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`Can I keep it?'

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`MOM! Mart! Look! Can I keep it?'' The Kid galloped toward me dangling what I thought for sure must be a boa constrictor. ``I found it in the field,'' he cried breathlessly. The other boys gathered round, while the owner of the field paused mid-sentence to say, ``Fine little red racer ya got yerself there, young fella. Makes a dandy little pet.'' The scream that had been gathering momentum got stuck in my throat. Little? Pet? Red racer?

``Well, Mom, can I?''

``Can you what?''

``Can I keep him?''

The field we were in was filled with a glory of late summer daisies, Queen Anne's lace, purple thistles, and brown fuzzies that stick to socks. In addition, there were bedsprings, a few sinks, and several huge tires. The field was owned by a grizzled man of indeterminate age in overalls and no shirt. And in fact, it wasn't a field at all but his backyard. He had an old Harley-Davidson motorcycle for sale, and The Old Man and I and various of our boys had driven some 65 miles from my home in the concrete jungle of Seattle to his home in the foothills of the Cascades to see this Harley. And maybe even buy it.

``That snake,'' I began, eyeing it from a distance, ``deserves to be in that field ... (`that's not a field, ma'am, that's my yard') ... in that yard, free to roam with his family, free to catch rodents, free to ... (`the cats catch the rodents, ma'am, and sometimes even the snakes')....'' The Kid was shocked.

``You're going to force me to abandon my snake to some killer cat?'' he shouted. ``Besides,'' he added, lowering his voice, perhaps suspecting that country folk might not take kindly to city kids yelling at their moms, ``snakes may deserve to be in fields, but a boy deserves to have a snake.''

I was astounded by my momentary lapse. How could I have forgotten what a boy deserves! We ended up with a free snake instead of a Harley and drove home with one boy lovingly clutching a jar with a snake inside and three other boys wishing it was theirs.

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