Love In a Bucket
My son found a worm in our yard not long ago and did what any little boy would do: He gave it a name and decided to keep it.
Like other living things unlucky enough to come into our family's orbit, Sam, as the worm was now known, was destined to become my responsibility. And naturally I tried to weasel out of caring for him as fast as possible.
"I really think we should let Sam go tomorrow," I told my son. "He belongs in nature. He craves the company of other worms."
Jeffrey would have none of it.
"How would you like it if I told you that you had to give up Bob?" he asked, referring to our dog.
I tried to explain the difference between family dogs and family worms, knowing right away that it was hopeless. My son doesn't cry much, but you can tell when the tears are ready to flow. "I love Sam," he said.
Well, okay, I thought. I wondered if he'd named the worm after his recently deceased grandfather. That might explain what was going on here. But when I asked how he'd chosen the name, he told me he was looking for one that could be a girl's name, too, just in case Sam turned out to be female.
I didn't tell him that earthworms, if I remember correctly, are both male and female at the same time. The idea that any creature could have two sets of sexual organs is difficult to grasp even at my age.
Sam's new home was an old plastic Easter bucket. My son provided some dirt and twigs for furnishings, and I poured in a little water to give the impression that I knew what I was doing.
I'm not sure what worms eat, but I do have a pretty good idea what eats them. So I had to get something to put over the Easter bucket to protect Sam from the birds. Fortunately, the kitchen colander that my wife had just purchased fit perfectly.
Look, you can't please everybody.
I watered the worm for a few days, waiting for my son to forget about him. By Thursday he was showing little interest in Sam, so I made my move. Sam happily slithered off to tell his worm friends about his adventure among the tall, dumb creatures with legs. And that, I thought, was the end of it.
Greg Daugherty is a newspaper columnist in Westchester County, New York.