They roared, they sputtered, they rattled and clattered, and landed. One by one the rag-tag squadron of dust croppers touched down and taxied to a stop in front of Colonel Wilcox. The cheeky swagger of the finished line-up dared him to take command.
"Get those planes off my runway!" He screamed. His soldiers recalibrated their mortars off their target and faced the planes but the pilots ignored the massive firepower as they climbed out of their cockpits. They all had the self-assuredness of hard working farmers who knew who they were and why they were here.
Old Charlie separated from the group and ambled toward Wilcox. The soldiers eyed him through their sights looking for the signs of a subversive or rabid animal rights person. Instead they saw an old farmer with a curious tractor rhythm gait. "What's he gonna do, throw manure?" A soldier muttered. The rest chuckled or laughed outright. Behind them a soft chewing sound rumbled. They'd been listening to it for so many days it was nothing more than white noise now.
Ten rows of five planes each. Wingtip to wingtip they crouched, ready to take off to rescue the world. The Colonel yelled again and the pilots broke out the lunches their wives, mothers and sweethearts had packed for them. It was going to be a long night and they might not get another meal until morning.
The Colonel wound up for another bout of screaming but Old Charlie didn't break stride. The Colonel's expletives hung, unuttered, at the back of his throat as the Elegant Widow Carlisle and Charlie's twelve-year-old granddaughter, Lydia, joined the old man. The trio stopped in front of the fuming military man.
Charlie squinted up at him. "You the brass?" He asked.
"Get those planes off my runway!" Was the reply.
"That's him, Grandpa." Lydia tugged at Charlie's suspenders. "I saw him on TV."
Charlie looked past the apoplectic Colonel. Even at this distance, a full quarter of a mile away, the giant maggot he'd come to kill was impressive. His expression, however, remained impassive as he took in its massive bulk; four stories high, two city blocks wide and three quarters of a mile in length. Charlie nodded slowly, as if assessing the worth of a newborn calf, "Yup, he's a big one alright."
"Are you in charge of those toys?" The Colonel's complexion was now purple and working on black as he gestured toward the planes.
Charlie ignored him, spat to the side and wrinkled his nose as he cocked his head to the side to stare at the worm. "TV didn't say anything about the smell."
"They found it in a compost heap, Grandpa." Lydia spread her arms wide to indicate how big the maggot had been when it was first found, but she never took her eyes off the Colonel
"That is was, Grandbaby, that is was." Charlie turned a red-rimmed eye on the Colonel, snapped to attention and saluted with all the smoothness of the old soldier he was. "Lieutenant Commander Charles Anthony Matthews, retired, reporting for active duty. SIR!"
Before the Colonel could recover, the old man forged ahead. "North Haywood County Crop Dusting Squadron assembled and ready for battle. SIR!"
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