May 3, 1965
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky where even though we’re churchgoers who don’t believe in gambling, we watch the Kentucky Derby. Even Aunt Love. I’m not sure, but I think maybe Aunt Love would put a bet down on a horse if she got half a chance. Just in the Derby, mind you. But still, that has to be way hard to believe about Aunt Love. Gambling is gambling. And folks shouldn’t be taking the money their families need to throw away betting on the horses. But the Kentucky Derby seems different somehow. They sing “My Old Kentucky Home.” There are all those beautiful horses.
I rode a horse once. An old workhorse on Miss Sally’s farm. It was sort of like riding an elephant without a trunk. Not that I’ve ever ridden an elephant, but old Jack had a broad back and no spirit. I could have tap danced on his back and he probably would have kept eating grass. Even so, I’ve always thought it would be fun to ride a horse. A horse that likes to run.
Racehorses have to like to run. That’s what makes the Derby fun to watch. It only takes about 2 minutes for the horses to run the race. The announcers do a lot of talking around the race though and show women wearing fancy hats and interview rich and famous people and talk to owners and jockeys. They sometimes even talk about the horses and of course, the betting odds. That last doesn’t matter to us. We aren’t about to lay any money down on horses. Except maybe Aunt Love if she happened to know somebody going to the Derby.
Lucky Debonair won the Derby this year. Isn’t that a great name for a horse? Not as good as last year’s winner. Northern Dancer. Now that’s a great name for a horse. Lucky Debonair had the 2nd fastest time ever – right behind Northern Dancer who ran it in a flat 2 minutes last year. Lucky Debonair was one second slower than that.
So we watched the Derby on our little television. Oh to have a color set like some of my friends, but the picture was fairly clear Saturday. We could make out the numbers on the horses and see who was winning. Aunt Love said she knew Lucky Debonair would win. Dad laughed and said we’d had our racing fun for the year and not to talk about betting on anything. Dad has to worry about what the church people might say. But I bet, oops I mean I’m pretty sure most of them watched the Derby too.
Are you ready for some more of Bailey’s story? Seems like it’s taking me a long time to tell his story. Maybe I should cut out some of the parts, but it’s hard to do that until you’ve written it all down. So here goes. If you remember, last week Bailey finally got up the nerve to tell Lucinda he’d lost the bug or hum in his ear and he was totally and completely lost. And Lucinda says, “You know where Reid is.”
BAILEY’S BUG by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from last week)
“But,” Bailey started.
Lucinda swatted him with her paw. “Don’t say you don’t. You do. You know in your heart, and that knowing was what put the bug in your ear. If you listen, really listen with your heart, you’ll hear it again.”
Lucinda flipped away from Bailey and found a shaft of sunlight pushing through the fog. Without so much as a glance back at Bailey, she began to wash her face.
Bailey stayed stuck in his spot. He didn’t know what to do.
Skelley spoke up. “Ye know, lad, me thinks Miss Lucinda could be right.”
“Lucinda’s always right.” Bailey raised up to look over at her. Lucinda paused in licking her paw and stared straight at him. Then she went back to work on her face.
“Aye, she’s a smart cat for sure and right as rain on this. For a truth, the tree might have knocked the bug, the hum, whatever it was out of your ears, but it’s still there in your heart. It would take more than a bump into a tree to knock it out of there.”
“But I can’t hear it anymore.”
“Are ye sure you’re listening hard enough, lad? With all your heart and soul?”
Skelley hobbled away to find another spot of sun spreading out on the ground. Bailey was left sitting in the fog alone. The fog wasn’t just outside him but inside too.
Bailey stared at Lucinda washing in the sun and Skelley curled tight in his bit of sunshine but shivering as always. They thought he could do it. They really did. So he would have to try. Again. Bailey blew out a breath that stirred the fog in front of his nose and headed back out into the trees.
The sun beat back the fog until only fingers of it remained. Bailey spotted birds flying from tree to tree. They were singing and why not? They weren’t lost. A squirrel set up a chattering fuss when Bailey passed under his tree. Off somewhere Bailey couldn’t see, crows cawed.
He was listening so hard, he could even hear bugs crawling and hopping through the ground leaves. He could hear everything but what he most wanted to hear. The hum.
He tried to imagine he heard it. That didn’t help. So he listened even harder and he thought maybe he was hearing the trees stretching their limbs up toward the sun and the worms crawling under the ground. But he didn’t hear the hum.
On he walked. At least he could see the sun now and could keep his shadow in the right place to keep from walking in circles. He did not want to end up in front of Lucinda again. Not yet anyhow. Not until he found Reid.
But how could he find Reid without the hum? He was listening as hard as he could and there was no hum.
“Don’t listen with your ears, you big lummox.” The words were so loud in his head that Bailey looked around, sure Lucinda must have followed him. But she was nowhere to be seen.
He wished she was there even if she swatted his nose again. He was so lonely out there by himself. He sat down and shut his eyes. How could anybody listen with his heart? He shut his eyes. He heard birds and bugs and the whisper of the wind but then those sounds faded away as he started thinking about Reid.
He remembered how Reid called him to go play. He sounded different than when he called him to eat. Bailey’s tail swept back and forth on the ground. Inside his head, Reid was laughing when Bailey captured the plastic thing. He jerked it away from Bailey and then he stopped playing to rub Lucinda from her ears to her tail. Lucinda purred.
His thoughts were so good he forgot about being hungry and alone and lost. His tail kept beating against the ground until Bailey was almost sure that when he opened his eyes Reid would be right there with him.
All at once something chirped a little in his ear. Faintly. Bailey made his tail stop thumping. He listened with every inch of him even to the tips of his fur. Then slowly he opened his eyes. Trees still shot up toward the sky around him, but the chirp had turned to a hum. A wonderful hum in his ears. Or maybe it had always been his heart humming.
Bailey started barking like crazy and kicked up swirls of leaves. The bug was back. He could find Reid.
He went faster then. He didn’t worry about being hungry. Reid would give him food. He didn’t worry about how much farther it was because the hum kept getting louder. Finally, when he came out of the trees, crossed an open field and climbed a hill, the hum was exploding inside him. He stared down at a road with houses all along it.
He couldn’t keep his tail from flopping back and forth as he trotted toward the houses. It didn’t even bother him too much when the first people who saw him yelled and threw rocks at him. They were boys like Reid, but they weren’t Reid.
He hurried past them, past all the houses, and across the road. He barely noticed the monster cars honking at him. Nothing mattered but the hum.
But there were a lot of houses, and by the time he found the right one, all its windows were dark. It was a nice house with a wide railing around the porch where Lucinda could nap in the sun. A round rug was in front of the door that must be there for Bailey. Best of all, Bailey smelled Reid everywhere he sniffed.
Bailey started to bark and jump on the door, but Reid’s father always got mad if he barked in the middle of the night. So Bailey climbed up on the porch and curled up on the rug. He dropped his head down on his paws and let out a long sigh. Home at last.
(To be continued)