by Jeff Jacobson

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Wormfood by Jeff Jacobson

In the poor, isolated town of Whitewood, California, 16-year-old Arch Stanton has a bad job at the local bar and grill that is about to get much worse and, despite his skills with firearms, he may not survive the weekend. Arch’s boss, Fat Ernst, would do anything for a chance at easy money, and when he forces Arch to do some truly dirty work, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, the customers—infected by vicious, wormlike parasites—begin dying in agonizing pain. As events spiral out of control, decades of bitter rivalries resurface and boil over into three days of rapidly escalating carnage.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781605424293
Publisher: Medallion Media Group
Publication date: 05/03/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 245
Sales rank: 482,406
File size: 397 KB

About the Author

Jeff Jacobson is a fiction and screenwriting professor at Columbia College–Chicago. His stories have appeared in Doorways Magazine and Read by Dawn volumes one and three. He lives near Chicago.

Read an Excerpt


By Jeff Jacobson

Medallion Press, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Jeff Jacobson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60542-101-8

Chapter One

Grandma woke me up with her .10 gauge, shooting at the ground squirrels again. I think that was the morning it all started, when the worms got loose and the Sawyer brothers stole the dead steer and Fat Ernst had us break into Earl's coffin and I tasted Misty Johnson's sweat and that witch crawled out of the darkness under her lawn mower and a whole hell of a lot of blood got spilled.

Yeah. It started with Grandma and her Browning.

Those squirrels pissed her off like you wouldn't believe, burrowing into the rich black soil and eating her vegetables. She grew nearly everything we ate in her garden out there behind the trailer, from tomatoes that swelled up like water balloons about to burst to red onions the size of softballs to ears of corn so sweet they tasted like they were half sugar cane.

So when the squirrels snuck in and tried to eat the results of her hard work, Grandma went to war. And she didn't take prisoners.

The shotgun blast faded into the soft whispering of rain striking the roof. I rolled over in bed and checked the alarm clock. It was dead, dark, and silent on the floor next to my narrow mattress. At first I thought one of the storms had knocked out the power again, then realized that Grandma had unplugged the clock. I guessed our talk last night about me working for Fat Ernst hadn't gone over as well as I had hoped.

My watch read 7:32.

The Sawyer brothers would be showing up any minute now. Grandma hated them even worse than the ground squirrels.

The shotgun ripped another hole in the morning air. Grandma didn't believe in traps or poisons; they took all the satisfaction, all the fun out of the job. Instead, she loaded her own shells, using number 9 steel shot, so we didn't have to worry about lead poisoning. She didn't even have to get rid of the little corpses. The Browning .10 gauge blasted them into instant fertilizer.

I stumbled into the bathroom, pulling on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt as I went. No time for a shower. I stuck my toothbrush in my mouth, took a deep breath and flexed my chest and both arms in a classic bodybuilder pose. In the mirror, nothing much happened. A scrawny sixteen-year-old with a bad haircut grimaced back at me. It looked like I'd been in an accident and couldn't move very well.

My name is Arch Stanton. Me and Grandma lived in a single-width trailer dumped at the end of a long dirt driveway out in the hills. Grandpa died nearly five years ago, heart attack. Mom and Dad had been dead for over twelve years. They were coming back from a weekend in Reno when Dad apparently took one of the mountain turns a little wide and hit a minivan filled with a family of six. Head-on collision; killed everybody but the family's youngest child. When they performed the autopsy, they found that Dad's blood had an alcohol level of .09 percent. Just enough to be legally drunk in California. All of the insurance money, everything, went to the child who survived.

Me and Grandma needed money. We needed money bad. I had tried to tell her the night before, over dinner, tried to tell her that something had to be done. "I know you don't want me working for ... him, but jeez, Grandma, we're two months behind with our rent. You can't just ignore that," I had said slowly, quietly. Fat Ernst owned the trailer and the land and the only reason he hadn't kicked us out yet was because I worked like a dog in his restaurant.

Grandma just looked at me, her crinkled face curiously flat.

I looked at my plate. "I know you don't like it. I don't like it. But we don't have a choice." I sighed, figuring it wouldn't be a good idea to mention that, along with my regular job at the restaurant, Fat Ernst had me helping the Sawyer brothers tear down an old barn. They needed me for my weight, a whopping one hundred and seven pounds, perfect for climbing up into the rotting rafters and knocking sheets of corrugated metal off the roof.

Grandma crunched her lettuce. "We get along just fine."

"No, we don't. We-" I broke off and flung my arm at our reflection in the sliding glass doors, gesturing at the dark, invisible field beyond. "We don't own anything."

"We'll manage."

I attacked my chicken breast, sawing it into ragged chunks. "How? How? Where are we gonna go? You refuse to go on welfare, so-"

"Nobody, nowhere, is ever gonna have to give us money or food. You should know that, Arch. We raised you to be strong. I'll never, ever accept charity from anybody."

"Grandma, this welfare, it isn't charity. We pay taxes, so we deserve it."

Grandma gripped her fork tight. "Deservin' it's got nothing to do with it. I never accepted no charity, and I'm sure as hell not about to start now. Me and your grandfather survived the Great Depression just fine. You and me'll survive this just fine."

I shook my head. I had already tried explaining that the world was a different place now than in the 1930s, but Grandma told me I'd understand when I got older. Well, I understood just fine.

That's why, after our talk, I had crept through her dark garden, plucking a few tomatoes, a couple onions, and some ears of corn I didn't think she'd notice. Fat Ernst gave me five bucks for every bag of produce from Grandma's garden. Believe me, I wasn't proud. I hid the bag of vegetables in the closet by the front door, nestled between Grandpa's Springfield 30.06 and his stack of Encyclopedia Britannicas-the only thing Grandpa ever read besides Louis L'Amour novels. I figured that was a safe place since Grandma didn't like to see Grandpa's stuff. Hurt too much, I guess.

It was 7:40. Now I was officially late. I retrieved the bag from the closet and carefully placed it in the bottom of my backpack. I grabbed an apple out of the fruit bowl, something that Grandma kept full no matter how little money lay in the dark blue jar on top of the fridge. The apple was getting a little brown, but I wasn't going to complain. I bit a healthy chunk out of it and glanced out the window over the sink.

The trailer faced north, providing a wide, unobstructed view of a large, flat field that lay between two low foothills. A twisted, very dead oak tree waited patiently to collapse out in the middle of the field, surrounded by petrified cow patties and thick weeds. Beyond the foothills, the desolate, high country wildness rose into a low sky full of dark clouds.

Ten yards from the northwest corner of the trailer, Grandma stood at the edge of her garden, as still and patient as Death himself. She wore Grandpa's old rubber boots and his faded overalls. A gigantic straw hat covered her head and the shotgun rested easily across the handles of her mud-spattered walker.

I swallowed another piece of the apple and was about to take another bite and find my shoes, but then I froze. The sweet taste of the apple soured as I realized I was looking at a small, black hole, set about a quarter inch from the brown skin. A nice, neat worm hole.

Then I heard the low rumbling of the Sawyers' truck.

The truck, a pitch-black 1960 one-ton Dodge, riding awkwardly on four giant tires, lurched impatiently up the long muddy driveway like a hungry beetle. It rumbled up to the trailer, followed by rolling clouds of blue exhaust. A grinning bull skull, its splintered white horns curling out to a wingspan of over four feet, proudly rode above the curving, decidedly aggressively aerodynamic lines of the truck at the front of the hood. A heavy steel bumper protected the grille. Yellow and orange flames flickered over the front tires. The words "SAWYER FAMILY HIDE AND TALLOW SERVISE" had been spray painted on the doors in jagged, dripping letters.

The truck stopped ten feet from the back steps but the engine continued to idle. Clouds of blue smoke drifted slowly over the garden, enveloping Grandma. She leaned on her walker, keeping the shotgun close, and glared at the truck through her ornate cat's-eye glasses. Her voice sounded as if each word were elegantly sheeted in ice as it rose above the rumbling engine. "What do you want?"

The driver's door popped open and Junior stepped out onto the running board. Junior was built like a furry fire hydrant. His hair flared up in a stiff pompadour, like Elvis on steroids. Giving Grandma an easy grin over the wide hood, he said, "Howdy."

"Howdy," Bert echoed and waved from the passenger window. He was long and lanky and looked like a bone-thin greyhound with some sort of skin disease. He smiled at Grandma, shifted a giant wad of chewing tobacco from one side of his mouth to the other, and spit a ball of nearly black phlegm into the weeds at the edge of the garden.

Grandma wasn't impressed. "When you no accounts came roaring on in here, you must've missed the sign that stated clear as daylight that we shoot trespassers around here. I'll ask one more time and that's it. What do you want?"

"We're pickin' up Arch," Junior said. His grin was gone. "We got a job to finish."

"Is that right," Grandma said. It wasn't a question.

"Yeah, that's fuckin' right," Junior shot back. "Holy fucking Jesus," he said, pretty much to himself. "You want me to draw you a picture? Where is he?"

I moved over to the sliding glass door but couldn't bring myself to open it.

Grandma was silent for a moment. "You boys could stand to learn a little about respect."

Junior laughed and I winced. He shouted, "All I know is Fat Ernst is paying us five bucks to collect Archie's skinny ass. He didn't say nothin' about respect, so go fuck yourself, you old goat."

Grandma fired sideways with deadly ease, shotgun braced against right hip, riding the kick with her walker. The blast obliterated a squirrel that had been furtively darting through the tomatoes. She broke open the side-by-side and neatly caught the empty shells as they popped out. Without taking her eyes off Junior, Grandma slid two fresh shells into the shotgun and snapped the barrels into place. The gun blast echoed away and died in the foothills.

I knew it wouldn't take much for Grandma to start shooting at the Sawyer brothers, so I gritted my teeth and slid the glass door open with an escalating whish. It sounded like a sudden catch of frightened breath.

My tennis shoes lay on the wooden stairs like two animals that had died in the night. The Sawyer truck waited off to my right. Junior said, "Mornin'. 'Bout fucking time."

"Mornin', sunshine," Bert said.

"Mornin'," I said, jamming my bare feet into the filthy tennis shoes. They felt cold and slimy against my skin.

Grandma didn't say anything for a long time. Finally, fixing those cat's-eye glasses on me, she said, "Where you headed?"

"Grandma, I'm just gonna go to work. Earn some money," I said quietly, moving down the steps.

"Thought we talked about this last night," Grandma said.

Junior shook his head. "No hurry here. Take your time. Shit." He banged his hand flat against the cab's roof. "Let's go! We got work to do."

Grandma casually brought her shotgun around until the barrels were aimed at the truck. I knew she was just looking for an excuse, itching to send nearly four hundred tiny balls of steel shot through Junior's head at over thirteen hundred feet per second, cracking open his skull like a walnut under a hammer, squirting blood, bones, and brains out into the damp air, drenching the weeds beyond the driveway with the remains of his head.

And I knew Grandma well enough to know that she might not need an excuse.

So I did the unthinkable. I stepped in front of Grandma's shotgun, moving sideways toward the truck. Something sour and foul sagged and cracked inside of me. It felt like I had just broken something sacred. "It's gonna be okay, Grandma. Really. I'm just gonna go make some money. I'll see you tonight, okay?"

Grandma didn't answer. At least she kept moving the shotgun so that the barrels were never aimed directly at me. Her expression didn't change. I was sure I could see the pain of betrayal behind her glasses. I wanted to say something that would make everything better, anything to repair the crumbling canyon between us.

But nothing came out of my mouth. As Bert opened the passenger door, I finally turned away and stepped onto the running board. Grandma's voice stopped me. "You be careful out there."

I nodded back at her and climbed into the truck. Bert twisted sideways and pulled me inside. The cab smelled like an unholy, fermenting mixture of cheap whiskey, cow shit, and blood. I landed in the middle of the wide bench seat. Bert slammed the door.

Junior nodded at Grandma over the hood and said, "By the way, Ma said to say hello. Said she hasn't forgotten, understand? Said to tell you she's keeping them forty-four teeth safe and sound."

Grandma didn't say anything. She didn't move. Nothing.

Junior dropped behind the wheel and jerked the long gearshift into reverse. I didn't know what the hell he had been talking about. As we rolled backward out of the yard, I watched Grandma through the bug-spattered windshield, a stout figure silhouetted against the faded white trailer, standing perfectly still next to her garden. I raised my hand and waved once. Grandma didn't wave back.


Excerpted from Wormfood by Jeff Jacobson Copyright © 2010 by Jeff Jacobson . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Wormfood 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't know what book Harriet Clausner read and reviewed but she not only embellished parts of the story, she went into far too much detail, which spoils the reading experience for others. Why do people feel the need to explain the entire story line in a review? Or make stuff up? The novel is creepy and thriling. The character build-up is excellent. I can actually picture what Fat Ernst looks like. It's about 230 pages. Not one of my favorite books but it still rates a four. ~ DO ~
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best written horror stories I have ever read and I have read everything ever written by, King, Koontz, Barker and more. Very adult and scary but also humorous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not bad for a short story... Makes you think twice about eating beef!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Basically it's a plague type horror survival situation. Boy meets girl, worms infect and feed on townspeople. Overall, it's a great read... some swearing and sexual scenes, some twisted stuff. I would reccomend it highly to those over 15, due to the nature of a few scenes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only story i ever read thT made me nautious! Many descriptions were so well written i could almost experiance what he was describing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fast paced and descriptive. I really enjoyed it and would by more from this author. The language is a bit salty but did not detract from the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! It had gore and suspense and the characters were great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book should have been a movie. The swearing made you giggle slightly and the gory scenes made it even better. Honestly if swearing and gore dont bother you then anyone can read the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it! I was hooked after the first paragraph also. Its sick and twisted but so good. I loved all the charactors even Junior and Bert. Its a horror story filled with humor and heroes. I hope to find more from this writer because I really loved this book! Bare in mind it is really gross sometimes, maybe not for readers under 13. If you like horror, read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This free book was excellent. On his way to a job, the young narrator accidently rams a truck into a funereal car. (Harriet's review is wrong. The trio was NOT hired to be in the funeral nor to wreck the funeral). Things disintegrate from there. Stuff happens, more stuff happens and yes indeed there are gray worm-like organisms. And a pretty girl. I love this book. Totally and absolutely. Not suitable for pre-teens. Definately an adult sort of book. I expect to read more by the author. Love the writing, characters, dialogue, plot, and gross-out factor. (P.S. B&N puts a HOLD on the credit card for a dollar. You are not actually charged a dollar. They do this because they have been subjected to rip-off scams. The hold is released and the dollar winds up back in your pocket, not theirs. The reviewer that claims that this free book-- or any other free book-- costs a dollar is mistaken).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is laugh out loud funny but gross. Hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book-didn't want it to end. Archie trying to do the right thing for grandma & Junior was trying to not do the right thing. This book does not disappoint. It has a good story to it, it has stuff to make your skin crawl and it's hilarious. Read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best i have read in a while, very imressed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not your typical horror story. Moves quick. Only 286(?) Pages. Wish it lasted longer. Plenty of gore. Did't care for the end that much. Overall, a nice story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great storyteller! I find myself having difficulty putting his books down. Well written, great characters and fun plot lines. As a huge Stephen King fan, I have no problem comparing the two writers' writing style. Already pre-ordered the next one.
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Warning, NOT free, will try to charge credit card!!!!!
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josian More than 1 year ago
This book was a waste of money and my time..so slow nothing scary about hicks in your yard. Wish can get my money back...