Sisters and Worms: Reflecting on “Tent Worms” by Kathyrn Youther

I have never liked bugs. I am frightened by their segmented bodies, their legs, and their beady eyes, the way they have survived for millions of years and how they will probably still call Earth home long after humans have disappeared. Insects and creepy-crawly creatures, however, have always fascinated my twin. When we were little, we would spend countless hours running through the woods behind my house, and Colleen was always stopping to pick up the worms writhing in the dirt at our feet or pointing out the water striders racing across the surface of the creek. Once, we ran into a group of silk worms. I was horrified. I can still remember how unnatural the threads of their silk felt against my fingers, the contortions of their rubbery bodies twisting through the air, swinging from the tree branches like grotesque trapeze artists. However, they enraptured Colleen. This type of relationship between siblings, worms, and bugs is a prominent plot line in a short prose piece found in Artful Dodge 32/33.

            “Tent Worms” by Kathyrn Youther is, on the surface, the story of a family and their tent worm problem, but it focuses more specifically on the relationship between two characters: the narrator, Lizzy, and her sister Ruth. What I found most intriguing and haunting about this story was the connection between the tent worms and Ruth. Her character’s continual association with the wriggling worms was both disturbing and intriguing to me, reminding me of my own twin. A recurring plot point in the story is that Ruth loves to dance, just like the “twisting” tent worms. This reminded me of the wriggling silk worms my twin and I found. I can clearly remember Colleen pointing to them and exclaiming, “Aren’t they so cool!?” while I shivered in open disgust. In “Tent Worms,” Lizzy is haunted by the images of the “twisting” worms and their connection to her sister, just as I was horrified of the silk worms weaving their webs. I think it is fascinating that I find such ordinary creatures so disturbing while writers like Kathyrn Youther can wind them into a narrative as haunting and compelling as “Tent Worms.”

 

—Megan Murphy, Assistant Editor

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About artfuldodgewooster

Ohio based literary magazine, now over twenty years old, still in print, and gradually spreading across the digital world. Official Website: artfuldodge.sites.wooster.edu
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