Walton the Worm was rather worthless. He was about as useful as a chocolate teapot. He was about four inches long and, without any arms or legs, he found it pretty difficult to do anything. Wendy, on the other hand, was quite the opposite. Wendy was a woodpecker. She had wonderful wings that allowed her to flutter fluently around the woods. Her lengthy beak was not only practical and proficient, but it was so pretty. All the other birds would pout and purse their beaks in an effort to look like Wendy.
Now, Walton fancied Wendy somewhat, and why shouldn’t he have? She was wonderful! But why would Wendy be interested in a worthless earthworm like Walton – or even notice him for that matter?
Walton was a wonderer and liked to wonder and daydream about just about anything and everything. One sunny afternoon (the fact that it was sunny was not too important, as the trees normally blocked out most of the sunlight, but if you were anywhere outside of the woods you would have noticed that it was rather sunny) Walton was wondering. He was daydreaming about Wendy and he was wondering whether, one day, Wendy could be his wife.
Walton knew that he wanted Wendy to be his wife – but he’d have to go out with her for a bit first (he reckoned at least a year), and before that he’d have to ask her to go out with him, and before he did that, he thought it would be sensible if they conversed once or twice first (they did sometimes speak to each other, but usually very briefly and nothing much more than how one was, and then the other. Walton Imagined this probably didn’t count as conversing).
Anyway, Walton knew he wanted Wendy to be his wife. He was wondering whether – after they had conversed, and he’d asked Wendy out, and then to marry him – Wendy would want to be his wife. Or rather, whether she would enjoy it. This, Walton thought, was what it all came down to; Wendy didn’t know Walton very well, so of course she wouldn’t want to be wed to Walton, but if she did know him, she might like him enough to want to go out with him.
Walton couldn’t really do much else. He’d wriggle around and he liked to dig too. Of course he ate and slept. But the rest of his day he would usually spend thinking about Wendy. As Walton wondered wistfully, he was oblivious to Wendy walking past over by the willow trees. Her walk was peculiar, but rather fetching, and to describe it as a walk does it a good deal of discredit. She would toddle along seeming carefree, but she would somehow maintain the air of having a purpose. Walton had spent some time recently thinking of conversation starters he could use on Wendy, but as soon as he noticed her they all leaped out of his mind and vanished off the face of the Earth. ‘Hello Wendy’ said Walton once the initial surprize-slash-panic had settled into just the usual panic.
Wendy said hello too, waited for a second – Walton seemed like he wanted to talk to Wendy, but then failed to follow up on his greeting – and then started to leave to see what the rest of the day had in store for her.
‘You look nice’.
Wendy’s first impression was that Walton had said this rather abruptly, but she decided not to act on this impression as it was a nice change from the usual ‘hello Walton’ – ‘goodbye Walton’.
Wendy blushed and then the pair stood opposite each other, not speaking, for several seconds. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence, but it wasn’t the most engaging several seconds of Wendy’s life. She stuck around for a little longer, but wasn’t sure how to respond to Walton’s quirky conversational timing, so eventually she conceded that it was time to leave.
Wendy did like Walton – he was nice, unlike all of the other worms, and he seemed oblivious to his obvious appeal and desirability – and she could tell that he was attracted to her in some way, but he seemed uninterested in talking to her. He wouldn’t say anything to her for days or maybe a week or two and then suddenly she looked nice, or she was the most beautiful bird in the entire woods. He was, in that way, just like all of the other guys. And Wendy was sick of all of the other guys. (Willy the Wombat and his witless chums would waltz up to Wendy, willy-nilly and badger her till she wept. They would try all of the chat up lines in the book. Wendy was tired of the other guys, and if Walton continued in the same fashion, she would soon tire of him too).
As Wendy was waking after a wakeful slumber, she reflected upon yesterday’s encounter with Walton. What did it all mean? Wendy wished she were more like Walton; Walton seemed to be able to stop thinking at any point. Wouldn’t that be nice? (Although it did him no favours when he was supposed to be thinking). She had given it much more thought than it was worth, but she couldn’t stop thinking about it.
It had become part of Wendy’s daily routine to pass by the lake and watch as Big Bill, the biggest, baddest duck in the entire woods, swim and fish just like any other duck would do. It was strange to see someone with such a reputation going about their daily life just as any other duck would have, but it was nice to see that there was more to him than people thought. That he had to work – and that he wasn’t very good at it – and that he had a life just like everyone else.
As Wendy was walking down to the lake she came across Walton, who once again was noticeably unaware of her walking past. She hid behind the bushes and the willow trees – she still hadn’t quite figured Walton out and didn’t want to bump into him again until she’d had a think about their last encounter (she had thought about it quite a lot, but so far it hadn’t helped). She was safe. He hadn’t spotted her.
As Walton made his way home he pondered on what had just happened. At first Wendy had seemed interested in Walton, and flattered and she had acted as if he had got it right. But she soon changed and seemed uninterested and possibly even offended. He had noticed that after a good start, the conversation soon became very quiet, but he wasn’t quite sure how this had offended her – birds were complicated creatures and Walton was by no means an expert, but then again, who is?
‘You look nice’.
Walton ran the conversation by himself in his head.
‘You look nice’.
He did it again. He was trying to figure out where it had gone wrong.
‘Hello Wendy.’ ‘You look nice?’ – ‘You’re an idiot, Walton’ he thought to himself. It suddenly sounded very stupid indeed. And as evening turned to dusk, and dusk turned to dawn and dawn into morning, one thought circulated around Walton’s sleepless head.
‘You look nice.’
Walton was sick of himself and he wished he could bring himself to be sick of Wendy, but she was too beautiful, and brilliant, and bright and baffling. He had to talk to her today.
Today Walton noticed Wendy toddling by the willow trees. How could he miss her? He wanted to act casual though and pretended not to notice her. He was unsure that this was the best approach at getting Wendy to like him and one day marry him, and actually it seemed that it would almost certainly be a hindrance, but he couldn’t just go up to her and talk to her. He noticed that Wendy seemed confused, or lost, or like she was looking for something and after they had both been there for at least ten minutes Walton found the confidence to talk to Wendy.
As usual he said ‘hello’, and she said ‘hello’ back.
‘Um… Wendy’ Walton paused and waited for some sort of response. ‘Do you remember yesterday when I said you looked nice?’
Wendy tilted her head upwards and to the right in an effort to pretend that she was struggling to remember it. Walton wasn’t fooled, but he played along because he liked how her theatrical gestures and movements seemed to fit what she was saying, but contradict them at the same time.
‘Um… oh, yes. I remember.’
‘Well, I wanted to elaborate.’ Walton had no idea what to say next. He knew why Wendy looked nice, he just couldn’t articulate it. And even if he could, how could he tell her without her figuring out he liked her? He decided to go for the casual approach again.
‘You’re a nice bird, Wendy, and in a good light, you’re not that bad looking.’ Walton could see no way that Wendy would enjoy hearing what he had just said. Luckily he was good at digging himself out of the holes he put himself in. ‘Or in any light for that matter.’ Phew. He’d saved his chances with his future woodpecker wife. She didn’t look impressed, but she didn’t look upset either. Walton would settle for her moderate contentedness.
It was now clear to Wendy that Walton was an idiot. Something that lent to his character both a childish charm, and the fact that he was an idiot. One sort of good, one sort of bad. Wendy decided it would be much easier and nicer to be friends with Walton than anything more. Maybe she’d invite him round for lunch and a film. Maybe after that they could have desert. Maybe after that they could smile, and cuddle, and laugh. Shoot. She fancied Walton.
There must be ways of showing someone that you like them. Wendy couldn’t for the life of her, figure out what they were. They were bumping in to each other more often now, so it wouldn’t be too difficult to invite him to come wood-shopping with her – her nest was looking bare, so she needed some wood to make a table. She did, and they went and Wendy told Walton about how he was nice, and that she was sick of all of the other guys, and how she was glad to have Walton with her. He’d contribute here and there, but Wendy was aware that she was doing most of the talking. She didn’t mind though. He seemed to enjoy the trip.
They ate out. Walton had the dinnertime compost buffet and Wendy just had some wood chippings as a light snack. Walton was more talkative over dinner. He asked her questions and he’d nod and respond with ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s. She still struggled to show that she liked him though. If only Walton had hands that she could stroke or legs she could play footsie with. She’d try and hint at it every now and then, but all hints seemed to go past Walton’s wrinkly face and straight over his head. As the evening drew late and it was time to leave, Walton offered to walk her home, but Wendy thought it would be much easier and quicker if she just flew back. She ended up giving Walton a lift and as they arrived at his hole they both agreed that they had enjoyed the evening. They stayed at the entrance to the hole for a bit and laughed, and chatted. Walton went into his hole and then Wendy went home. Tonight had been a success of sorts, but neither Wendy, nor Walton, felt that they were any closer to becoming a couple than they previously had done.
As Wendy stood outside his hole, ready to leave, Walton seriously considered trying to make the hole ten times wider, so that Wendy could squeeze in too and she wouldn’t have to go. He hadn’t said anything while they were out and he thought if he could convince her to stay just a little bit longer, he might be able to make up for it. But she left and the date had been a complete disaster. He’d enjoyed it and Wendy seemed to have too, but there was no way she could be interested in someone as dull as Walton.
Walton went house hunting the next day. That tiny hole wasn’t impressing anyone and it just wouldn’t do anymore. He’d always wanted to live in a hollow tree. Wesley the Wolf was showing him round a particular tree, but it would have been too small for Wendy.
‘What about that one?!’
They’d just got back to the agency and Walton had spotted a picture of the perfect house for him and Wendy to live in (once they were married) and bring children up in (once they’d gotten old and ran out of better things to do).
‘Taken.’ Wesley disclosed this truth rather matter-of-factly. ‘Sydney the Squirrel secured it before sunrise this morning and so the house was sold.’
‘Whatever she bought it for, I’ll double it!’
‘The house has been sold, Walton.’ Again rather matter-of-factly.
Walton just had to get this house. He went round to Sydney’s later that afternoon. She already had a nice tree. In fact, she was downsizing. He hadn’t mentioned that he was house hunting and after the house Sydney had just bought. He thought if he kept telling her how nice her house was, she wouldn’t want to leave.
‘Well I’m moving next week, so it could be yours, for the right price.’ She wasn’t buying it. She’d taken it as an opportunity to sell her house. There was no way Walton could afford a house this big.
‘I am currently looking for a new house at the moment. I was looking at the walnut tree, west of the waterfall.’
‘That’s the one I’ve just bought!’ She still failed to notice the intention behind Walton’s visit. ‘Nice, isn’t it?’
‘Very nice Sydney, but why would you want to leave this place?’
Sydney suddenly went very quiet. Walton had failed to remember, due to his own intentions and purposes, that Sydney’s husband Stevie had passed on just four months ago. The tree was obviously too big for just her and the couple had lived there for many years before he died. Walton felt sick and he knew he had overstepped a line. He had to try not to care though. He wanted the house.
‘I mean, you have so many memories here.’ If he hadn’t crossed a line before, he’d definitely crossed it now. ‘Sure you want to forget things now, but later you might regret letting go of the house.’ He’d crossed the line and he was now dashing and tearing away from it right into the realms of thoughtlessness and heartlessness.
‘If you want the house that much’ Sydney was almost crying ‘I’ll pull out and you can have it.’
Walton could see that hadn’t been the most selfless worm in the world at this point. He didn’t want the house that much. He stayed round for afternoon tea. Sydney cheered up and they both had a nice time. When it was time for Walton to leave, the house came up again. He couldn’t let Sydney give him the house (figuratively speaking, of course. Walton would still have to pay for the house).
‘It’s a nice place, Walton. Too nice for a sad old squirrel.’ Oh deer. It was going to happen. ‘And anyway, you’re right. I wouldn’t want to let go of the house.’
‘Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly – ‘
‘Oh don’t be silly Walton. I don’t want the house anymore. I want to stay here.’
It did happen. Sydney let Walton buy the house. Of course she did – This was exactly like Sydney. She was the most selfless squirrel Walton had ever seen and Walton knew it. He knew she might well let him buy the house and that’s why he went to visit her in the first place. Was Walton a bad worm? Yes. (Or at least he felt like he had been). But he couldn’t possibly go through with this, could he?
Wendy was excited to see Walton’s new house. The last one was too small and Wendy couldn’t fit through the hole, but this one was just the right size. She couldn’t help but feel that he’d gone through all this effort just for her though. There was no way Walton could have been happy with his tiny hole, but he didn’t need a place this big. If anything though, she liked him even more for it. Walton put a lot of effort into everything. It was nice, but she hoped this wasn’t all for her benefit.
Walton was a wonderful cook. Wild berries. Again, this was for her benefit as Walton generally only ate compost, but it was lovely. After dinner, Walton had prepared some wooden boards for desert. This was Wendy’s favourite, but Walton just had a coffee. He was the most generous worm in the whole woods, although, for some reason he shied away from this fact when Wendy said this to him. Then it clicked. It was as if he’d done something wrong, or he was making up for something. She asked him what was wrong, but he wouldn’t tell her. Something was definitely wrong then.
‘Walton, do you trust me?’ Wendy had a few tricks up her sleeve and Walton would soon tell her what was the matter.
‘Of course I do, Wendy.’ He’d fallen for it.
‘Then tell me what’s wrong. Whatever it is, you can trust me.’ So now he had to tell her. If he didn’t, it meant he didn’t trust her.
Reluctantly Walton told Wendy all about the house and Sydney, and how selfish he’d been. The most generous worm in the woods? Scott the self-centred slowworm seemed more selfless than Walton at the moment. They talked about it and decided that although Walton shouldn’t have done what he did, there was nothing he could do about it now – Wendy was a very good friend of Sydney’s and they had spoken about how she didn’t want the house anymore. She wanted to stay put – however he should still apologise to Sydney and make up for it if he could.
This wasn’t the end to the evening that Wendy had hoped for, but she enjoyed Walton’s company and she was happy that she could help him with his troubles. As she left the house Walton gave her a kiss on the cheek (to call it a peck would have been misleading as worms wouldn’t generally peck. It was more of a cheek smooch) and Wendy did the same back (this was a peck. Woodpeckers are some of the best peckers around). She glided back to her nest gracefully and when she arrived home, she slept well.
Around late afternoon the next day (or perhaps it was early evening; pre-vening, if you can imagine such a time) as Wendy was visiting Sydney for and early dinner, Walton knocked on the door. He was holding flowers and looking rather sheepish. They’d talked about this the previous day, so Wendy knew why he was visiting, but Sydney was surprised and delighted to see him. She invited him in and he apologised for what had happened about the house. Sydney said she didn’t mind and rather liked it in her current house anyway, so his advice was perhaps good advice, even if it hadn’t come from the right place. Walton stayed for their pre-vening meal and walked Wendy home afterwards.
As they walked back to Wendy’s, the two laughed and joked, they played and play-fought, they pecked and they smooched, and they both knew that from now on they were a couple and nothing had to be said (though they did manage to talk about it further down the line).