Thaddeus Rutkowski
Making Contact

On a clear day in the summer, I got up early. My father and siblings were still sleeping, but my mother was in her white uniform, getting ready to leave for work.

When she asked what I was going to do for the day, I said I was going fishing.

"We didn't fish when I was a child," she said. "But our city had a pond, where people thought a dragon lived. Boys would dive into the water and take messages to the bottom. Some of the boys angered the dragon and drowned."


Before I went to the stream, I needed to collect bait.

The ground was too dry to dig for worms, so I brought out my worm shocker--a metal curtain rod with a lamp cord attached. I pushed the rod down through the lawn as far as it would go, carried the plug into the house and stuck the prongs into a wall outlet.

Only one strand of the double-sided cord was spliced to the rod, so there was a fifty-fifty chance that electricity was reaching the earth.

To find out if I had a live connection, I laid my hand on the grass next to the rod. I felt a slight tingling, but I couldn1t tell if it was just the roughness of leaves. So I poked a finger into the soil. The cool dirt sent a buzz up through my hand and into my arm, and I knew that juice was flowing for worms.

After a few minutes, a couple of slick night crawlers lay in the sun. I put them in a plastic box, unplugged the shocker, gathe