The boys were securely fastened into the stroller, happily slurping down the melting juice from their popsicles.
We looked left and right before crossing the busy road to enter the quiet neighborhood where we liked to walk in the evenings.
It was the first, and often the only time, we had to talk about the day without someone *ahem* (Baby Brother) crying because someone else *ahem* (Little Legs) stole his toy or pushed him down or bit him or was in the process of doing something dangerous that required immediate intervention.
The sky was dark with heavy clouds and wind that whipped through the Bradford pear trees in the neighbor’s yard. I cringed as I watched the tops of their trees bend and shake, remembering last year’s wind gusts that snapped several of the pear trees in half.
“All done,” Little Legs held out a red-stained wooden stick and waved it back and forth.
There was an implied threat, if the popsicle stick was not grabbed quickly, the litter bug would toss it onto the ground. He was teaching Baby Brother to do the same; monkey see, monkey do.
“Got it,” I said, snatching it from his fingers and falling back in-step with Daddy Longlegs.
“Come hold my gooey hand,” Little Legs requested, holding a small, sticky hand to me.
“Mommy and Daddy are talking right now,” I politely declined his request.
“Please,” he begged, “hold my gooey hand.”
Daddy Longlegs and I laughed; it was easy to decide not to hold his gooey hand.
Little Legs gave us a mean look with a harrumph, turned forward, and settled in for the ride; while Baby Brother hung one arm over the side of his stroller seat and watched the passing scenery, still thoughtfully working on his frozen treat.
We walked on in companionable quiet, breathing in the cool fall and smelling wet leaves, when we heard a familiar jingle of two metal dog tags knocking against one another. We heard paws pounding the pavement and the clattering of gravel as a spray of tiny rocks was sent out from either side of the running animal.
It was our naughty dog, escaping down the road after us, a blur of black fur and slobber. She was oblivious to the busy road she just blindly crossed or the invisible fence that was supposed to be keeping her safe. She smiled with all of her sharp, white teeth as she ran towards us, thrilled with the reward of her risk in making a run for it.
Little Legs shouted, “Coco! Its Coco!”
Baby Brother yelled, “Dog, dog, dog.”
They were like sailors on a ship, wildly pointing and waving, spotting a whale for the first time, instead of two little boys seeing the same dog they just left behind eight minutes earlier. As for Coco, she grinned from floppy ear to floppy ear at being with her her gang, again.
Her freedom run was worth it, to be with her furever family, fur now, anyways.