Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Duck, Duck, Goose

Imagine, if you will, a duck. A white, feathery, duck, with its cute little waddle and webbed feet and fun orange beak. Maybe it's a fattish duck, more squat than anything, and it's not YOUR duck, per say, but a duck that is owned by someone else. A neighbor. (Unless you live in an apartment, in which case it's highly unlikely that your neighbors keep ducks. So you're ALSO going to have to imagine you live in a house, with a yard. Oh, and a pond! That would be fun, wouldn't it? And a willow tree, under which you sit and write in a journal on warm summer evenings! And a fence! And...

oops. Sorry. Go back to the duck.)

So. The duck. The duck is super lovable and likes to hang around, quacking cute little quacks at you whenever you're out sitting by your pond. So you name the duck. You're not quite sure if it's a boy duck or a girl duck, so you go with something appropriately gender neutral, like Quackers. You get kind of attached to Quackers, and think about actually building a shelter for the duck to hang out in when the weather starts to get chilly because, well, your neighbor isn't really paying much attention to Quackers (and probably doesn't even know Quackers has a NAME, which you think is ludicrous) and you want to make sure there is a safe, warm place for Quackers to be when the weather is bad. You also start carrying around oyster crackers in your pockets, because Quackers seems to prefer them to regular stale bread.

And then, one day, Quackers bites your hand when you're writing in your journal. Because Quackers is a duck, and sometimes they do that. It's not a nibble, either. It's an aggressive, "I know you have oyster crackers in your pocket, bitch!" bite.

That's when you realize:


All of the time, money on oyster crackers, effort in building a shelter? All of the worry the day you thought Quackers had been hit by a car (but it was another duck altogether)? All of that? Was for something that didn't belong to you. Your neighbor? Let you do it because you WOULD do it. He didn't have to worry or care about the damn duck because you -- unasked, uninvited -- took over and were doing everything, including letting Quackers waddle all over you, until you and everything you owned were covered with bits of down, cracker crumbs, and duck shit.

So you scoop up the duck (trying really hard not to think of it as Quackers, no, you have to let go of the emotional tie) and take it over to your neighbor. You meet him on his porch and you hand the duck back. "I need you to take care of this duck," you say. "It's not for me to do anymore."

The neighbor says, "But you were doing such a good job."

"I know," you say. "But it turns out that, sometimes? You have to let other people own their own ducks."

The neighbor gives you a dirty look. "Besides," you say, "I'm really more of a cat person."

When you go home, you feel a little sad, and slightly bruised. But lighter. Lighter and unburdened. You can hear quacking in the distance, which is where it belongs.

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