Agent Duck III
By Lou Blodgett
I woke well after sunrise, and found next to me, in a crook closer up the trunk, a small shell, a bottle cap, and a bulb of wild garlic. I heard some ‘mrking’ nearby.
“Wakey-wakey! mrk mrk mrk.”
Duke paddled closer. The hen was nearby. He poked his bill toward what he’d left in the crook of the trunk.
“Don’t know what peanuts really are. That was the best I could do.”
I thanked him and ate the garlic bulb. It was an eye-opener.
“Need yer help,” Duke told me, “if you don’t have too much sleep in yer eyes.”
I flew from the tree into the pond.
The new deal with Duke was thus: There was a huge clump of weeds deep in the water nearby. Duke and the hen would show me how to be a duck, and then, being larger, I would dive deep and get the weeds that they couldn’t. Then, we would share breakfast.
The hen paddled intently to a spot near the shore.
“Now, watch,” Duke said.
“Now I’m supposed to watch her?”
“Of course you’re supposed to watch her. What a silly question…”
The hen put herself nearly fully into the water, and came up with a weed. She gobbled it up, and mrk’d contentedly.
Duke dove down. He was going for more, and, in the meantime, his legs flailed, and both the hen and I had a full view of his fluffy ass. I looked over, and she was grinning.
“Best part of the morning.”
Duke bobbed up, and worked on a clump he’d brought up. The hen went over and helped. I couldn’t wait for my turn.
“Again.” Duke told me. “Perpendicular attitude, and keep the tail straight up, for reference. Then the feet know what to do.”
He went down for another clump, and the hen was staring at me.
“Really enjoyed the show yesterday.”
I chuckled, and Duke surfaced quickly, with a mouthful.
“Oh! I thought I saw a hawk.”
Duke and the hen looked to the sky.
“Bastards,” Duke said. “Hawk should be afraid of you.” The Duke and hen picked apart the fresh haul.
He didn’t have to tell me twice. And, it was great down there. I could see where strands of weed joined and tugged on that. As I brought the weeds up, they became lighter, and lighter. I didn’t know what I had, until I surfaced. Five good pounds of vegetation, along with water and a pair of sunglasses. The lenses were missing, along with one arm. The Duke and the hen jumped to either side of the weed wad, supporting it with their bills, as I did, and gobbling what they could, as I was.
“This isn’t bitter at all!” The hen cried, through weed.
“Reminds me of what we found two years ago, in that shady part of the creek.”
“I think that was last year.”
“The edge of that artificial pond where the kids float the toy boats. When it flooded last year, and there was no one there.”
“I’m sure you’re mistaken…”
I figured that it was about time I started sniffing around for Barry. I couldn’t go back to the lab for him, since it was probably being watched, and I’d never been able to find him while we both were there anyway.
Asking around for him on the street didn’t work. Some just ran, their frightened chortlings echoing off buildings nearby. Imagine how that made me feel. Others ignored me, and didn’t even seem to care where the voice came from. This neighborhood near the pond was hard. It was a machine for people which had morphed throughout the years, as tall as a brick tree, and with pipes, cables and sewer vaults below. I went back to the shore in the afternoon, intending to dig a burrow. I chose a spot facing the pond, amongst some tree roots, and away from view of those on the shore. Once I started, my armadillo instinct fully took over, and it was finished in an hour. Ducks mrk’d nearby, but I couldn’t tell whether they were the couple I knew. I went onto the pond, gorged myself on weeds, then bedded down for the night. Ms. Tichnor was right to be concerned for me, to a degree. I was half-domestic, but I was doing alright.
When I awoke, I found, at the entrance to my burrow, a small, plastic universal water hose attachment, a wristband that said, in print: ‘Strive For Perfection’, and three peanuts, in the shell. I cracked them open, ate everything, and threw myself into the pond. Hannah made a startled circle, and Duke froze and cocked his head.
“Those were peanuts!” I cried.
“Thought they were!” Duke answered.
I joined them with the weeds. Duke said that a man was in an area of the park nearby late the last afternoon, ‘just throwing peanuts around’.
I went up onshore when the sun was high. I did appreciate Duke and Hannah showing me the duck side of things. I’d heard of something called ‘the lottery’, which had the power of allowing select humans to achieve whatever they wanted. I thought that, if I had the lottery, I would surround the pond with chain-link fence, so it could last for those like Duke and Hannah for as long as the world allowed. Then, I realized that it wouldn’t last. The world is so large that it allows what it allows, whatever humans achieve.
These were the thoughts I had, as I sniffed around for Barry, not expecting to find him. I hadn’t caught a whiff the day before, and that meant he was far away. Then I went to the corner of the park where Duke told me the man was throwing peanuts. I found peanut shells that squirrels had gotten to.
But, on my rounds of the streets, over the course of days, I also found other sources of peanuts. More about that, later. I also ran into many of those I call ‘The Hey People’.
As I worked my way through this maze of houses and buildings, sometimes people would just shout ‘hey!’ at me. I went to them and joined in conversation. Some couldn’t acknowledge the fact that they had just shouted- ‘hey’, but those were few. A full one hundred percent couldn’t tell me where Barry was. One ‘heyer’ just wanted me to retrieve something from the bottom of a dumpster for him. I refused, with an apology. I was much shorter than him, and he seemed able. Most ‘hey people’ would shout to me, I would go up, and we would converse. About this and that. Some were curious about what I was, but sometimes, the fact that I’m a frankendrake didn’t seem to have been the cause of them shouting ‘hey’ in the first place. Some didn’t seem to notice that I am what I am, or they displayed a matter-of-fact attitude toward my appearance. Which, was nice, in a way, but in most cases, with the ‘hey people’, the conversation led nowhere.
Days led to week. My routine became joining Duke and Hannah in breakfast, then searching for Barry in new parts of the neighborhood. I was becoming known. One day, one child came across me on a street corner, then looked at his phone and declared to his father: “This one’s real-real, but he’s not Psyduck!” My search, and my lifestyle, was not productive. I needed a change in Barry-finding strategy.
But, I did progress otherwise, in those short days. I understood some things more, and where they fit into my life. I couldn’t think of where Barry could be when he was outside of the lab. Whether or not there were more frankenducks was important to me. I was becoming especially interested in whether there were any frankenhens out there. I think what had me confused was that everything about me pointed away from my existence. As I conducted my search for Barry, I relished my view, and the small place I had in the wonder. Again- the sun, the ground, the trees! which, I was among, and enjoyed, although I was taking it all for granted. I didn’t mind ‘being’, but I’d spent a lot of time wandering around in circles. I just wanted to lay eyes on Barry. If asked, I wouldn’t have been able to predict what the result of that would be, I just felt that it would make me a bit more complete, and further enforce my sense of being real. Throughout the course of a week, I’d developed an understanding of my place in the world. I may not be the strongest connection between people and the wild, and I may not be destined to, say, discover a cure for ear-mites. But I knew of one reason why I was put on the face of the earth. It was to eat peanuts.