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FOUR
“Hold up,” I said, dropping to one knee, bringing my hands waist high, my palms facing Jack before flipping them skyward and wiggling my fingers towards him then me five times in unison to indicate that he should come to me. I unbuckled his helmet and gently dropped it onto the Burley’s seat. “Hold tight!” I added as he began to dart away.  Unclipping my helmet and placing it next to his in the trailer I said, “Now I’m ready,” grimacing a bit as I rose from kneeling, my knee protesting its additional maltreatment. “Where do you want to go?”

“Uh, see ducks,” Jack replied, pointing to the Des Moines.

“Well, they’re river ducks, not sea ducks,” I said, offering Jack my hand and scanning the stretch of shore that separated the trail from the river, “but that’s as good a choice as any.”

Jack unapologetically rejected my hand as we backtracked a few paces down the trail to a clearing that afforded better access to the river. The interstate seemed quieter than I remembered and I uttered an, “Ah!” as I realized that though December twenty-sixth was not an official holiday many people and all the schools treated it as such. The ground squished beneath our feet as we stepped off the asphalt and rather than again offering my hand to Jack I merely took his in mine saying, “Do you see the islands underneath the bridge?” to distract him from my breeching his right of granting consent in favor of my responsibility for his safety.

“Where, Paki?” he ask tugging gently at my hand in protest.

Assuming as close to a tailor’s crouch as my old knees allowed, I pointed through the leafless underbrush below the highway bridge expanse. Upstream  the confluence of Beaver Creek and the Des Moines River had created multiple sandbars. “Maybe this summer we can go tubing in the river,” I said, thinking of the throngs that used the river as a playground when the sun turned the corn and soybean fields of Iowa into verdant fields of scorching steaminess. “Does that sound like fun?”

“Play river? Uh, okay!” Jack said, taking a step forward.

“Yes!” I laughed, “but not today. It’s a beautiful day but it’s not play in the river beautiful. Let’s go look at the construction site,” I said, jerking my head back in the direction of the bridge. “Maybe there’s big trucks like Rubble’s,” I added, unapologetically using his love for all things “Paw Patrol” as bait for compliance.

“Paw Patrol?” Jack asked, taking the bait and chomping on the hook.

“Maybe!” said I, hoping that we would indeed find some heavy machinery to make my declared temptation a reality.

“Paw Patrol! Paw Patrol!” Jack declared, clambering back the way we’d come, me joining in his joyous declaration of his favorite TV show.