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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

The Escort (Written 9/15/21)

I had figured out a few things even before my parents moved to the farm.

I had figured out the concept of free food.

I had grasped the advantages of two 24/7 drivers.

And I understood the availability of extra, sighted help if ever an emergency were to arise.

But one thing I hadn't counted on was the increased amount of walking that their new location would mean for me.

In the old days, the way it worked was that my parents always came to me. They would come with groceries, with farm supplies, and sometimes even with the offer of a small adventure to bust me out of here for a few hours. The car would scrunch down the gravel driveway, ease through the gate which (if they were lucky) I had remembered to open ahead of time, and pull up in the familiar parking spot just shy of the front patio. I would dash out the front door, bang it shut behind me, and scoot into the passenger seat, ready for a big trip to town.

But it doesn't work that way anymore.

Now the way it works is that my mom will say, "Hey, do you want to come up here for supper?"

And I'll say something like, "Sure, I guess so," and I'm already thinking about how to handle the rush of chores, and what time to get there, and also about the trek up to their front door. Because now, it's all up to me. I walk up. I walk down. I carry stuff up, and I carry stuff down. I tromp up to the parents' place in wind and rain, in scorching sun, and in the pitch dark. And yes, in case you were wondering, it is indeed always uphill. It's pretty steep, too. Especially in the dark, when you're wearing heavy mud boots and a coat, and carrying two full gallons of milk.

Of course, most people know that I am an avid walker. The dogs and I step out on the road for miles almost every day. But somehow, that's different. That's one, long, almost military style walk, with distance and gear and strategy. And when it's done it's done. Back in the house, everybody unbelled, and me flinging off my belts and bait bag and leashes and boots, and forgetting about the next walk until tomorrow.

But these short, little excursions, at any time of day or evening, with no rhythm or predictability, and with no dogs involved, have begun to get on my nerves.

However, even though there are no dogs, I do not usually walk alone. I do have an escort.

To keep them safe and out of trouble, the dogs are fenced up in the backyard with access to the house through a doggy door. But the cats are free to come and go as they please. In fact, yet another thing that I anticipated long before mom and dad arrived was that Bagheera would probably end up ditching me and moving in with them.

Bagheera is my Bombay cat. Like all the members of his breed, he is sleek and heavily muscled, and sports the requisite coal-black coat and copper-penny eyes. He is curious, gregarious, and always hungry.

Like me, Bagheera also understands the concept of free food. And he knows that mom and dad are a prime resource. He discovered this years ago. Mom would appear with groceries piled in the car. And to facilitate unloading the groceries, the doors of the car were usually left wide open. An easy step to jump in, claw through the bags, and rip open whatever smelled the yummiest. And dad, who drives long hours and often keeps snacks on board, would show up and leave doors and hatchback ajar. Another easy win. Now Bagheera will happily hop into anyone's car and begin to scavenge. He's good, too. He has a nose better than a lot of dogs I've known, and he finds prizes.

It only stood to reason, then, that mom and dad, who so generously provided their vehicles as open food buffets, would also provide their house for more of the same.

It didn't take Bagheera long to establish who lived there, or where I was going when I trudged up the driveway at all hours and without the typical canine company. He has decided to appoint himself as my personal escort.

He usually shows up when I'm already partway along the route. He meows loudly to let me know he's coming, then rushes directly into my line of travel and trots over to meet me. He positions himself right in front of my hurrying feet, more often than not gets trampled, yowls, and then manfully falls into step beside or behind me for the duration of the journey. Once arrived, he bounds onto the long, covered front porch and accompanies me straight to the door. He then proceeds to attempt getting through the door, the opinions of my parents very big, very beautiful, and very spoiled longhaired black cat totally notwithstanding. Did I mention that Bagheera really appreciates free food? If it happens that there's a fifteen-and-a-half-pound, resident, territorial cat hulking and hissing in his way, that really doesn't bother him.

So far I've managed to talk him out of actually coming inside with me.

But he doesn't leave. Instead, he scampers off the porch and bides his time, hunkered down under the house, under an obliging car, or in various patches of weeds and brush along the driveway. After all, he knows I'll be coming out again. It's only a matter of time, and there may just be some free food coming along with me. It might just need an escort back to our own house. Or I might, as the case may be. Whichever comes first. But either way, Bagheera is on the job. I will most likely never again walk alone.

Bagheera enjoys a ride, courtesy of Reyna!

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