Simon had had enough! Joe and Bob had been bragging about their pets all afternoon. Joe had two large German shepherds and a furry hamster, and Bob had a calico cat and six goldfish.
Simon didn’t have any dogs, cats, hamsters, or fish. But he did have a secret. “Come outside,” he said. “I’ll show you my pets.”
“What pets?” asked Joe.
“You don’t have any pets,” Bob scoffed.
Without answering, Simon led them into his backyard. He took them all the way to the back fence, which was overgrown with ivy. He jiggled the fence, then waited, listening, and jiggled it again. The leaves rustled.
Joe and Bob watched wide-eyed as a large brown lizard scooted out of the ivy and took refuge in the tall weeds by the garden shed.
“That’s one of my pets,” Simon told them. “His name is Leonard. He lives right here in the ivy and takes care of himself. I don’t even have to feed him. Mom and Dad are glad we have him, though, because he eats bugs.”
“Lucky you,” said Joe. “My mom doesn’t like lizards. If one shows up in our yard, she chases it away.”
“So does my cat,” Bob sighed.
“Come and see my next pet,” said Simon, glad that his friends liked his first one.
He led them to a shady corner of the yard where the ground was moist. “This is Oliver,” he said, pointing at a small, spotted toad sitting on a mossy rock. “He eats insects too.”
The boys watched with interest as Oliver took three short hops.
“My third pet lives over here,” said Simon, heading for the corner of the garage. He pointed up at the eaves. “That’s Edith.”
A large brown spider hung in the middle of a filmy web. “You should see her web at night,” said Simon. “The moonlight makes it shine. You can come over some evening to see it,” he offered.
“I’d like that,” said Joe.
Bob nodded his agreement.
“I have one more pet to show you,” said Simon.
He took them to the peppertree and pointed up into its spreading branches. “You have to look very carefully, or you’ll miss her,” he told them.
Peering through the leaves, the boys saw a small, gray bird sitting motionless on a nest.
“I call her Penelope,” Simon explained. “She chose our yard out of all the yards in the neighborhood for her nest. She knows she’s safe here; we won’t hurt her. Her eggs are almost ready to hatch. I’m going to watch the babies grow and learn to fly.”
“Boy! I wish a bird would build a nest in my yard,” said Bob, with a wistful sigh,
“A bird wouldn’t feel safe in your yard,” Joe pointed out. “Your cat would scare it.”
“I know,” agreed Bob glumly. “Will you let us see the baby birds when they hatch, Simon?”
“Sure,” answered Simon, “as long as you don’t get too close. We don’t want to scare them.”
“Hey, Simon, whenever you want to visit my cat or watch my goldfish, let me know,” offered Bob.
“And you can play with my dogs and hamster, too,” Joe added promptly.
“Thanks!” said Simon. “And you can come to see my pets anytime you want to. It’ll be fun to share my secret pets with my friends.”