Allen grumbled and pulled his collar up around his neck against the rain.

Another walk in the woods with Gramps. Rain or shine, Gramps must walk every day. Of course, Allen said none of this aloud. He wasn’t that much of a fool. Since Allen was too young to have a summer job, one of his chores was walking with Gramps.

Silence was the first rule, allowing Gramps to look for wildlife. The imposed quiet irritated Allen. It wasn’t like there was anything new to see on the trail. The trail by the river was Gramps favorite. Gramps said it was peaceful and this path through the woods hadn’t changed much since he was a boy. Allen figured he could walk the trail blindfolded.

Allen kicked a rock on the trail. It landed next to a tree, sending a squirrel scampering up the tree, chattering loudly. Allen grinned and watched the river as they approached a small stream that fed into the river. Turtles basking on a log was a familiar sight here, and Allen happily counted seven turtles. The most he had ever seen there. Allen heard the woodpecker before he saw it. Various perching birds were also sighted, but nothing new. Gramps would silently point to new species and tell Allen about the bird when they returned to the sidewalk near their house. Allen was beginning to recognize many of birds that resided or flew through North Carolina.

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. The deer were wary but continued to forage for food. Allen and Gramps watched for a few minutes before continuing down the trail.

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

After two miles, they reversed directions and headed back toward home. When they reached the tree 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.

By the time Allen and Gramps returned home, the rain had stopped. Part of their routine was that Gramps would open a can of Dr. Pepper and offer some to Allen. That was the best part of the daily chore as far as Allen was concerned. His mother said soda was empty calories and only allowed them in the house for Gramps to have his one-a-day soda.

“How was the walk?” Allen’s mom didn’t look up from doing the dishes.

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

“See anything interesting?”

“Nope. Same trail as always.”

More by N. R. Tucker.