Monday, May 4, 2009


On Friday, walking home, I passed a family of ducks. The proud mother was leading her seven children through the grass. She walked straight, head high, seven ducklings lined up behind. You could just see her smirking, "What a handsome family I have."

A lady next to me pointed out that the eighth duckling was actually several feet behind and struggling. We watched in silence, sending encouragement vibes to duckling number eight. He would periodically stop and rest and call out -- "Peep! Peep! Peep!" Meaning, "Don't leave me! I can't catch up! Hey Mom, can we take the car?"

Mother duck paid no attention. She just kept walking, head high, totally oblivious.

I thought of all the feral cats that lived on campus. The falcons. The driving lawn mower just on the other side of that tree over there. I had to do something! I couldn't let the little guy die! I stepped into the grass and tried to herd duck number eight back to the family. He couldn't do it. He wouldn't do it. He looked up at me in desperation, peeping: "Hey Mom, now there's this huge lady who is going to step on me. Please please get the car!"

Actually, I couldn't herd him toward the family. He was too tired to even worry about me stepping on him. His mom and siblings were by now clear across the sidewalk, heading toward a little stream. None of them were paying him any attention. Eventually he finally reached the sidewalk himself, but then turned the wrong way! Now he was sure to get eaten.

I had to take matters into my own hands. I tried to gently move the duck with sticks and leaves, but that was useless. So I picked up the duckling in my hands (aack! duck germs!), and walked him the half a block to his family. His mom hissed at me as I got closer. I dropped him off a couple feet away and he walked over to the family. Aah, thought I. Duckling rescued. Glorious family reunion.

But no! Mom promptly turned her tail and started walking again. Seven little ducklings followed. Number eight sat in the grass and peeped. "Peep! Peep! Peep!" Meaning "No! Don't do this to me again!"

So after the family was half a block away again, I picked him up again. This time I dropped him off in the water, where Mom and siblings had finally gone. He swam to the family and seemed much more happy. Even when they turned as a group and started swimming, he stayed with the family. I decided this was a good time to assume the ending was happy, and that I'd better leave before the rest of the family started pecking him to death because he now was covered in my scent. Or before he lost the family again and got eaten by one of the feral cats.

Now I had duckling germs all over my hands, and a 25 minute walk home. I held my hands out in front of me, certain they were covered with the duck plague. Or bird flu. Or whatever. Upon arrival at home, I scrubbed them for a couple of minutes in warm soapy water. Then scrubbed them again. But I'm sure that now the duckling and I will both end up dead. And it's all Mother Duck's fault.

Stupid nature.


Tiffany said...

A good deed never goes unpunished, even in nature!

Letterpress said...

It's been fun to have you and your little (well-cared for) duckling around here this weekend.
Come again--if you can stand us.