James tore through the house on his way out to the garage. He was clutching a plastic salad container in one hand, still wet from a cursory rinse.

If only you do this

He put the container down to open and lift the heavy garage door and pull his mountain bike out from alongside his mom's van, picked it up to go, but then remembered that he had to haul the door back down by its rope, so dumped the bike on its side in the middle of the driveway while he labored to do that.

A great and worthy labor

He collected his load and pushed off heading to the northwest. There were puddles still at the foot of some driveways which he mostly avoided splashing through unnecessarily, and he reckoned that the grey in the sky was no worse than it had been a half hour ago, maybe even lighter in one or two patches. The traffic this afternoon had not become something he had to take into account, for some reason, so he could ride on the pavement itself instead of having to go up onto people's lawns and bump along. It was awkward gripping the plastic container in his right hand while riding, but he didn't have time to fetch a backpack out of the bottom of the closet. Probably he would have an even worse time coming back with it.

Pure of heart

James reached the ballfield and struck out diagonally across the outline of the basepath. The turf was squishy beneath his tires and he had to stand up on his pedals to keep a decent rate of travel going. Fortunately he had plenty of practice at this in the last year traveling between his house and his friend Bret's, who lived over where the streets followed a grid pattern instead of the sweeping curves around his own neighborhood. It was like a crystal instead of a fingerprint, they decided one afternoon over homework, or man-made versus cow-made. But this afternoon he was not heading out past the fringe of trees that marked the margin of the park, but making for the steepest part of the slope out there, where once, memorably, Simon Lee had had to run down after a batted ball for an agonizing five minutes in the middle of a close game. Here the going became treacherous with exposed ruts in the mud from natural and child-caused erosion that he knew better than to chance.

Messenger to the world

In the end he dismounted and walked his bike down to where the underbrush began to grow thick and shadowy. His cuffs were splashed with grime here and there, but he knew he could get most of it off with some water when he got back. Then he stepped over onto the path of flagstones someone had laid down there, slick still with moisture beneath the overhanging branches. There was one, a fat nightcrawler, and over there an even bigger one. Abandoning his vehicle, he crouched down to pick the creatures up and drop them into the bottom of the slightly battered salad container. One of them definitely showed signs of life, writhing with its blind head stretching up toward the cruel air. Among the slates, he was able to find four or five others, mostly smaller ones, skipping a couple which looked too damaged to survive, and gather them up in dirty fingers along with the rest.

Filled with compassion

The mass of squirming worms didn't look right by themselves in the plastic, so he went back over under the bushes and picked out a couple of soggy limp leaves in a state of decomposition. On the ground they looked so small but up next to the worms they looked absurdly large, like scraps of wilted iceberg lettuce, so he tried tearing them up a bit before tossing them in. Now the bottom of the plastic had a thin brown slop in it, so he judged that he wouldn't have to bring any more actual earth back with him, which would make things simpler. The old leaves would serve to give the nightcrawlers a place to hide for now and maybe they would find it tasty later after he set them down in a corner of the garage. That was how it was supposed to work, anyway. He thought about talking to Bret whether there might be anything else he ought to have, but it probably would have to wait until he got home.

Bright son of devotion

Evening started to show signs of coming on by the time he picked up his mountain bike and pull it up over the ragged slope toward the grass. It was awkward, but James was able to hold it in one hand and ride pretty well with the other, his fingers resting on the brake lever to remind him of the sole concern. The grit under his nails and on the frame of the bike would, he knew, dry to a rock-hard consistency if he let it, so he resolved not to let it. As for the shoes, there were rules.

Specifically chosen for praise

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