Picking Up BBs

A toddler and his father find treasure on a make-believe battlefield

What do you have there, little buddy?

A spider egg? Are you sure? Let me see. I don’t know. It seems kind of big for a spider egg, don’t you think?

Yeah, even a black widow spider egg.

No, I’m pretty sure it’s too small to be a marble. Do you want to know what I think? I think it’s a BB, a plastic BB.

How’d it get here? Well, sometimes people shoot them at each other; it’s kind of like a game some people like to play.

Yeah, you’re right. They could put an eye out, but I’ll bet they’re O.K. They were probably wearing glasses to protect their eyes or something like that.

No, I can’t be sure, so yeah, maybe someone did lose an eye. Probably not, though.

Look! Here’s another one, a clear green one. You want to hold it?

I think it’s pretty, too.

I don’t know. Let me see. O.K., now I see what you mean. If you hold it up to the light you can see a kind of green light shining through it. You want to see something else that’s cool? If you hold it above your other hand at just the right height, the light will make a little green dot on your hand. See that?

Yeah, I agree. That’s way cool. Why don’t you put them in your pocket?

No, that’s not called stealing, not in this case.

Well, because I don’t think they belong to anybody any more.

No. I think if they really wanted them back, they would have taken the time to pick them up themselves.

Well, sure, of course, unless they were at the emergency room getting their eyes put back in. But when somebody just leaves something lying around like this, it usually means they abandoned it.


That means they don’t want it anymore, so if somebody else comes along and finds it and they want it, they can have it.

Yeah, I think that means we can keep them.

No, it doesn’t mean you can keep Mr. Perkins’s dog.

Why? Because that’s different.

Well, because sometimes, when somebody leaves something lying around, it’s not abandoned.

I don’t know, but some time when you get older, you’ll just know the difference.

Illustration by Stephen Knezovich

Maybe you can’t wait till you get older, but I sure can. It’s a Daddy thing.

That’s right, like knowing what’s abandoned and what’s not.

No, I can’t tell you why somebody would just walk off and leave all these BBs lying around like this. Maybe they didn’t think they were worth picking up.

No, they must not be very smart.

I don’t know how many are here. I suppose you could be right. There could be thousands.

They are all over the place.

That’s right, abandoned. I don’t know about millions, though. A million is an awfully big number.

No, I don’t know why they make so many colors, but there are a lot. I see yellow and green and red and white and orange and blue. They’re so small and round and …

That’s right. They do seem like little jewels, perfect little plastic jewels just lying around in the grass and on the sidewalk and being ignored. They are just the sort of thing to catch a little boy’s heart.

Oh, sorry. They are just the sort of thing to catch a young man’s heart.

What did you say?

Oh, no. I heard you. I just wanted to hear you say it again. It’s another Daddy thing. I love you, too. Listen, I want to thank you, little … man.

For what? Well, for letting me help you pick up all these BBs. That’s what. You know, before I met you, I’d forgotten just how much things like these are really worth. You’ve sure got a good eye for treasure.

Yeah, I suppose we could, but do you really want to sell them? I mean, I’m not so sure I want to.

Well, because I’d be willing to bet most people don’t have a clue how priceless these little gems are, so we might not get our money’s worth.

Priceless? That means they are worth so much you can’t even put a price on them. Besides, would you rather have money, or would you rather have these?

Yeah, me too. Do you know what I want to do with them? I want to get one of Mom’s canning jars and put them all in there and put them on the mantel above the fireplace. That way, even if you’re not there or I’m not there, we can take them down and look at them and remember this day.

Yeah, kind of like a picture without the paper part. You’re so smart. Only this can be better than a picture because it will never fade.

Of course you can get them down and play with them. Any time you want.

You found some more? Great! Go get them!

How many do you have now? No, no, you don’t need to take them all out. You can—uh, oh well. We can have just as much fun picking them all up all over again. Let me help.

Yeah, I did say I like picking them up.

Yeah, especially with you.

I found a blue one, too.

You know what I wish? I wish that when you get older you’ll find a nice girl and get married and have a little boy or girl just like you.

O.K., but I’m talking about after girls stop being yucky. Believe me. It’s going to happen someday.

Oh, yes it will.

Why do I wish that? So you get a chance to go picking up BBs with them, too.

That’s right. Just like you and me. Look, over there, under that dandelion. Is that another one?

About the Author

J. Anders Gilmore

J. Anders Gilmore is a lawyer and college professor. He and his wife, Trudie, are the parents of eleven children. They live in a small town nestled in the foothills of the mountains of Colorado.

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