Allen grumbled and pulled his collar up around his neck against the rain. Rain or shine, Gramps must walk every day. Since Allen was too young to have a summer job, one of his chores was accompanying Gramps on his daily outings.

Silence was the first rule. Gramps never spoke on their hikes in order to look for wildlife. It wasn’t like there was anything new to see. The trail by the river was Gramps’ favorite hike, and it was within a mile of their home. Allen swore he could walk the path blindfolded.

Allen kicked a rock that hit a tree, sending a squirrel scampering up to a high branch, chattering loudly. Allen grinned and turned his eyes to the river as they were coming closer to where a small stream feeds into it. Turtles basking on a log were a common sight, and Allen counted seven turtles. The most he had ever counted there. Allen heard the woodpecker before he saw it. Various perching birds were also sighted but no new species. Gramps was good at identifying birds and had taught Allen to identify many North Carolina birds.

When Gramps stopped, Allen did too, slowly turning his head to look for whatever caught Gramps’ attention. Gramps only stopped moving if he saw wildlife. Through the underbrush, less than fifteen feet away, Allen found what he was searching for, two does, and a faun. Allen and Gramps watched for a few minutes before they continued down the trail.

The duo passed where at least six heron nests resided in the same tree. Allen slowed to see if the babies were flying yet. They weren’t, but using the binoculars Gramps always carried, Allen was able to see a couple of little heads peeking out of their nests.

The sun came out when the rain stopped, gifting the hikers a rainbow that appeared to be coming out of the river. Allen stopped to look, imagining the adventures to be had if only he could travel by rainbow.

After three miles, they reversed direction and headed back home. When they reached the area where Allen had spooked the squirrel, he noticed a black snake hiding in one of the hollowed out knots with its head leaning out of the hole; hopefully, the squirrel was safe.

Allen and Gramps returned home. Part of their routine was that Gramps would open a can of soda and offer half to Allen. That was the best part of the daily chore as far as Allen was concerned. His mother considered soda unnecessary and only allowed it in the house for Gramps to have his one-a-day soda.

“How was the walk?” Allen’s mom had already laid out two glasses for the soda.

“It was okay.” Allen took a sip of the soda and smiled when the carbonation tickled his throat.

She placed her made-from-scratch rolls in the oven for dinner, and asked, “See anything interesting?”

Allen shrugged. “Nope, but I hope the squirrel is safe.”

“What squirrel?” his mother asked.

Gramps smiled and sipped his soda.

More by N. R. Tucker.

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