She sits inside her faux whiskey barrel, beside the Sassafras tree and beneath the Escarpment Cherry. I turn to spy her out the window to ensure she does not take flight. She stares back through the window at me, knows me for the ape who feeds her the delicious little bugs. Then, her mind wanders back to the freedom she surely imagines and clearly desires.
The first time I took her out, I left the lamp plugged in like a fool, face down on the wooden desk and almost burned down the house. A prescient project manager once predicted just such a thing, after a similar incident with the chimenea, and if there are curses then his bought such a fate for me that day. The desk remembers.
That first day I had put her out on the decomposed granite, where she looked around for almost an hour, unmoving and confused. I feared she would bolt. But she stood completely still, slightly cocking her head from time to time, but otherwise the perfect sentinel. I briefly wondered whether she had lost the use of her legs after years of confinement. She put an end to that false impression when she quickly moved to the top of a rock where she could better survey her surroundings. Then, not another move.
Today, she waits, watching out for the Jays that harass her from time to time, and for the doves, whom she harasses, with a charge and a display of her fierce, showy beard. Bentlee does nothing in a hurry. Just as I contemplated Judo for 25 years before I actually undertook to learn it, she will sit for the better part of an hour before she emerges from the wire safety of the barrel and charges the little shade plants she will graze. An omnivore, is Bentlee.
I let her out because she lobbies for the outing with a persistent glare and by scratching at the glass. I cannot live with imprisoning her. It kills my soul and hers. My son had earlier rescued her from a life of slowly being eaten, tail first, by a larger Dragon, and thus improved her lot. I, as her surrogate, substitute, second-team hero, gave her the great outdoors. But is this enough? Second-guessing my every move, I wonder if I do the right thing leaving her inside her barrel, where she remains still, after half an hour of false freedom. For her safety is superficial; it, and her life, could easily be cut short by a marauding cat or Green Heron while my back is turned. And even as she frolics, eats her veggies and watches tasty dragonflies tilting just out of reach, she must inevitably return to her cell. Then, she will give me that look of hate. Eminently docile as I lift her out of her home to play, she will fight me to prevent her return. But return she must. I am her safety, but I am also her gaoler. And she knows. And she does not forgive.
I hear the Jays.