“Take a close look at the shape of the terrain in front of you,” he said. His son, roughly five years old, looked up at his father’s face, and then studied the small dips and gullies that could be animal tracks. Or not.
“I’m not sure I see anything,” he said in a small voice.
“Oh, Gerald, he’s too young for this yet,” said the young woman standing just a few feet away, her hands worrying each other in front of her skirt.
“He’s not too young,” said Gerald, “and he’s got to learn this at some point. He’ll be all right. I promise.”
She smiled, but it was without conviction.
Turning back to his son, Gerald pointed out a couple of small, symmetrical indentations.
“Now what does that tell you?” he asked.
The boy looked uncertain, and then smiled.
“It means that spoor may be buried there,” he said.
“Exactly!” encouraged Gerald, glancing back at his wife whose hands were beginning to slow down.
“Okay,” she said grudgingly, but with no little pride, “he’s doing okay. But don’t you dare give him the – the – ”
“Don’t worry,” said Gerald, “I won’t let him lay a hand on it until I’m sure he’s not going to put out his, or anyone else’s eye.”
For another ten minutes or so the father quizzed his young son who, with growing confidence rose to the challenge and displayed a remarkably sophisticated knowledge of certain specific animal habits, most especially their instinct to hide traces of themselves, making it more difficult for predators to track them.
Finally Gerald turned back to his wife.
She smiled ruefully. “Oh yes, he’s ready. I still worry, but he’s ready.”
Gerald grinned back and inclined his head to her feet. She sighed, picked up the implement and passed it over to her husband.
“I’ve warned you about the safety measures, so you’d better not let me down,” he said, holding it out to him.
“I won’t daddy,” the boy promised with solemnity. “I won’t let you down.”
Gerald stepped back to where his wife stood at the bottom of the stairs while his son squatted beside the litter box, the scooper held resolutely in both hands.
“Let’s leave him to do this alone, honey,” said Gerald as he put his arm around her and guided her up the stairs from the basement.
37″ High (Edition 50)
by: Marianne Caroselli