When I think of worms, I think of a robin yanking a fat night crawler up from the mud in my front yard. I think of a bowl of stringy spaghetti and how it would look in my small intestine. I think of that picture in the vet’s office that shows heartworms ravaging a dog’s vital organ. I give my dog a heartworm pill each month. I know spaghetti is just noodles. I don’t eat earthworms. What on earth would these hookworms be like? We had no idea.
We arrive well before dusk. Halifax is busier than I had imagined. After driving for hours through empty pine forests, it’s strange to be zipping down a four-lane road surrounded by cars on all sides. Angela’s house is in a residential part of town. We pull a u-turn after passing it by, and a few minutes later we’re in the front door. She greets us with a casual, welcoming attitude. I can tell why she was friends with my mom when she too lived in New Hampshire—we’re immediately given the run of the house.
“Help yourself in the kitchen, there’s a TV downstairs, and upstairs there are two open bedrooms; a yellow one and a red one, take your pick!”
She’s clearly excited to play hostess to two boys (she has two daughters), and though we’ve never met this jovial woman before, I feel at home quickly. It seems we can do no wrong in her eyes, so we amble through the house, picking out our bedrooms and grabbing drinks from the fridge. Angela’s daughter Heather goes about her biology homework while Malcolm and I discuss afternoon plans. The day is warm, warmer than the Maine morning we seemingly just left, so we don light jackets and head towards the waterfront to explore. Before we step out the front door though, Angela calls over to Malcolm.
“Do you want your package? I completely to forgot to even ask!” She ends most sentences with an explanation point.
“Oh yeah, sure, thanks…” Malcolm ends many with an ellipsis.
She pulls out a crudely labeled brown envelope covered in British postage and hands it to him. Malcolm carries it up to his room, the red room, and lays it on his bed. He resists curiosity and excitement, and we leave for our walk.
Thirty minutes later we’re in a European style Bier Haus called Brussels. I sip on dark, creamy oatmeal stout while we enjoy a pot of curried mussels and French fries with mayonnaise. I haven’t had a good mussel in months, and Malcolm and I fight for the best specimens, our hands deep inside the steaming, oily waters that hide the last delectable bites. One cup of coffee and a few minty chocolates later, we’re back on the street as a light rain starts to fall and the sky darkens. On our way back, we stop off for a bottle of red and are only slightly dismayed when we return to the house and find chicken is on the menu.
We plow through the dinner, the mussels having only succeeded in heightening our hunger. As the last plate is scraped clean of chicken, stuffing, salad, and asparagus, and as I drain my last sip of beer, Angela pours herself more wine and finally asks the question that’s been eating at her.
“So can I ask you about the worms? Do you mind talking about it?”
“No, no…” Malcolm stammers, caught slightly off guard.
So off he goes, extolling the benefits of hookworms, the history of their use, recent studies, cons of the treatment, conversations with his doctor. He’s done the research; he can talk all day about hookworms. Angela’s handily convinced in fifteen minutes.
“My brother in-law has some sort of intestinal problem and a really bad cough. They can’t figure out what it is. Maybe if this works for you, I’ll tell him about it!”
Malcolm assures her that this a good plan and we retreat to the kitchen to load the dishwasher and put leftovers in the fridge. Then it’s down to business.
Inside the brown package is another thick envelope. Inside that is another. Under all the wrapping we find the essentials: a small disposable pipette, a clear plastic tube containing two tiny green vials wrapped in tissue, and an adhesive patch. We both read the instructions through twice, then begin the procedure. It’s simple really.
We peel the backing off the sticky patch and lay it face-up on the bathroom counter. Tiny green vial #1 is marked “35” on top, for the number of worms it contains. It looks like just a few drops of clear liquid, which Malcolm then draws into the pipette and squeezes out onto the center of the patch. Vial #2 is another clear liquid; it’s only purpose is to rinse vial #1 and make sure all the worms are out. Malcolm draws the solution into the dropper, squeezes it into the first vial, sucks it back out and deposits it onto the patch. We’re left with a slightly damp patch and a bunch of garbage. Malcolm chooses a hairless spot on his upper forearm, nimbly flips the patch over, and sticks it on like a Band-Aid, squeezing the air out from beneath and making sure all the edges are firmly adhered. We’re done. Visions of gobbling down a handful of earthworms linger in my mind, but this whole process took five minutes and couldn’t have been much easier.
Back downstairs, we lounge in the living room and chat with Angela and Heather for an hour before bed. We fill them in on news from my mom and life in Plymouth. They clarify our thoughts on life in Canada and attempt to explain their electoral processes. Yawns ensue and we all head for bed—another long drive awaits us in the morning.
We rise around eight and gobble bowls of cereal. Malcolm isn’t scratching at his forearm, but it’s obvious he wants to. After breakfast, he peels off the patch. A small red rash is beneath. Success. The worms are in. In just a few short weeks they’ll migrate towards his gut, grow, mature, and then, hopefully he’ll be allergy free. We hope.