JAMES BUTLER/SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER
Des Moines Police Sgt. James Butler was loading his squad car last month when he noticed the pint-sized power walker.
The boy, 4, hustled east on Court Avenue at the bridge. Butler asked the lad where he was going.
"That way," the boy said, pointing toward the Capitol building for emphasis.
Butler asked where his parents were.
"I don't know," the boy said. Butler radioed dispatchers to ask if there had been any missing child reports. There hadn't. Butler asked the boy his name.
"Reuben," he said.
Butler asked, "What's your last name?"
The boy replied, "Spider-Man."
Butler said: "Right. Reuben Spider-Man."
Butler decided to drive the boy around to see if he recognized any buildings. The boy was hesitant. Butler offered to let Reuben wear his police hat. That sealed the deal.
He climbed into the passenger seat and clicked on his seat belt without being asked, Butler said.
The child didn’t recognize any buildings as they drove by. He was small enough that the sergeant would occasionally have to stop so the boy could unbuckle himself and stand on the seat to see over the dash.
Butler asked Reuben when he had last eaten.
“I’m hungry,” Reuben said.
Butler took the boy to McDonald’s. He ordered a Happy Meal. The server said, “What kind?”
"Small," Butler said.
The server looked at him. "No," she said, "hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nuggets?"
Reuben selected a cheeseburger.
"What kind of toy?" the server asked.
Butler leaned across the counter and whispered to the woman. "Miss, I'm 43 years old. I don't have any kids of my own. I've never ordered a Happy Meal in my life. Can you help me out here?"
The woman smiled and selected a toy for the boy.
Eventually, Butler's radio squawked. Some Liberian immigrants had called police, looking for their nephew who had gone missing about 20 minutes earlier.
Apparently Reuben had wandered off from a park on East Sixth Street and made it all the way to the police station at East First Street and Court Avenue.
Police confirmed the boy belonged with the family, but a language barrier prevented Butler from learning Reuben's last name.
That's OK. Everybody knows Spider-Man needs a secret identity.
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