Saturday, 15 September 2012

Not-so-lucky duck

I know I really should be posting about my truly delightful wedding to my truly wonderful new husband, but this evening, now that I have a minute to write again, I am inspired by something a little sad.

You see, there was this duck...

There is a creek that runs down the centre of my street. A couple of weeks ago one of my neighbours asked in a Facebook message if I had seen the new duck that was hanging out in the creek. There are a lot of native waterbirds that forage along the grassy verge, but I hadn't seen a duck. I made a joke in reply about how lucky it was for the duck that I hadn't seen it, since those who know me know I am a pretty enthusiastic consumer of the little dears.

Then I saw it. It was huge! Seriously, its body was about the size of a goose, but it was definitely a black and white duck. It was not even a Muscovy, because, you know, those suckers get big. No, there was no red wattle or anything like that, just a very pretty, very big, black and white, domesticated duck.

I saw it a few times and wondered what its story was - how it came to be all alone in the big (pfft!) city. But, well, we were getting married that week and then we went off to Fitzroy Island with the kids for a few days afterwards and I forgot about it. Then, a couple of days after Charles and the kids had gone back to Canada, I was driving my beautiful bridesmaid, Morgan, to the airport at an ungodly hour of the morning. It was still dark when I got home and as I turned into the street I saw the duck by the creek in the headlights, awake and scared by the light and obviously feeling vulnerable. My heart went out to it and I knew at that moment that it had once felt safe in someone's yard and now it was trying to be a big brave duck and not doing so well at it. I resolved to try to adopt it.

I spent the next couple of days keeping an eye out for it, checking up and down the street, thinking maybe I could herd it into my well-fenced yard and then it would have plenty of safe spots to roost. I'd get it a kiddie pool, the cats would befriend it, I wouldn't cook any more duck at home, and we'd all live happily ever after. I told Charles about it in a Skype session and he laughed his head off at me: "A duck? 'Safe'? At your house?" Um, yes, well, I realise that, on paper, my house would have to be one of the least safe places for a duck to be, but I've never actually killed one myself. Anyway, I couldn't find the duck.

This evening I drove to a friend's house just on dark. Coming up to a T junction three blocks from home, by another creek and the local shopping centre, I saw some red clothing on the road, a t-shirt or something, and I swerved around it. As I stopped at the T a four-wheel drive to my right slowed down and swerved around what I assumed to be another bundle of clothes, black and white. "Hello", I thought. "Someone's lost half their back pack of clothes." As I turned into the road and drove past the lump I realised the lump had feathers. "What the hell? Did someone's chicken escape?", I wondered. Having seen the 4WD swerve I thought I would do the citizenly thing and go and move it off the road because things were going to get ugly real quick on a road as moderately busy as that one. I did a U-ey and went back and as I pulled up I actually said aloud, "Oh, no! It's the duck!" And it was. I just knew it was freshly dead, too, since it hadn't been squashed yet. I felt so sad for it. I got out and grabbed some things from the boot to roll it off the road with. There were three young 'lads' on the other side of the creek watching me: the kind of teenage boy that in this neighbourhood probably would have tried to rob me and steal my car if they'd been on my side of the creek. In my sadness I called out to them since they were clearly following the drama from a distance:
"Did you see it get hit?"
"Did it just happen?"
"Yeah. What is it?"
"A duck."
Followed, in my grief, by the life story of the duck as I knew it, told as I rolled it to the gutter. My parting words to the boys were:
"Pity, it'd probably be really yummy!"
"Are you gonna eat it?"
"(Sigh!) No!!!!"
Mind you, once they suggested it, I thought about it for a second and decided I probably couldn't bear to gut and pluck it. It's a sickness, I'm sure!

So there you have it. The sad demise of one scared duck that boy, oh, boy, don't I wish I'd been able to find earlier in the week now, or that I'd left the house 10 minutes earlier so I would have seen it wandering on the road and somehow managed to herd it to safety. Mind you, given the poor visibility and the speed people drive on that road it probably would have resulted in me lying on the ground with my insides spilling out a little instead. But, please, in light of this, spare a thought for all the lost, abandoned and wayward creatures in your town that might need some care and attention. The charities I choose to support are invariably animal-related: for some reason I am much more emotional about and empathetic towards dumb animals than sentient humans when I am asked to dig deep. I can't even begin to analyse how I can be sad for the death of one duck, yet happy to eat others.

PS This post is also a cover for the fact that my last grandfather died this week. I'm not really going to go there online, so let's just concentrate on the duck for now, shall we?

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