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Grubby

    In my younger days, I traveled around the country in a van with my girlfriend, for a year and a half. We worked odd jobs; painting fences, washing dishes, just making enough money for food and road expenses, and then we would move on. We saw a lot of interesting things, except one thing which was the wrong kind of interesting.
    Somewhere out in the Midwest, we woke up one morning to see a number of small grubs crawling on the walls of the van, and hanging from silk threads above our faces. We jumped out of our bedroll, and began sweeping the wriggling critters off the walls into a pan, and throwing them outside. We spent a fair part of the morning doing a thorough cleaning of the van, the bedding, and all our things.
    The next morning, the grubs were back, and they were far more numerous; there were hundreds of them. They were hanging in the air all around us, all over the walls and all over us. Being the fastidious hippies that we were, we were naturally horrified. Once again we jumped out of bed in great agitation, and began a very thorough cleaning of our living quarters. We shook out the bedding, spread it outside, and took everything out of the van that was movable, going through it all. Then we gave the inside of the van a very good scrubbing from top to bottom. We didn't find anything, which made me uneasy.
    The next morning, the grubs were back, worse than ever. They were slowly undulating in their multitudes across every surface, and hanging on strands from the ceiling. We didn't quite freak out, but we liked to almost did. That morning we went to a hardware store, and bought sulfur candles to fumigate the van. Once again, we took everything out, checking and cleaning each thing; then with all the windows closed we lit the sulfur candles. We had to stay out of the van for several hours during the fumigation process, and afterwards there was a hideous acrid smell clinging to everything inside. We aired out the van, put everything back together, and that night we went to sleep in some uneasiness, what with the lingering sulfurous odors, and wondering what we might wake up to in the morning.
    Next morning, we did find one or two crawling grubs, but only a few, and they seemed dispirited. However, on the morning following that, they had reappeared; not in their previous numbers, but it was enough. This time we did freak out.
    We began to systematically strip the van of everything that could be removed or unscrewed, including the wooden wall panels. In the back of the van, behind one of these panels, we found a small bundle of cattails that one of us had collected from a marsh, a few months previously. The bundle of cattails had been slipped down behind a wall panel in the back corner of the van, and there forgotten. The whole mass was festooned with webs, and feebly-wriggling grubs. Most of them were dead, having been much reduced during the fumigation ordeal, but an obstinate number of them clung to life. So there it was.
    We took that bundle of infested cattails outside, and pitched it far out into the woods, giving it such a heave that I think it probably sailed halfway to China.

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