It must have been the heavy shower of rain late on a June evening that brought her to the surface. The sun was shining again and she was well under cover. But the householder returned to resume edging the grass verge of the footpath with an implement that had a semi-circular blade. It had a waist-high wooden handle topped with a T-head. He worked along the edge applying pressure to the blade—his full weight with a bounce—through his left foot; he tilted the handle left, then right; he dragged the blade to the right while guiding it with the left foot and side-stepped a little to repeat the manoeuvre. This was an annual event, more-or-less. The grass verge overhung the concrete pavement and needed to be kept in check.
Grass verge, path and wall (in winter)
Reho suddenly, somehow, evaded and launched herself at a perfect perpendicular angle to the blade. Her timing was miraculous, as was whatever contortion was involved. For the needle-like perpendicular line of her body extended away from the very blade itself, although it could not have passed through it. The perfectly straight gliding line had been mathematically intersected by the cutter. For an instant that dragged slightly, the inevitable square end of the needle was awaited. It failed to appear. What showed in its place was a needle tip as straight and as pointed as the one that led the way. If compared to a snail’s pace, this glide was super-fast. But, even for a worm, it could have been a new world record. Reho was lean and muscular and she had rhythm. Her thin form seemed slightly broader towards the rear, on average, and she had a smooth neck band more towards the front. Her colour was brown with pink showing through.
Having defied the geometry of intersecting lines, the lady with a purpose was headed straight for the wall at the other side of the footpath. The path was nearly two metres wide, or about six and a half feet. That would be about seventeen lengths of a typical Irish earthworm at full stretch. Her purpose was, presumably, to get under cover, but, about a third of the way to the wall, whether from an instantaneous decision or in accordance with a plan, she performed a right-angle bend to the left with her accustomed precision in full view of the clear sky above.
Surely that was on her mind. It was a quiet time for birds, she hoped, but she kept-up the sprint just the same. In fact, she increased the effort, for she now raised her forward end (the name that worms have for it could be translated loosely as ‘head’) quite high in the air and continued the muscular undulation of the remainder of her length to a rhythm that, while slow, had such power of contraction and extension that it propelled her rapidly and smoothly. The front part shortened, pulling the rear part forward until the moment when, having advanced a lot, the rear part had fully compacted itself and became the base and source of the front part that would again advance and elongate to the limit.
Having performed two equal sides of a right-angled triangle, Reho paused for a breather or to take bearings and moved her head, still in the air, from side to side before proceeding to perform an angular deflection to the left of about thirty degrees. There was nobody about to measure the angle accurately. But, given her geometrical aptitude, it might well have been a perfect fraction, one twelfth, of a full rotation. Reho had stamina: by now she had covered more than two metres at pace, although for practicality she no longer maintained her head in the air. Next, as soon as she had completed two sides of an obtuse, 150° isosceles triangle, she repeated the previous angular deflection, but to the right, and proceeded on a path parallel to one she had been on previously.
Understandably at this stage, Reho was no longer maintaining a sprint. In fact, the race had become a marathon. After a time she turned sharp right and headed for the wall and reached it. She followed the wall to the right, but found no cover. She u-turned and followed the wall back to where she had joined it and continued beyond that point, but still found no cover and so launched herself on a trajectory to traverse the path at right angles back towards the grass verge. Reho covered considerable distance, changing direction two more times and then, unexpectedly, was swept onto a shovel full of clay and grass. Her position at that moment was at about two thirds of the perpendicular distance from the wall to the trimmed grass verge. The brush-and-shovel-wielding householder spouse of the first householder was not aware that she was there.
Parts of the edging turned out rather uneven. The first householder had been distracted, or even mesmerized, by Reho’s valiant journey.
Lost Overground by Jim McGovern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland License.
Weblog entry: 26 January 2013