It was Elizabeth’s fault. She was hanging over a swing in their back yard on her belly, pushing herself off the ground with her feet. She had not been paying attention.
“You didn’t help me catch that June bug,” Jefferson yelled. “I’m not going to catch one for you.”
“Maybe she doesn’t want a June bug,” Jefferson’s mother offered indifferently.
“I don’t want a June bug,” said Elizabeth. “I want a June bug to live its life.”
“That is precisely how I feel,” Jefferson’s mother continued. “I don’t think it’s fair to all these snakes and salamanders and turtles you keep here in captivity, Jefferson.”
What did she know? His pets were happy. He fed them and talked to them every day. She just didn’t like salamanders and frogs because they were slimy and messy. And she didn’t care about June bugs because they would not help her clean the house and she couldn’t make them into characters in one of her little stories.
That evening, Jefferson and his father were outside feeding the turtles when they spotted another June bug. Jefferson’s father captured it and tied a string to its back leg. They went inside to show Elizabeth and Jefferson’s mother.
“Look,” Jefferson’s father said to his mother. “It flies around like a helicopter.”
Jefferson’s mother was folding laundry. She looked up at his father, who was beaming with pride.
“What grade are you in?” she asked, grabbing the laundry basket and walking away.
That night, Jefferson thought about what a hypocrite his mother was. All of the other moms in Springbrook Meadows let their kids have dogs even though the moms had to walk them and take care of them. Jefferson’s mother never made disparaging comments to them.
“Mama,” Jefferson said the next morning as she handed him a plate of cinnamon toast, “a June bug on a string is no different from a dog on a leash.”