The happiest playtimes of my childhood were spent in the woods beside our house. If you drove by those woods now, you wouldn’t know all of the wars fought with boys ducking behind trees for cover before aiming their plastic guns at each other. There are no permanent marks from where sleds raced down slopes and tried to dodge stumps.
There are probably still a few reminders I was there. There are places where the course of the creek changed direction because we dammed it. There are still bits and pieces of forgotten forts.
When we were out there, if we needed to build a structure or just got bored and began investigating, we would pry up logs and rocks.
Underneath, you never knew what you could find. There might be fat old earthworms, or small silver things that darted. There might be webbed fungus or bulging mushrooms. The whole thing might be stained a color of rust.
Trying to break my habit of leaving my lunchbox at school for weeks at a time, my mother assigned me the chore of cleaning out the lunchbox Tupperware after it had been abandoned for far too long. It was a good plan. Opening the small orange container that used to hold applesauce, I was mortified was surprised to find small grey blobs of mold. They looked like a cross between an inner tube and the corpse of a small space alien. It smelled more like the corpse. Years later, when I read the Stephen King short story “Gray Matter,” I pictured the awfulness I found cleaning my lunchbox.
It’s all fun and games until it occurs to you. You’re ALWAYS surrounded by these nasty things. How many more things are out there and growing, slimy and quiet and just out of sight?
I imagine my wife feels the same way when a mouse darts out in front of her. Nothing nastier than small, silent things waiting for you in the dark.