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THE WORM

    Once a worm came back from the grave.
    “I have wonderful news,” it proclaimed. “There really is life after death.”
    Many of those who heard this declaration responded with a derisive “Sure there is.” But others were just as likely to say, “I knew that already since a heavenly messenger told me all about it.”
    “Oh?” the worm asked. “And what did this heavenly messenger tell you?”
    “That I’d be going to a better place.”
    “Better than here?”
    “Of course.”
    “That’s strange. It didn’t look that different to me.”
    “What are you talking about, not that different?”
    The worm was startled by the irritated tone of the question, but it did its best to detail what it had seen. It began with the land of the dead, describing the sunny and stormy weather and the varied geography, not forgetting to mention the equally diverse flora and fauna. It told as well of the dead themselves, of how they spent their days at work and their weekends at the barbecue, wishing they had more of this kind of “quality time.” It concluded with the satisfactions the dead took in all the small things of the hereafter, while noting their trials and tribulations and their determination to overcome these as best they could.
    “That’s impossible. What about the robes and the hymns of joy?”
    “I can’t say I saw any robes. I did hear singing, but it was just as likely to be a pining for love or for a lost hunting dog as a hymn of joy. I admit, though, there may have been something I missed.”
    “I’ll say. Only everything that makes the years of waiting to be delivered from this place worthwhile, that’s what. Why believe in life after death if all you’re going to get is more of the same?”
    “I’m sorry, I always thought that was what you wanted, judging by how attached nearly all of you become to life when it looks like you’re about to lose it.”
    “Well, you thought wrong!”
    Others who heard the worm’s account wanted to know instead whether it had seen a white light and experienced the sensation of floating above its own body and looking down at itself.
    “No.”
    “Strange. I have in every one of my own near-death experiences. It was just like my afterlife-coach said it would be.”
    “How was that?”
    “An unearthly sensation of out-of-body peace.”
    “I’m afraid all I felt was what you yourself might on any given day.” 
    “Are you serious?”
    “Yes. I assume your days are as rich in experience as you can make them.”
    “But I don’t want that. I want an unearthly sensation of out-of-body peace.”
    “Rather than all that this life offers you?” 
    “Are you deaf? How many times do I have to repeat myself?” 
    Soon after these and similarly tense exchanges, the worm was put on a hook and turned into bait. 
    What else was it good for?