There's an element of ritual in my morning walk, a set of events that have a rhythm I've come to expect, and I guess, take for granted. The beat might vary a bit on any given day, but it's essentially the same ...
- I step out the front door.
- Max and Belle are lying there, waiting for me, but immediately jump up and start playing, pouncing, chomping on each other.
- I work my way around them to the path and say "Let's go for a walk!"
- At those words, Frankie scurries from the side of the porch, the woods, or the top of the path, wherever he has been scavenging for bugs, and - Me first! Me first! - positions himself as leader.
This morning I made it to the top of the path before I realized Frankie wasn't with us. I called, expecting to see him emerge from the woods across the street. No Frankie.
I headed back down to the house and around to the back, thinking he might be scavenging there and he just couldn't hear me because of the waterfall. Peering over the deck railing, I didn't see him. I called. Nothing. No Frankie.
My heart was slowly dropping to my feet. Yes, he's a turd, attacking Belle, my kids and my friends, demanding bird seed yet refusing to let us pet him, leaving poop on my doorsteps (and sometimes in the house when he slips in for an inspection.)
But, you know, we all have our faults. And he's such a character ... such good company sometimes. He makes me laugh just watching him.
I reminded myself that he's a wild creature living in a wild world, surrounded by things that just see him as dinner. I have to accept the possibility of his death. I thought of Ruthie ... of the pile of her white feathers just a few feet from the front door...
My eyes drifted to the woods on my way back up to the road ... searching, dreading to find a pile of speckled black and white feathers ... relieved to see nothing.
Max, Belle and I headed on down the road, my heart now dragging behind me. But then, near the first curve I heard something in front of us, something that sounded a lot like Frankie's squawking! What the heck? He never wandered this far from the house!
Then, swoosh ... there, in the middle of the road coming straight towards me, wings stretched out, gliding, swooping low, landing in a trot just a few yards in front of me. Immediately, nonchalantly, pecking at some bug ... my Frankie bird.
"Frankie, what do you mean, worrying me like that?"
He fell in beside us, chirping away at me. Even Max and Belle seemed excited and happy to have him join us.
I have no idea what he told me in all his chirps, but I imagine the story to go something like this: he took off after a flying bug, then there was another, and another, and before he knew it, he was miles (okay, yards) from home. It truly is Guinea-Utopia around here right now - all those fresh green leaves and buds and bugs. But judging by the way he stuck close to us on the rest of the walk, I think he was just as scared about his situation as I was. I don't think he'll be wandering away like that anymore. I hope not, anyway. I'd miss my feisty little Frankie bird.