The forest is uniform and mundane—endless acres owned by paper companies, pine trees in perfect rows, awaiting their demise in some mill farther south. For a while, we see more ATV’s than cars. The road slowly unspools, and we pass few homes or buildings of any sort. A trailer appears here, then a gas station with old pumps and boy on his four-wheeler refueling. What we’re doing isn’t, in the strictest sense, legal. The United States has banned distribution of the worms. In fact, the man who shipped the worms was forced to flee in the night as the FDA was closing in. He now lives in England, but is hoping to move the business to a tropical climate so that the worms feel more at home. It took a few months to find someone we knew in Canada that was willing to accept such an unusual package, but finally our mom relented and gave up the name of her old friend Angela. Malcolm can convince anyone. It’s a somewhat suspect itinerary though, so as we approach the border, we plan our story.
“Okay, so we’re going to Halifax for a couple days because we’re on vacation and we have a free place to stay.”
“Yeah, but we’re only staying for one night,” I reply.
“But they won’t know that when we come back through.”
Malcolm fishes around in the backseat and finds the piece of paper that has our end destination on it—Angela Fisher, 3179 Connaught Avenue, Halifax. We recite her name.
“Angela Fisher, Angela Fisher, Angela Fisher.”
We’re worried the border patrol will see through our ruse, so practice the story as we approach the checkpoint. Malcolm thinks I’m exaggerating; ten minutes later two people in bulletproof vests are rooting around in the trunk of our car. The plan was fishy—who drives all the way to Halifax to stay with someone they’ve never met just to “check out the city for a couple days”? Clearly they didn’t like our answers, so we’re given an official yellow slip and made to enter the office.
A pretty attendant begins firing off questions about our destination, our jobs, our finances. I attempt a little charm; she’s relentless.
“What about you, how much money is your bank account?”
“I’m a student,” I joke, “about two hundred bucks.”
“Then who’s going to pay for the food on this trip?”
I point at Malcolm. She nods.
“When are you expected back at school?”
“Well, I don’t have class on Monday,” I lie, “so Tuesday afternoon.”
She doesn’t answer.
“And when are you expected back at work?”
“I just told my boss I’d call him…it’s pretty loose,” Malcolm trails off.
She wants firm, perfect answers, and we don’t have them. She grabs her partner and searches the car. Luckily, there’s nothing inside that leads to further suspicion, so we’re let through with a funny look. No one can prove we’re not just stupidly driving twenty hours to see Halifax for twelve. Outside, we hop in the car and pull quickly onto New Brunswick’s Route 1, shaking off the steely gazes offered by Border Patrol. Now we’re on our way proper, and the bulk of the open road lies ahead. We pick up the pace and kilometers fly by. Glimpses of the Atlantic to our right, quiet woods to the left. Bald eagles above, rough pavement below.
The science behind hookworms is still not totally understood. A simple explanation is enough, as long you can shrug off the dangers. As I understand it, some people think that humans co-evolved with hookworms. The worms reside in our gut and act as a sort of calmer for our immune systems. An allergy is basically an overreaction by our antibodies, and, as most people know, can result in a runny nose, sneezing, rashes, and other symptoms. I too suffer from slight allergies and asthma, and can sympathize with Malcolm. My symptoms vary in intensity, but sometimes I sneeze after petting my own dog, wheeze when skiing, and wake up congested and annoyed. It can be frustrating, and there are numerous treatments on the market. People get shots, take pills, and use inhalers. Malcolm decided to opt for the natural, less known approach. It’s a one shot deal—let about 35 worms into your system, be symptom free for up to five years (the lifespan of a worm). Enticing isn’t it?