The Duck Man

Posted March 19th, 2012 by June O'Hara and filed in Family Anecdotes

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 needs to pet, coo at, and – she’ll always find some way – to assist it.

Laura was the child who’d find an inchworm on the driveway, transport it to a dappled spot in the backyard, place it on the plumpest blade of grass she could find, then sit with it for a few 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. Once she even tried to rescue a dog from its own backyard.

The minute Laura turned thirteen, she joined an animal service organization. She brought home litters of puppies, kittens, and baby raccoons, which she nursed with eyedroppers every four hours, around the clock. No matter how sleep deprived, she never lost patience or complained.

When Laura got older, her passion for animals was closely rivaled by her attraction to miserable relationships.

At the age of twenty, Laura attached herself to Glen, a boy three years her junior who was failing 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 they 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 intense argument, Laura was on such a trajectory. Eyes blurred with tears, she looped around the park, peering into shrubbery, craning her neck to look behind trees.  So intent was she on her mission, she failed to notice her speed, or the flock of ducks in her path.

As she came upon the ducks they scattered, running and flying in every direction. One, however, couldn’t gather enough momentum. (Slow metabolism? Leg cramp? There’s no telling.) When Laura looked back at the road, she saw frantic wing-flapping right before her bumper.

Panicked, she slammed on the brakes.

It was too late. There was a thud, then a flurry of feathers.

Laura’s cries now escalated to sobs. She’d plowed over a defenseless duck! One whose only sin was being at the wrong pond at the wrong time.

Thoughts of Glen were forgotten. Whatever else happened, she must save her victim.

Laura yanked on the emergency brake and bolted from the car.

The duck now had a broad-framed, hysterical woman lurching after him. Fearing for what little  remained of his safety, he tried to flee. 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. Still, Laura managed to maintain her grip. She side-stepped to the car, opened the door with her left hand, and wrestled the duck inside.

As Laura slid behind the wheel, she imagined poster-sized pictures of herself, a big red X across her face, the caption reading, “Zero Tolerance: Stop Duck Maiming Today.” Laura  looked back at the duck, who was now trembling in the far corner of the back seat. Then it hit her: She had no idea what to do next. The animal hospital treating wildlife was four towns away, and she couldn’t afford their services anyway.

Then Laura had an idea.

She drove directly to the police station.

When she arrived, Laura marched into the building. Approaching the first officer she saw, she said in a rush, “My boyfriend was being a jerk and he broke up with me and I was searching for him in the park and I hit a duck by accident and now it’s in my car and I don’t know what to. . .”

“Okay,” the officer cut in. “You have a wounded duck?”

Laura nodded.

“Here’s what you do.” The officer paused, placed a hand on Laura’s shoulder. Then, “Take him to The Duck Man.”

“The Duck Man?”

“Yes. The Duck Man.”

The officer explained that there was a man in town who cared specifically for sickly and wayward ducks. Laura doubted the man 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 its front yard was a heavily populated duck pond. She walked onto the front porch and rang the bell. No answer. She rang again. A moment later, a large, bearded man wearing Levi’s and a white tee-shirt came to the door.

“Are you The Duck Man?” Laura asked.

He looked at her, “I have a title now, do I?” He asked. Then, “Well, okay then. Let’s have a look at the bird.”

Laura led The Duck Man to her car. The duck, still subdued, was where she had left him. The Duck Man leaned over, pulled him out gently and gave him a look-over. “He’s in pretty rough shape, you know.”

“I know,” Laura said, fighting back tears. “Do you think you can help him?”

“I’ll do my best.”

Laura thanked The Duck Man, said a polite thank you and headed for home, where she could become hysterical in private.

The next day, Laura returned to check on the duck.

The Duck Man said nothing, just shook his head sadly.

Morose, Laura returned to her car.

It occurred to her that the emotions wrought by the duck’s death felt similar to her love for Glen, and of all her past boyfriends. The anguish, longing, and deprivation of what should be. But there was one difference. Glen was alive. And as long as he was breathing, she could remake him into the attentive, supportive partner that she desired.

Now if only she could find him.

Love On the Fire Escape II | Singing The S.E.O. Blues

24 Responses to “The Duck Man”

  1. Ben Ellard says:

    Wonderful. Reminds me of Pigeon Man of Ridgefield Park and the swarms of pigeons who populated his lawn and the roof of his attached home. He wasn’t very popular.

  2. June O'Hara says:

    He was popular, Ben. Just not with humans.

  3. June, this is so marvelous! Poor dear Maureen! I can relate to her in a way. Alex brought me home a big turtle he found walking down the street. We have a fish pond out in the yard and he stuck the turtle in with the fish. (He’s a little impetuous!) I was panicking over the fact that the turtle might eat all the fish or even that he might drown. I went on line and found a “turtle rescue” not far from where I live. Much as I love animals, I don’t want to try and care for one that I know nothing about. Turtles are sort of a mystery to me. The rescue people told us to bring the turtle to them.

    I was a little surprised that a woman who looked like a Hells Angel’s Mama opened the door with a chicken bone hanging out of her mouth. She put the turtle in the cooler on the front porch and called her husband?/whatever to come and deal with the people who brought the turtle.

    He had no teeth but other than that he seemed okay. Damn, June! As soon as we left I asked Alex if he was sure that was a chicken bone hanging out of the woman’s mouth! I hope so!

  4. June O'Hara says:

    How funny and strange, Linda!! The turtle rescue, the Hell’s Angel’s woman and the chicken bone, all of it. I love it. Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Lauren says:

    This was both hilarious and touching. There are so many things that I love about this piece.

    -Maureen was the child who’d find an inchworm on the driveway … then sit with it several hours to make sure it adjusted. LOL!!!

    I love the Duck Man.

    When I was six months pregnant, I hit a squirrel, parked my car on the side of the road, picked it up with a map and drove it to the Nature Center where the attendant pronounced the squirrel dead. As I waddled away, he buried it.

  6. June O'Hara says:

    Thanks, Lauren. Your words mean a lot.

    Too funny about the squirrel. I’ll give you Maureen’s number and you can commiserate.

  7. Such a charming and well-told tale, June. I only hope Maureen never found the hideous boyfriend and that she and the Duck Man lived happily ever after.

  8. June O'Hara says:

    Thank you, Jayne. Maybe, just as a lark, I should have tossed in at the end that Maureen married the Duck Man two days later. THAT would truly have amused me.

  9. Nicky says:

    Ahhh, now I understand the root of your feelings for Joey… he reminds you of your first love, that bad boy Spike! :-)

  10. Babs says:

    Oh I though at least the duck would be saved. I’m a fool and love happy endings. Still, if you tell me that Maureen never found that loser boyfriend it’ll be a happy ending.

  11. June O'Hara says:

    Oh, she found him Babs. Like my mother says, bad pennies always turn up.

  12. Lynne Favreau says:

    Too bad there isn’t a boyfriend doctor. We could drop our lame men off and get them rehabilitated and sent back out into the wild, a better for boyfriend for the next woman.

  13. June O'Hara says:

    That’s great, Lynn. I’ve had a bunch I could have thrown back. But then, at one time or another, haven’t we all? Thanks for the comment!

  14. Annie says:

    June, this is wildly entertaining. I loved it! Poor Maureen. She tried so hard to do the right thing. Let’s hope she never found the trail of Glen’s cigarette butts and was able to leave both bird and boy to rest.

  15. June O'Hara says:

    Annie, you leave the most clever comments. A trail of cigarette butts…lol! It occurs to me, if only she’d hit Glen with the car…

  16. Damn, I was hoping for a happy ending. Poor duck.

  17. June O'Hara says:

    Sorry, Meleah. Just try to go to your happy place. :)

  18. Candace Mann says:

    if only the duck had been saved and glen had been crossing the street in front of a distracted maureen …

  19. June O'Hara says:

    I like that, Candace.

  20. Jen says:

    I totally didn’t see that ending coming. Poor duck. As for the boy, I’ve married two of them and they never change. I hope Maureen learned before it was too late.

  21. June O'Hara says:

    Hey, Jen! Maureen learned…kind of…again and again.

  22. Hels says:

    hmmmm. I am a bit worried about this line: “with sustained effort, she could remake him into the attentive, supportive partner that she desired”. Partners cannot be changed.

  23. June O'Hara says:

    You’re right, Hels. I meant it to be kind of tongue in cheek. Thanks so much for the comment. I get all excited someone checks out this post!

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