Searching for Seb when I get home is a well-practiced ritual, yet sometimes it surprises even me where I find him. Or what I find him doing.
One day, a few months after the move to Hawaii, I walked up behind him in the back yard, frowning. Stacks and stacks of small, round paper cartons surrounded where he crouched at the edge of a raised plant bed that was mostly dirt. He was studying it intensely enough to not notice me. As I watched, he picked up one of the cartons from the top of a stack, removed the lid, carefully shook out more dirt on top of the other dirt, and then spread it ever so gently around. It kind of… wiggled.
“Are those worms?” I asked, and he jumped and knocked over a whole stack of cartons.
“Sorry, babe,” I said, kneeling to scoop the contents of one fallen carton back into it. My guess was immediately confirmed. “What on earth are you doing? This is… a crapton of worms.” There had to be at least thirty cartons, and I saw more empty ones on his other side. “Oh wait!” I grinned. “I should’ve asked what on earthworm are you doing?”
He rolled his eyes and made a face at the same time. “They’re nightcrawlers, not earthworms.”
“There’s a difference?”
“Yes. Now give me those. They need to burrow before they get too much sunlight on them.” Taking the carton from me, he repeated the process of spreading it over the plant bed, in a different section this time.
“‘Kay,” I said. “Why do you have so many nightcrawlers?”
“I went to Walmart to get oil for my car.” He paused to rub dirt onto his nose with the back of his hand, and then didn’t continue. To talk, that is. He did continue opening another carton.
Glancing sideways at me, he said, “The automotive stuff was by the fishing section.”
My mouth opened to ask what that had to do with anything, but at the same instant, I realized what and shut it again.
Seb was now concentrating very hard on spreading worms in an even layer. He was also blushing bright pink. “I know that I am ridiculous,” he muttered.
I shook my head fondly. “No, you’re not. You’re a man of your convictions.” From the looks of it, he’d cleaned them clear out of bait. “I think your new pets are gonna run out of room if you put them all in here, though.”
“Yeah.” He sat back on his heels a little and surveyed the yard. “I wanted to start here so they can turn it into something we might actually plant in. The rest can go around in other places.”
“Alright, let me help.” I gathered up stacks of the cartons in my arms and stood, almost dropping a few in the process. While I juggled them, Seb grabbed the rest.
“They need shade or loose soil so they can get underground quickly,” he said, straightening with his chin securing the top of a stack. “Beneath the trees would be good.”
I marched obediently off. He followed, and we spent another half hour getting all the worms happily burrowing dirt. Seb grew more and more content as we worked. It was great.
From then on, if we needed to make one of our infrequent stops at Walmart, I’d asked him if he wanted to get the Early Bird Special. He almost always said yes. It became another well-practiced ritual.