We ate lentil tacos last night on the patio, early enough that there’d be time for a walk after dinner. Jayce pedaled ahead–his legs too lanky now for his third birthday bike. I warn him: Don’t go too far and stay on the side of the road! He’s been told so many times he probably hears it in his sleep. I know, he says from beneath the dorsal fin of his shark helmet. His training wheels crunch against the blacktop and echo through the desert.
At the corner, he gets off his bike and points exaggeratedly up the hill as if without him there we’d never have heard the car coming. He pedals on but circles back every so often to warn us what lies ahead: I saw something black go under that big rock. I don’t know if that’s a frog up there, but watch out for that animal. When we pass, Jeff identifies it as a horned toad and then: did you know they can shoot blood out of their eyes? My teacher told me. Stay on this side.
I used to talk a lot, too, Jeff admits. You still do, I correct.
Jayce goes too far ahead–all the way up a steep hill when it wasn’t time yet to turn that way. The crunch of his wheels drown out our calls and he pedals up and on, ’till the very tippy top. Jeff motions him back and he climbs on the bike and lets loose down the hill. We stand in wait at the bottom, my mama’s heart fluttering because he’s going too fast right down the middle but then he giggles and I can hear it over the noise of his wheels and inside I smile and let go.
He swoops down the hill and whizzes past and we follow and Jeff says he got my sense of caution. I’ve never had a boy before but if this is the cautious version I guess I’ll take it.
The third birthday bike has a faulty chain and every five hundred yards or so Jeff kneels down to fix it. His hands get greasy and it’s ninety-eight degrees and this walk is a nightmare, he says. In between pit stops we hash out plans for an RV adventure next summer and decide that Jeff needs to learn to whistle like our dads did. The kind of whistle you heard from six blocks away and that’s how you knew it was time to go home.
He thinks the walk was a nightmare but he’s wrong. It was just right.