I had been walking in the glistening twilight with Virginia and Finn, the quiet streets awash in the yolk of a long summer sunset, the birds were singing, plants and leaves were buzzing with inner energy, and I was just stepping into that parallel universe of peacefulness when my friend came barreling down the road yelling I had to get into the truck. There were a family of ducks lost and in peril because night was falling, gang members were revving up to tear off the curbs, cats and possums and raccoons were looming, and any number of horrible fates would be awaiting the waddlers if we didn’t find them and get them back to the canals. So we squished in and pealed our eyes for ducks out walking on a Saturday night until at last she said, “there they are!” And there they were, I had thought we wouldn’t find them.
The mother was disoriented, at once trying to get through a fence and then leading her babies into traffic, she didn’t even seem to mind the proximity of us, she was just weary, and very far away from home. An old man was watering across the street and my friend asked him if he knew where the Ducks lived, but he motioned he couldn’t hear, although he came across anyway with some bread. He sort of tailed us while we dove under hedges to capture the babies in a big box in order to lure her and bring them all safely to the canals, and actually, we did get all seven ducklings in, which was a feat, and I even had the mother in my sweatshirt, a bigger feat, when another man said they all lived one street over at some house with a pool.
So we dumped over the box, against my friend’s better judgement, and I was told to escort the family to that house which was down the street, around the corner and up through the alley. Everything seemed to be going well, I followed them to what was supposed to be their joint, but the mother passed it and started veering madly onto the tar now streaked with headlights, not knowing where to hide or stop for the night.
At this point they fit beneath a fence and marched onto a yard which had a woman standing on it. Her name is Chantal, she had just given her three year old child a bath and came out to admire the procession. She was immediately enlisted. Then, not surprisingly, we were spied by the narrow eyes of a woman in a white jump suit who acted like the superintendent of the street, and she said she might know the house, or pool, rather, that the ducks crashed at sometimes. The super, as we used to say in New York, referred to the place as that of “the famous actress”, and since she had the special privilege of knowing these things, she knocked on the gate, making sure we didn’t know which one it was. But, the “famous actress” wasn’t home, which made the super very tough on us NOT TO TRESSPASS and look for the pool in back, or any other signs of Ducks on her property, because the “famous actress” would be VERY upset. The old man, still tailing at an inconspicuous distance, did some snooping while we were being warned, and found out that Ducks did indeed rest there at the pool side, unwelcome though they were by the “famous actress”, and found out the way to deliver the ducks for the night was by the alley-which fence I was elected to climb over in order to accomplish the mission.
So once again me and my friend, and now Chantal in her bare feet, had to get all the ducklings in the box to lure the mother etc etc etc. with the old man tailing much like a duck himself, when Joe, who had been cleaning out his garage across the street, appeared with a blanket. Joe sat quietly on the curb studying, which characteristic came in very handy, as you’ll see in a moment. We got all the ducklings again in the box, and mama Duck was circling above in a panic, and were just about to do the ducklings over the fence thing so they’d all be reunited by the pool of the “famous actress” for the night, when an Activist came by and gave her two cents. “Let the babies go!” she cried, and the mother will lead them to the right place, that is the best we can hope for, she said. So, we tumbled over the box once more against my friend’s better judgement, and the mother came back and led them here there and everywhere, and the night swooped down upon them.
Now it was a veritable parade with Duck and ducklings in front, and me, my friend, Chantal barefoot on the cool pavement, Joe, the super, the glamorous activist, and the old man behind making erratic circles around the neighborhood. Finally, Joe and I coerced them through the gate of the “famous actress”, but as the old man had already told us, they couldn’t get to the pool from there, and so the activist and I, under threat of trespassing, trespassed to open the pool gate, but it was very locked. Just then, the next door neighbor, an “Endora” type of woman, came out and addressed the situation thus: “well, the woman who lives there is, uh, how shall I say it, an
actress, you know. Snippy, and hates the ducks. Frankly, she’d be horrified if she came home and saw all of you outside her gate, she never says two words to me, even when I ask her a question. The ducks aren’t safe out here, there are possums, cats, raccoons, all sorts. I’d get them to the canals.”
And as she was sharing the pain and frustration of living next to that famous actress to her forlorn audience, Joe had been quietly ushering the Duck family onto the actresses front porch (majorly trespassing!) and announced that he had ALL OF THEM, including the mother, under his blanket and we’d better act fast to get them into the box, which we did, easily, ’cause Joe was kinda good at that stuff.
My friend had already run to get the truck and as she pulled up she said, “take the activist!”, so Nina (her name), Joe, me and all the dogs and Ducks squished in and were off to the canals where the moonlight swished over the black water, and the houses hushed to hear the footsteps over the wooden bridges.
There, behind the wrought iron gate of a deserted house, we tumbled over the box for the last time, and the mother vaulted up and circled wide until we moved away, and when we were almost at the bridge we heard her splash into the water and turned to see her flapping, and then she made a call, and we saw seven little silhouetted whispers cross the dark side walk single file, plop into water one by one and swim to their mother. When we got back to drop off Nina and Joe, there were Chantal and her
husband, Craig. They had been waiting to hear the outcome, of course, but more poignantly, they were guarding Joe’s garage, which he had left wide open with lights on.