Gross little thing floating in the dogs' water bowl. And I walk outside just in time to see Chago on his hands and knees trying to fish it out with a pair of plastic pliers that he's dangling from the end of a bungee cord that he'd hooked onto the...um...bad end of the pooper scooper, while maneuvering his little body to block Saia from seeing anything and using his freakishly limber left leg to keep Reyna (the chihuahua) away.
No, no, go ahead, just try to picture it. I'll give you a sec.
Okay, moving on.
"Hey there, boy. Whatcha up to?"
"Oh, Mama, thank goodness you're here. Can you scoop that little salamander out of the water for me? He's dead, I think." And then quickly adds, "But I want him anyway."
"What for, son?" [pokes slimy grey thing with a twig, just to confirm] "He's done for. Why don't we go ahead and bury him instead?"
But he wasn't even listening. He'd already high-tailed it to the other side of the house to find his bug house, which he was dragging over to me, still holding his dead-salamander-retrieving-contraption in his other hand.
"Here, Mama. Just put him in here. I'll take over now," he says with a wave of his hand, dismissing me.
"But Chago...he's dead."
"Yeah, yeah, I know, Mom. Here, ok?...right here. Can you just drop him in, please?" and he's stomping his feet now.
"Son...Chago...look at me. I'm getting a little concerned here, babe."
"Just please, Mama! Please do it!" he begs.
And I just stand there staring at him, his eyes fixated on the limp and lifeless little creature the way most kids stare at cake.
And then in a quieter voice he says, "He's the first REAL bug I've been able to capture...Even though he's not really a bug...And I guess...I didn't really capture him."
[I know, I know, it got me, too.]
"You know what, papa?" [plop!] "You go on with your creepy little lizard corpse. If you need my help when you decide to bury him, you just let me know, okay?" And then remembered to add, "But if you set even one foot in the house with that thing, you'll be spending the night out here with it, do you hear me?"
And, in what should not have been a surprise in the least, his head perked right up, eyebrows raised, and that tiny little mischievous smile began to creep across his face as he said, "Really?"