Growing up, I had a strange array of pets. Off the top of my head, I can tell you about three pet lizards, a hamster, some goldfish and even a baby praying mantis in a mason jar.
But the pets I remember the most were hardly pets at all--they were beans.
Sold in plastic, candy-colored boxes on convenience store counters, Mexican Jumping Beans seemed more like toys than living critters.
They tapped and rattled and hopped and bounced against the see-thru case, but they never got far.
Unless, of course, you unleashed them from their cage.
My friend, Neil, and I would scatter seven or eight jumping beans on the kitchen floor. We sprawled out, watching in amazement as they clicked and jumped.
Before long, we'd get bored just watching them kick around the dining room floor. We'd start throwing down money on who had the fastest bean.
I had a little bean I named Tecate. He was fast. I mean, he was real fast.
Tecate could beat out Neil's jumping bean any day of the week, and I knew I had a champion.
At night, as I put the beans to bed in their tiny case, I set Tecate aside and gave him a pep talk. I even fashioned a separate, larger case for Tecate, so he had more room to practice his hurdling bounds.
But just as all good things must come to an end, I awoke one morning to a horrific scene that scarred my young and fragile brain.
It had never occurred to me that there was something actually at work behind all the bean's efforts. It never occurred to me until...
I compare it to the time my parents told me there was no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy.
Behind the delightful hopping of this unassuming bean was a ghastly maggot-like creature that burrowed out of Tecate's shell and promptly died.
It was like I lost a friend. I'd like to tell you I honored Tecate with a proper burial, but it's not true. I did place him among his fellow beans, so they could mourn the loss of their fellow moth larva.
Within days, they too dug holes out of their shells and died beside their bean homes.
So, when I look back on the Mexican Jumping Bean, I try to forget the tragic death that befell them. I like to remember them in their full-on glossy glory as they gleamed from the convenience store counter like a new toy on Christmas morning.
Here's a cool video I found on youtube. It's just two minutes long, but interesting if you're nostalgic about these: