One day Stephen came running to our door, so psyched he’d run all the way from his house.
“I’ve got something to show you!” he said, grabbing my hand to take me to his house. I stopped long enough to get permission, then ran to his home with him.
We went straight through the garage to his back yard, where he led me to a bucket sitting on the patio. He knelt beside it, and I sat down also.
Stephen opened the bucket with a flourish, and I looked in.
The bucket was full of live worms.
“My Dad’s taking me fishing!” he said, almost bouncing with excitement. “Look at the bait we got!”
This was a dilemma. I wanted to be as thrilled as he was, but we’re talking WORMS here.
He picked one up and held it out to me, and I backed off.
“They won’t hurt you!” he laughed. “They’re just worms!”
He turned away, holding the worm, and I gingerly reached in the bucket to pick one up. Unfortunately, I had grabbed one too close to the end, and when I picked it up, it tore apart. I was appalled, and my first thought was to drop the piece, but Stephen had turned around and saw me holding a piece of worm about an inch long.
“A baby!” he said, awed. “It’s a baby worm!”
I didn’t dare tell him otherwise.
“We’ve got to put it with it’s mother!” he said. “Which one is its mother?”
I looked down into the bucket of wiggling worms, then back up to him. How in the world would I figure out which one the piece I had came from? He was so upset that the baby would be separated from its mother — how would he react when he realized I’d torn off part of a worm instead?
I looked back into the bucket and did the only thing I could think to do.
“That one!” I said, pointing to one at random.
He carefully picked it up, and took the segment from me. Holding them in his cupped hands, he laid them together on the grass.
“There. Now the mama can take care of her baby. They’ll be safe now.”
I never told him the truth about the worm. He cared so much for all life, even worms that would be used as bait. I didn’t know then how fragile his hold on life was, or how soon his mother would lose the part of her that was in him.