Litter Critter Jig
Characters: Woodcock, Dead Leaf, Millipede, Fungus, Eft, Springtail.
Wanda Woodcock (dancing) Step to the right, give a little jiggle, step to the left, make the worms wiggle.
Dead Leaf That’s a nice dance you’re doing, whoever you are.
Woodcock I’m Wanda Woodcock, and I’m not dancing. I’m jiggling the ground to make the worms wiggle so I can catch ’em!
Leaf Good luck with that. At least you’re not trying to eat me. Everyone else on the forest floor wants to eat us dead leaves.
Woodcock You do look a bit chewed up.
Leaf Yes, bacteria, fungi, millipedes – everyone’s taken a nip. Soon I’ll be nothing but dirt. But that’s okay. Someday I’ll be a leaf again – or maybe a timber-doodle like you.
Woodcock Are you calling me a timber-doodle?
Leaf That’s your nickname, isn’t it?
Woodcock Well, yes, because I live here among the timbers…
Leaf …and doodle away the hours dancing.
Woodcock I’m not dancing! I’m hunting for worms!
Leaf Well it looks like a dance. (jiggles) Hey, something’s making me dance!
Woodcock Here, move over so I can see what’s underneath you in the leaf litter. (leaf exits) Maybe a yummy worm! (millipede enters) Nope! Who are you?
Millipede My name is Milli-pede which means “thousand feet,” but I’ve never counted. I will sing you my song. (singing) All dee leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down. All dee leaves are falling down, how dee-licious!
Woodcock That’s nice. Did you write it?
Millipede Yes. It’s part of my work. We millipedes are decomposers. We compose dee songs and we decompose dee leaves.
Woodcock I get the song part, but what do you do to the leaves?
Millipede We decompose them – it means take them apart. We eat dead leaves and chew them into little bits. It’s important work, for if we didn’t do it, the leaves would pile up to the sky.
Woodcock Worms eat dead leaves too. They grind them up in their gizzards.
Millipede Yes, worms are decomposers too.
Woodcock But woodcocks are meat-eaters. We catch worms and grind them up in our gizzards! Or, we could eat a millipede…
Millipede Uh oh, this could be my swan song! (singing) You put dee right feet in, you put dee right feet out, you better not be pokey and you hurry on out! (exits)
Woodcock Wow! A one-millipede chorus line. Oh shucks, it got away. Well, must be a worm down here somewhere… (walks)
Fungus Look out! You’re stepping on my threads!
Woodcock Threads? You mean all these white strings in the leaf litter?
Fungus Yes! I am a fungus, and those are my fungal threads.
Woodcock Do you sew a lot?
Fungus Not that kind of thread! Fungal threads are a bit like roots – only they’re much more than roots. They ooze juices to digest my food – tasty dead things like leaves and twigs.
Woodcock Dead things? So you’re another decomposer, like worms and millipedes?
Fungus A decomposer, yes. But I am nothing like worms and millipedes. They are animals! I am a fungus!
Woodcock There’s a fungus among-gus!
Fungus Yes, just call me Gus. There are miles and miles of fungal threads all through the soil and the leaf litter. Mushrooms like me are just a tiny part of the fungus – like an apple on a tree.
Woodcock Well I’m looking for worms, not apples or mushrooms. So bye, Gus.
Fungus So long, Wanda. (exits)
Woodcock Now where was I?
Springtail (hops in and out) Boing! Boing! Now you see me, now you don’t.
Woodcock Huh? Who are you and how do you disappear like that?
Springtail I’m a springtail, got this little spring-loaded tail – so I can spring away from danger.
Woodcock What’s the danger? You’re too small to make much of a meal.
Springtail Well if there’s a red eft around here, I’m in big trouble. But I don’t see one, so I’ll go back to eating mushrooms.
Woodcock You like eating mushrooms?
Springtail Oh yes. I love ’em. I go to a lot of truffle to eat mushrooms. They really put a spring in my step. Boing! (hops, exits)
Woodcock Wow – that’s some spring action! Well, now for that worm! (pokes, hops back) Yuck! Something tastes awful!
Eddie Eft I do! It’s my poisonous skin.
Woodcock You’re no worm!
Eft No, I’m Eddie Eft. I’m a young newt. When I grow up, I’ll live in a pond.
Woodcock Well upond my word!
Eft But for now my home is here on the forest floor. It’s perfect for salamanders – damp and shady and there’s lots to eat.
Woodcock Are you a decomposer?
Eft No, I’m a fierce predator, grrr. I eat little worms and stuff, but today I’m hunting for springtails.
Woodcock But they’re so small, it’s hardly worth the effort.
Eft It is if you eat enough, and there are millions of them in the leaf litter. They like to eat fungi, and I like to eat them!
Woodcock Golly, it’s a busy world here – efts eating springtails, springtails eating fungi, fungi and millipedes and worms all decomposing dead things and turning them into soil.
Eft Sure! Here’s where everything that lives in the forest gets recycled, so the nutrients can become part of living things again.
Woodcock Yup. We each have a role to play on the forest floor. My role is eating worms and millipedes!
Eft Guess you’d better get back to dancing.
Woodcock I’m not dancing…well, maybe I am! You like worms too, Eddie Eft. Wanna dance?
Eft Okay! (both together) Step to the right, give a little jiggle, step to the left, make the worms wiggle. (exit)