4 — Relationship building

Chapter 20, pages 86-87

Before Walter went out to meditate on his front porch the next morning, he put the small plastic tub he had bought at Goodwill on the ground next to the corner of the house and filled it with fresh water. Next he folded the old beach towel from the Goodwill grab bag into an eighteen-inch square and positioned it on the porch corner behind his chair. Finally, he took a handful of duck mash from the bag he had bought in Dairy and made a thin trail of mash from the porch steps to the middle of the clearing in front of his cabin.

Sometime later, after he had begun his daily contemplation, Abigail arrived. He didn’t see her coming, but suddenly there she was, snuffling the mash he had left near her ‘favorite spot.’ She followed his trail, cautiously, eating as she went, until she got to the porch step. There she stopped and looked around as if to say, “Now what do I do?” Walter leaned down from his chair and tried to coax her up onto the porch, to no avail. After a brief standoff, she just sat down, right where she was. Very slowly, Walter got up from his chair, went into the cabin, and returned with another handful of mash. Abigail watched him attentively but showed no sign of fright as he reached down and deposited a pinch of mash on the porch step in front of her and another on the porch above it. He used the rest of the mash to make a trail over to the folded towel. Then he sat down and waited.

Abigail eyed the porch step for a minute, stood up, walked closer, and ate the mash on the step. She looked at the next bit of mash on the porch, over at Walter, and back at the mash. The synapses in her brain seemed to connect andante leading to a sforzando wherein she flapped her wings twice and leaped onto the porch. “Bravo!” Walter whispered. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?” She looked back at Walter again, to make sure he wasn’t about to pounce, and followed the trail of mash to the folded towel, stopping occasionally to eat some. At that point, she was behind Walter, a little to the side, so he couldn’t follow her actions without shifting his body and risk scaring her. He sat still for a couple minutes. Having heard no further movement from her, he turned his head very, very slowly. It had worked! Abigail was sitting on the towel as if it were her throne, admiring the view from the porch. “Good girl,” Walter whispered, then returned to his contemplation as if she were not there at all…


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