Nootka regarded his master blankly, unable to speak.
"You're wondering where we're going, I bet," Wormy Glenn said.
Nootka remained expressionless, and said nothing.
"Winter's coming, buddy. We're heading south."
Nootka opened and closed his mouth twice, which Glenn interpreted as a kind of "Whatever."
"Trust me, Noot. It's getting cold - definitely time to get to California." Glenn returned the tiny flatworm to the mulch- and dirt-filled canvas sack that served as his home and carry case. The empty livestock car in which they were stowed away had been cleaned, but there was still some manure in the stalls, so Nootka would be well-fed, all the way to Fresno.
Glenn and Nootka met near Nanaimo, on British Columbia's Vancouver Island, and had been traveling the roads and rails of the Pacific Northwest together for almost a year. Glenn was already a seasoned, weary veteran of the hobo life by then, but it was all very new to Nootka. This is primarily because Nootka was a flatworm.
They never made Fresno. In Eugene, Oregon, the train stopped. It stayed stopped. After almost 24 hours stopped, it showed now signs of un-stopping. Glenn gathered his gear and his sack of Nootka-sustaining gunk, and ventured out. There were other hoboes in the area, and although none of them knew exactly where, it was established that there was at least one bridge out, south of Eugene, on the Northern Pacific mainline.
"Change of plans, buddy," Wormy Glenn said to his miniature friend as they sat in the raw November Oregon rain, near the passenger station. "Don't give me any guff! There was too a plan. I just didn't tell you."
The flatworm said nothing, as per usual.
"I don't have to tell you everything, Nootka! You're just a worm. You eat and poop through the same hole!"
Nootka was speechless at his friend's cruelty - both the suddenness and severity of it. It was more than he could process. He squirmed.
Glenn looked at Nootka - at where he had long imagined that the worm's eyes would be, if he had any. He was quickly overwhelmed with guilt. "I'm sorry, buddy. I can't believe I said that. I'm so sorry. I'm just frustrated, is all."
Nootka remained silent, and drooped a little.
"I couldn't tell you the plan, Nootka, my friend. My plan was to get to southern California - or maybe Mexico - turn you loose in a nice pig pen, and find a palm tree, where I would sit and drink myself to death."
Nootka opened his mouth and held it that way for several seconds, which Glenn had always assumed meant "Oh my God!"
"Don't act so surprised, buddy. I can't do this, anymore. This world is going to kill me, anyway - and soon. I won't let it. I'm going out on my own terms. Hence, the change of plans." He reached into Nootka's mulch bag and grabbed the worm, shook off some of the dirt, held the wriggling little parasite up high, and dropped it into his mouth, swallowing it whole.
"Don't be sad, Nootka," he sighed. "It's gonna be okay. You'll have plenty to eat."