My sister’s love of God’s creatures has always burned steadfast and pure. No matter its position on the food chain, if it breathes and isn’t human, Laura has a need to pet, coo at, play with, and – she’ll always find some way — to assist it.
Laura was the child who’d find an inchworm on the driveway and transport it to a dappled spot in the back yard, place it on the plumpest, greenest blade of grass she could find, then sit with it several hours to make sure it adjusted. When she got a kitten, she rocked, diapered, and sang to him; gave him bottles of milk he didn’t want or need. This continued for years. And once (I may be exaggerating, but I’m not sure), she managed to rescue a dog from its own back yard.
The minute Laura turned thirteen, she joined an animal service organization. She began bringing home litters of puppies, kittens, squirrels and baby raccoons, to raise until either they found homes or were old enough to fend for themselves in the wild. (The most memorable to me was a raccoon named Spike. Irresistible, he was. Until he bit my nose and hung there, refusing to let go. After that, our relationship was strained.) Laura nursed the babies round the clock, often from an eyedropper, without ever missing a feeding.
No matter how sleep deprived, she never lost patience.
When Laura got older, her passion for animals became closely rivaled by her attraction to miserable relationships.
At the age of twenty, Laura attached herself to Glen, who was three years her junior and vying to fail out of high school. The span of that union found Laura railing inexhaustibly about Glen’s emotional immaturity and reluctance to commit. To Laura’s vexation, when she wanted to spend quality time with him, or when they fought or broke up (again), he often hid from her at the county park, where he enjoyed smoking cigarettes with his friends.
Laura spent many an afternoon on the hunt for her missing beau.
One day, after a particularly ugly argument, Laura was on just such a trajectory. She drove through the park, peering into shrubbery, craning her neck to look behind trees. Eyes blurred and blowing her nose, though, as she looped around the pond, she was more focused on her search than on her speed, or the flock of ducks in her path.
As she came upon the ducks they scattered, as ducks will, running and flying in every direction. One, however, couldn’t gather enough momentum. (Slow metabolism? Leg cramp? There’s no telling.) Laura, panicked, slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.
There was a thud, then a flurry of feathers.
Laura’s crying now escalated to sobs. She, of all people, had just mashed a duck! A defenseless bird, whose only sin was being at the wrong pond at the wrong time. How could this have happened?
Suddenly, Laura’s thoughts of Glen were forgotten. She knew only one thing: She had to save her victim.
Laura yanked up the emergency brake and ran out of the car.
The duck now had a broad framed, hysterical woman lurching after him. Fearing for what remained of his safety, he tried to run. But he was no match for my sister. Laura closed in and grabbed him by the leg. The duck resisted, flapping and squawking to the best of his ability; no soothing noises would calm him. But Laura managed to maintain her grip, and side-stepped to the car. She opened the door with her left hand and, after much ado, wrestled the duck inside.
Laura slid behind the wheel, envisioning poster-sized pictures of herself in animal shelters everywhere, a glaring red X over her face and caption reading, ”Zero Tolerance: End Duck Maiming Today.” The image was so disturbing, her mind purged itself, leaving her with little capacity to reason. Thus, she did the only thing she could think of.
She drove straight to the police station.
Laura took a deep breath, then marched through the station doors. Approaching the first officer she saw, she cried, “My boyfriend was being a jerk and broke up with me and I was searching for him in the park and I hit a poor duck by accident and now it’s in my car and I don’t know what to. . .”
“Okay,” the officer interrupted. ”You have a wounded duck?”
“Here’s what you do.” He paused, placed a hand on Laura’s shoulder. “Take him,” he said, ”to The Duck Man.”
“The Duck Man?”
“Yes. The Duck Man.”
There was actually a man in our little town of Glen Rock who cared specifically for sickly and wayward ducks. Laura doubted he was credentialed, but if he was good enough for the police, he was good enough for her.
Fifteen minutes later, Laura pulled up to a little house set far off the road. In the middle of its front yard was a heavily populated duck pond. Laura walked onto the porch and rang the bell. A bearded man in sweatpants answered.
“I hit a duck in the park and the police told me to come here,” Laura said in a rush. “They told me you were the Duck Man.”
The corner of the man’s mouth lifted. ”Well, I guess you could say that.” Then, “Where’s the bird?”
Laura led the man to her car. He reached in and took hold of the duck. Holding it to his chest, he said, “He’s in pretty rough shape.”
“I know,” Laura answered, a tear rolling down her cheek. “Do you think you can help him?”
“I don’t know,” the Duck Man said, “but I’ll try.”
Laura returned the next day.
The Duck Man said nothing, just shook his head sadly.
Morose, Laura walked back to her car. Suddenly it hit her that the emotions wrought by the duck’s death felt similar to her love for Glen. The anguish, longing, and deprivation of what should be. The difference was, Glen was alive. And as long as he was breathing, with sustained effort, she could remake him into the attentive, supportive partner that she desired.
Now if only she could find him.
Determined, Laura headed back to the park.Love On the Fire Escape II | Singing The S.E.O. Blues →