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There they were, on the sidewalk and all hunched over something.  They were arguing, in that hissy way of 6 or 7-year-old boys.  She caught “poisonous” and “dangerous” and the gist of it was, what were they gonna do with–or to–whatever it was?

“Whatcha got there?” she asked them.   She had one of those ropy braids and she tossed it over her shoulder and crouched beside one of the boys for a better look.  It was a stag beetle.

Cool,” she breathed.  She reached toward it.   The boys screamed.   The beetle lurched.

Well, the boys had determined it was gonna get them and that wasn’t any good, was it, so they were plotting its demise but she could see they were too scared to follow-through, at least for now.

Hey,” she said, “This beetle won’t hurt you.”

“No, they’re dangerous!” one of them squawked at her.  Dangerouth.  “They have poithon!”   Poison.  Of course.

He had a couple of teeth missing, and one of those great freckly faces and sandy hair with the big cowlick in front.   It was a parking area but there were epic climbing trees and lots of cool woodsy-looking places for kids to forage.  The boys had been outside for some time.  Their faces were dirty, and their knees.   

“I know!” she said, “I’ll go get my book.  Stay right here and I’ll show you.”

It turned out a stag beetle can pinch but there was no mention of poithon and nothing to suggest mortal danger.  She studied the boys, thinking.  Then she stood up.

“Listen,” she said.  “That beetle seems pretty big, doesn’t it?  But you two, you’re so much bigger.  And you know what?  You can do anything you want to this bug!  Anything–and it can’t stop you.”

She continued.  “So here’s the deal.  When you’re big and able to hurt things, your responsibility is to be kind and gentle.  You need to make sure that beetle is safe and happy because this”–she gestured–“is its home.  This beetle doesn’t want to hurt you, it wants to be outside and be a beetle and do beetle stuff.”

She started to walk away.  Then she turned back.  “You know,” she said, “the earth gave you a great place to play!  It’s got trees to climb and rocks and logs and bugs and all kinds of things.  The earth knows you,” she continued, “and she knows when you’re kind and gentle and when you’re not.  So take good care of that beetle, guys!”

Half an hour later they were still trotting that beetle all around the parking area.  Where should they relocate the beetle?  Which tree was the safest?   Who had earned the right to hold it?  Would it be able to find its own food?

Oh Lord, she thought.  Please let this end well.

 

 

 

 

 

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