
That was a speech, by Ezekiel's standards, so I took it, threw it into my backpack, and he rang up the rest. Ezekiel is about a hundred years old, runs the dusty little shop at Forest Springs for the cabins up here. Next sign of civilization is Riverside, a one-hour drive down the mountain. I try to stay on Ezekiel's good side.
Still, I didn't use the spray, not at first. But those nests kept growing bigger and I could see thorny caterpillars crawling around the edges. They were as fat as my finger now and not at all cute, not like the fuzzy tiny ones I sometimes found in my tomatoes.
By the end of the week, I was starting to worry about the pines.
"What do I do with the spray, Ezekiel? Do I spray it onto the nests directly?"
"Stand back, they sting."
"The caterpillars? Are you kidding me?"
"Worms," he said.
"No, Zeke, I'm pretty sure they are caterpillars. They're all segmented and they have feet and..."
"Wyrms, not worms. With a 'y.'" He kept his eyes on the groceries, checking each price.
My mouth opened and closed again and finally I managed to ask, "Wyrms as in dragons? In my trees?"
"Wait until they hatch." His weathered face was defiant as he handed me the bag.