The Lone Egret (34)

My shoulders jump, and I bring my bike to a stop. I’d surprised an egret when I came around the bend on the path, his big wings ready to launch himself at the whoosh of my sudden presence. His flurry of flapping startled me in return. Now he is standing off a bit on the golf course looking back at me. “I’m so sorry,” I say. “You scared me, too.” I laugh. “I had no idea you were there.” He stretches his neck, listening, watching me. “I’m coming back in a few minutes,” I warn him. “I’ll be more careful,” I say, and I push myself off again. I have decided to be “smart” on a busy day, taking my bike on the path instead of walking so I can go to Ralph’s on the way home, buy bird seed and cat litter. But maybe in my rush of doing I wasn’t paying enough attention. It feels good to be out, my wild wispy orange scarf keeping my neck warm as I ride. I pass a man with a grumpy face walking his dog. When I turn around and ride past him again I smile, and he almost smiles back. I slow down when I get back to Egret Bend, and I am surprised and glad to see him standing there, his tall, slim form still brilliant in the late dusk. I stop again, and we watch each other a bit more. I don’t know what I say, small endearments, high praise. He stretches his neck and moves his head as though he is following the arc of my words. “Safe night,” I wish him as I begin to ride away. “Sweet dreams.” I look for him and see him again each evening for a week, his stark, graceful form pure white and meandering in the distance. He is always alone.

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