Billobi's cousin Hamphred Dungbeetle sat as usual in the large bathtub stationed outside on his front lawn, with Billobi next to him in an old, water filled wagon. The day had been long and sweaty, but they always were in these southern parts of the country.
"Ev'ery problem has a solution", Hamphred said with a slow voice. "Hellish weather, heavenly bathing!"
Billobi nodded in agreement; helping out on the farm was everything but vacation, but it was better than school. He gently filled his cupped hand with the cool water and poured it over his face, pretending he was a living waterfall. Far away the sun was setting, as red as his cousin's nose during the annual eel feast. At least that's always what his father used to say; Billobi had never gotten a red nose after eating eel, so he assumed it had to do with a particular type of eel that only Hamphred ate.
"See that old man over there, shaped like a horseshoe?" asked Hamphred and pointed to the distance. "We call him the Gardener."
"Is he called that because he works as a gardener?" asked Billobi and squinted.
"Sort of! He got tricked by them burghers, sold him one of them aar-chi-teqs. Don't ask me how it's spelled! Some fancy word for a little worm that eats dirt."
"Why did he need to buy worms? I see plenty every day, and they all seem to eat dirt."
"As I said, Bill, them burghers fooled him with their fancy words. The gardener thought he'd came up with a brilliant plan: he would use them worms for digging himself a set of underground tunnels."
"What would he need tunnels for, Hamphred?"
"Well, for crops, obviously. Haven't you ever tasted pearl potatoes, those white, small things?"
Billobi couldn't remembered he'd ever did.
"Never? I need to talk to your parents, 'cause pearl potatoes are nothing but pure candy for your soul! Anyway, those potatoes loves dark places, and growing them in a underground tunnel is heaven for them - only upside down. Well, look here!"
The Gardener walked up to their bathtubs and waved lazily. He had a long, white beard and old clothes covered in dirt. His eyes were no bigger than two dots in his pale face.
"Good day, Hamphred. Another bath, yes?"
"Keeps me alive!" answered Hamphred and laughed. "Any news on those worms of yours?"
"No, no", said the Gardener, shaking his head as if he was answering himself as well, "no news. Well, maybe one: I found one of them dead, yes. So, yes, one news perhaps. One."
"That's good to hear, only one more to find then!"
"No, no, found him I did. Not the dead one, no, although I found him too. No the other one, he's the fattest I've seen. Lives in the furthest room. He spoke to me, yes."
"The worm...spoke to you?" asked Billobi.
"Yes, yes, spoke to me he did. No, not the dead one, he got to the size of dog, then he died. But the fattest, he's bigger than your outhouse, Hamphred. Two, perhaps. Grown tired of dirt, he said. He wants to eat real food now, yes. I fed him once, but now I've locked the three doors, yes."
"That's the spirit, let the monster starve", said Hamphred and washed his face.
"Yes, starve the fat architect. Shouldn't ever have gotten them, nope. Well, I need to get going now, got them cows on pasture so I'll better keep an eye out for them. Farewell."
The Gardener turned around and walked away with his bent body.
"Do you think the worm really spoke to him, Hamphred?" Billobi whispered excited.
"You never know, Bill. One time at the harvest feast I thought I heard an eel say something to me."
"Really? What did he say?"
"I never found out, 'cause I ate him before he'd talk himself out of it!" Hamphred said with a laughter.
Billobi turned his gaze toward the pink horizon; maybe it was the talkative eels that gave you a red nose?
The 2016 Cartographic Review!
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