Monday, December 02, 2013

The creature in the cup holder

“There’s a worm in my cup holder!” our son Evan reported from the backseat.

I glanced in the rearview mirror, which hadn’t been pointed at the cars behind us in years, to see if he was serious.

He pointed down to indicate that this was the real deal.

“Really, like a real worm?” my wife Kara asked.  Four-year-olds are not the most reliable witnesses.  A “worm” could be anything from a worm-like piece of thread to an actual boa constrictor to nothing at all.  After all, this is the same child who recently informed us of a tiny being called the Gobbler who lives in people’s ears and nibbles their toes while they’re sleeping.

“The Gobbler is definitely real,” he said quietly, as if worried that the Gobbler would intercept the message, which he probably would, seeing as how he lives in our ears.

“Yeah, like a real worm,” Evan replied.   

Kara took off her seatbelt and leaned into the backseat to get a look. 

“Don’t crash,” she said, which is what she always says when she unclicks.  Recognizing the wisdom of her advice, I took us off the collision course with that phone pole.  In a moment, she pulled herself back into her seat to report her findings. 

“Yeah, there’s a little white worm in there with his treasures,” she said.

Evan likes to collect treasures – acorns, rocks, leaves, sticks, flowers – and stuff them into any available receptacles, including the cup holders on his car seat (let’s not get hung up on the fact that Evan’s ride has more standard features than my first car).

“Like, a fat, squat, white worm?” I asked.

“Yeah, like that,” she replied. 

“And it’s moving?” I asked.

“Yes, just wriggling a little,” she said.

She did not freak out, which led me to believe that she had not identified the creature in the cup holder.  We drove along in silence for another few moments, as I contemplated how, or whether, to break the news that Evan had a maggot in his car seat.

We don’t claim to be the neatest of people.  We often have unfolded laundry on the couch.  Dust bunnies roam our hardwood with little fear of capture.  But, up until that point, we had at least been 100% maggot-free.  A low bar, sure, but one we never expected to trip us up.

“Dude, I hate to say this, but you just described a maggot,” I said. 

Kara took the news better than I expected.

“We are disgusting people,” she replied, a fair point.

When we arrived at daycare, I took Evan’s treasures – an acorn, a shriveled berry, some pebbles, the odd maggot – and put them under a bush.

“My treasures!” Evan yelled, but he quickly recovered his composure.  Sometimes, if you love a maggot, you have to set it free.     

A couple weeks later, Evan sat in my lap as I read him some hard-hitting journalism from the latest issue of Ranger Rick, Jr, with the cover story titled “Nutty for Acorns.”  As we got caught up on the latest in acorn-related current events, I showed Evan a picture of an adult acorn weevil.  The acorn weevil, we learned, inserts its eggs into an acorn in the summer.  When the acorn falls from the tree, the baby acorn weevil chews its way out into the world.  Or, in some cases, into Evan’s cup holder.

“Babe, you’ve got to see this,” I said, handing the magazine to Kara.

“What about it?” she asked.

“We’re not disgusting!” I replied, feeling vindicated.  Sure, it was still a maggot, but it sounds so much cuter to call it a baby acorn weevil. 

I’d been blaming the shriveled-up berry all along.  The acorn, as it turned out, was the root of all weevil.

You can get some grub with Mike Todd at

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