Date of writing : 13/06/2014
I promised you news of Edward Woodlouse, and I’m sure he’d be pleased to gain such fame – had he any grasp of the concept, and had he not already shuffled his many small legs off this mortal coil. I shall tell you his short story nevertheless. We met one day in the yard, where he was wandering around looking a little lost and was in danger of being trampled underfoot. Recalling a woodlouse I had befriended as a child (who acquired the name Bert, for reasons I won’t go into), I thought we might keep each other company in the quiet evenings of the wing. So I gathered some soil and decaying vegetable matter from the edges of the yard, and brought him in. Gordon gave me a transparent salad box for his house, into which I melted some air-holes and built what I hoped was a comfortably damp home for him. I sat this on a shelf, and kept an eye on him, bemoistening his home periodically.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not completely sure what a woodlouse is supposed to actually ‘do’ on a day-to-day basis. I’d noticed Edward was mostly just hiding in his damp pile whenever I looked, and I wondered if there was perhaps some aspect of his environment he might be lacking. So I took to the library. Being a small library, I wasn’t particularly surprised to find a dearth of books on woodlouse husbandry. I’m not sure what number this is in The Dewey Decimal System, and knowing the generally overburdened disposition of the librarian, I thought it better not to ask. So I approached the multi-volume, multi-purpose World Book encyclopaedia. The entry on woodlice was sadly short – bringing to mind the entry for Earth in the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy – but it at least told me that woodlice are nocturnal by habit. Discovering this, I have to say, made me feel a little guilty, knowing how often I’d extracted him from his daytime repose for my own entertainment. After a little thought though, I decided that lower crustaceans probably don’t actually sleep as such, and that I was excessively anthropormorphising. The brief encyclopaedia entry also suggested I was along the right lines with my supply of dampness and decaying organic matter, so reassured, I continued as I had been. We had some good conversations.
Alas, it was only a few short weeks before one day I found Edward unresponsive in his mulch. He looked peaceful though, curled as he was into a small ball. Gordon suggested we should give him a proper burial, and it seemed only right. Torn as I was in judging what denomination Edward may have been, I concluded that had he been religious he probably would have been a Pagan of some description, (but as it never came up in our discourse, I didn’t know). Gordon agreed to perform the ceremony, and so it was that a small group of those that had known him in life came to a small patch of accumulated soil and grit at the edge of the yard. We dug him a tiny grave with a lolly-stick. Gordon cast a circle with a matchstick wand, and acknowledging the deities of the four compass points, we committed his worldly remains to continue the circle of life, while his multi-legged immortal soul went off to join the great crustaceous isopod collective in the sky. I’m not sure how long woodlice generally live, but I can’t help but wonder whether poor husbandry may have brought about his early demise. I’ll probably never know.