Short Stories
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A Duck Story Once upon a summer time, but not so very long ago, the Thal duck family was on vacation and staying at the Dinsle place in the Adirondacks. It was a lovely place, this Dinsle place; a big house surrounded by flower gardens and vegetable gardens and berry gardens, and grass and more grass. The grass was like a green carpet laid down neatly over an easy slope that gentled its way to a middle sized pond and hugged it all the way around. Papalonius Thal was the Papa. His name came from a very, very long ago family that lived at the south end of a country now called Italy. His family originally spoke Latin but over years and years they developed their special version of Latin called Quack-Latin. The Mama’s real name was Minerva, Minerva Splash. She was a delicate duck, particularly when landing on water, creating a few hesitant ripples. Papa called her Minnie. Speaking of landings, Papa’s were brash and manly - or rather, duckly - creating bow waves, while their three kid’s landings looked like a fire drill going awry. The Thal family kids were almost the same age, and at the time this story number one was exactly three months, six days, nine hours, forty two minutes and thirty two seconds old, thirty three seconds later for number two and then two minutes more for number three; typical for number three, frequently late to any party, as you will see momentarily. Anyway, the first duck to pop out of his egg was a boy duck named Neander; Mama and Papa expected he would make history and had named him accordingly. The second egg popper was Fig, short for Figly. That was already pretty short, but Mama and Papa expected Fig to be smart, really, really smart, and would be able to figure things out for herself. Hence Fig. The third duck in the Thal duck family line was Joe; short, sweet to the point, whatever the point of Joe may have been. Neander and Fig were perfect little ducks. They would grow from little ducks to big ducks and after a while it would be hard to tell them apart. Indeed, in a bunch of ducks you would have a difficult time sorting out which of them was which. Except, of course, for Joe. Because Joe, well, Joe was a duck of a different stripe, even though ducks don’t have stripes. For one thing you could tell Joe from the rest of the ducks in a bunch because Joe was always in trouble. So here’s a bunch of ducks, Neander and Fig among them. And then there’s Joe; maybe his foot is caught in his ear, or he tried to inhale a Kabloosa Nut, or he had pecked a birch tree and a piece of the bark had stuck to his bill. It was always something. All you had to do to find Joe was to look around for a duck in trouble, and that would be Joe. So one day the Thal Duck family is just back from the day’s flying lessons, practicing swooping. As everybody knows, swooping done right can be very enervating - which is to say tiring and sweaty. Ducks of course, don’t sweat, but you get the idea. Anyhow, here was the Thal duck family back at their vacation nest at the edge of the wood across from the Dinsle barn, a little groggy and washed out, so the family is hunkered down in a half snooze. Even Joe, usually an energy machine, was flat on his back, feet up in the air. After a few minutes, Papa said (in Quack-Latin, of course), “What a lazy bunch. It’s way too early for bed time, gang. So how about a swim! A dunk would feel good, right Minnie? Who knows, there may be small treats down there for noshing (that’s Quack-Latin for ‘snacking’).” “Oh, yea!” Neander, Fig and Joe cried out. “We’re up for it, Papa,” Neander said. “What a cool idea,” Fig said. “I’ll bring my water gun,” Joe said “You don’t have a water gun,” Mama told him. “Oh, right, Mama. I forgot.” “Okay, guys,” Papa called out. “We’re crossing the driveway, so single file, which means in case you don’t remember, one behind the other. Ready? Here we go.” So, not too many minutes later, Papa Thal, Mama Thal and all the little Thals, Neander, Fig and Joe, were happily splashing in the Dinsle pond. The dogs, (that’s story language, but in Quack- Latin, dogs are Klepsapoopias, or Klepsees for short) had come down from the Dinsle house to the pond edge, and they were barking. For ducks, barking is how Klepsees show their approval. It’s like clapping for people. It made Papa and Mama Thal so proud that they arranged the kids and their whole family in a circle and slowly paddled around and around, showing off for the dogs. How perfect, Papa thought. What could possibly go wrong? At which point a furious quacking behind him pulled Papa up short. He and Mama looked around and there was Joe, his rump, tail feathers and all, stuck in the pond’s overflow drain which poked a little above the surface. That overflow drain was to make sure the Dinsle pond didn’t just fill up and up until it went over the pond’s banks. The drain pipe was good for the pond but bad for ducks. Therefore, Joe naturally got his rump stuck in it. “How could he possibly have done that?” Minnie said out loud but to no one in particular, while Papa circled the drain with Joe looking like he was just sitting on top of it. However, Joe wasn’t just sitting. He was twisting this way and that, but the pond drain wasn’t letting go. Now what. Then Fig Thal shouted, “I figured it out. Let’s sing an uplifting song; let’s sing The Battle Hymn of the Quack-public.” “Good idea, Fig,” Neander Thal said. “Right,” Papalonius Thal said. “It might just do the trick.” “Yes, Fig,” Minerva Splash Thal said. “It is very uplifting, indeed.” So the whole Thal family circled the pond drain with Joe stuck on it, and raised their voices in Thal family harmony. Well Joe loved the song and was near tears. He didn’t have much of a duck singing voice, but he knew he could conduct. So he started waving his wings to give the singers their rhythm and before you could say ‘a tinker’s dam doesn’t hold water,’ Joe had flapped out of the drain’s grip on his bottom. And here’s the moral to this little story; ‘A too exuberant life can drain you. So be careful.’