Girl vs Duck


It’s Sunday afternoon and to avoid doing any kind of work I elect to visit a local tavern for a couple of bowls of forget-everything juice. The pub we chose is in the middle of a park near our house. We sat on the back deck which has large windows that look out over a pond in the back. The pond is home to several ducks, some of which are babies. They scoot around the water and as long as you can’t see their feet paddling frantically beneath them, it’s mesmerizing.

One duck was curled into a ball of brown fur on the cement quay. His neck was curled back and his bill jutted from the little ball he had become. The sun was on him. He looked to be in utter comfort. This of course is when a little girl decided to come mess with him. She inched up and when the duck didn’t budge, she saw the prospective glory of direct interaction with the duck. She visibly held her breath. She sidled a few inches. My God, she thought, she was going to make it happen.

We’ve all been there. What child doesn’t want to play with furry wild animals, especially those which honk and swim? Ducks look harmless and they taste delicious. The most famous duck in the world only wears the top half of a sailor costume. How harmful can they be? The girl flattened her back so it was ramrod straight. She pressed her arms to her side. She gave a spot-on impression of a person inching along a wall except for the fact that the closest wall to her was the one I was leaning my elbow on thirty feet away. She slid one foot to her left and then brought the other one to it. She ignored her mother’s calls.   

I fully understood the girl. I spent half my childhood trying to meet animals in the wild and the other half running away from the ones who wanted to interact with me. But it’s this sort of thinking that explains the 50,000 people who were attacked by wildlife last year in the U.S. It explains the 700 who were killed by wildlife last year. The chances that the duck was going to kill this girl were low – though with each step the girl, the duck was getting a glare in his eye. The only duck-human interaction which resulted with a human death occurred when a duck collided with a man on a jet ski and knocked him unconscious. Ducks are prey animals, so when they are pressed by humans they run away rather than attack. Sort of like me after a particularly long class.

Others are not so lucky. Or at least others are much dumber. When I was camping out west with my cousin back in 1994, I became consumed with the fear of being eaten by a bear. I had heard tales of stupid people sending their daughter up to feed marshmallows to a grizzly bear and the thing knocking her head off its hinges. I have no idea if that’s apocryphal, but I have avoided feeding bears sweets since then, so you tell me. Still, some people have to be doing stupid things. Of the 1,310 people attacked by raccoons last years, some had to be trying to get it to do a puzzle for them. The same probably goes for the 750 people attacked by a skunk or the whopping 27,000 attacked by a rodent. Some of them had to be trying to take a selfie, to feed it cheese, to put a plastic cannister on its head so they could video themselves saving the animal by taking it off. And what about the 375 attacked by an opossum? I mean, did they fuck with it after it played possum? That seems likely, given the fact that the animal’s only tactic to avoid confrontation is so enormously anti-aggressive that we have named an idiom after it. How did 375 people get attacked by nature’s hippie?  

Of the 1,594 attacked by birds I do wonder how many were aggressive seagulls. I myself had the juiciest section of a PB&J robbed from my hands a few years ago at the shore. You laugh, but I have never fully trusted animal or person since then.

By the time my beer arrives, the girl has gotten too close and the duck has stood up. He shows his orange webbed feet and glares at the girl for ruining his beach spot. The girl goes for broke and the duck steps gingerly into the pond and bounds off. The girl’s shoe slips in and half of it gets wet. She shakes it off. The girl’s mother finally gets her attention and they go off into the grass where the girl shakes her damp foot. She should consider herself lucky of course. That duck is no possum.

In any case, something else was brewing. One of the boulders in the pond was being approached by a curious onlooker. I was about to enjoy another show. Boy vs Rock.

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