A Duck Story by Len Kuntz


I am lousy at writing happy endings or humor in general, but when I saw the magazine’s theme, I challenged myself to come up with a piece that would work. I live on a lake and one morning I looked out the window and saw a trio of ducks frolicking on the water and I thought to myself–I wonder what would happen if ducks could talk?

Let’s just say the ducks show up one summer and decide to rearrange the deck furniture. Let’s say there are three of them, all Mallards, and you find them sun-tanning on the chaise lounge chairs. They’re all green-headed, yellow-beaked, with thin white chokers around their neck like garrotes.

“What do you guys think you’re doing?”

The ringleader turns his bill, one eyebrow arched and says, “It’s a beautiful day, and these weren’t being used.”

“But they’re not yours.”

“The air you just inhaled isn’t yours either,” Boss duck says, “but you don’t see me making a fuss about it.”

Let’s say you’re too exhausted to debate the dabbling and you ditch your shirt and take the last empty chaise, the sun at once a soothing, warm compress across your face.

“This is kind of nice,” you say.

“See?” Boss says while the other two Quack-Quack.

Let’s say your wife left you a year ago for a much younger man, a painter, with long hair and likely a long penis to boot. The painter’s creativity and sense of adventure won your wife over, and while your heart was shattered at the time, you’ve come to see your role in her departure, the way your imagination has shriveled, much like your own penis, over the years.

And so, let’s say you don’t object when one of Boss’s minions pops the cooler open and tosses frosty brews to the other ducks, and then one to you. When you crack the tab, there’s a bit of a foam orgasm, so you slurp it off the lid. You watch Boss down his beer in three hearty swallows and mimic his behavior, belching loudly.

“That sounded like an avalanche,” Boss says.


“What’re sorry for? I wasn’t criticizing, just making an observation,” Boss says. “And anyway, Mi casa, Su casa.”

“But this is my—” you start to say, then stop because you’ve been terribly lonely and it feels like deliverance finally having company.

Another beer flies through the air but you catch it the way you would a slippery trout just inches from it bashing your nose in.

“Cheers,” Boss says, tapping the lip of his can against yours, then taking a hefty slug. “And sorry about your wife.”

“Wait, what? You know Connie?”

“I guess the real question is—How well does anyone really know someone?”

“You can’t just bring up my ex and then skirt around the subject.”

Boss duck stretches his wings so far that some of his dander tickles your earlobe. “Well, she used to bring a baguette to our pond and toss us chunks until the whole loaf was gone, even though everyone knows you’re really not supposed to feed ducks bread.”

“Did she ever say anything about me?”

“Didn’t need to.”

“Why not?”

“It was all there in her body language.”

“What do you mean?” you ask.

“She looked like a crumpled prom dress.”

You let Boss’s comment sink in, even though it burns. You feel like punching yourself in the face for not being more observant, for losing your sense of adventure.

But let’s say the beers keep coming at a steady clip. You’re impressed with Boss’s tolerance because he doesn’t seem buzzed at all, though his minions are starting to slur Quah-kah, Quah-kah.

You try to remember the last daring thing you did with Connie and come up stumped. You have to go all the way back to your first year of marriage when you had sex on the hotel veranda where other guests could easily spy on you. Oh, and then there was sex on the beach (real sex on a real beach, not the drink), sex doing 60 mph on I-5, sex (simulated) in the back of a cab…It was a lot of audacious copulating, but it’d all happened in Year One of the marriage.

So, let’s just say when Boss and his minions stand up and Boss says, “Hey, pal, we gotta split,” you feel a blade of panic.

“Already?” you ask.

“It’s about our chow time.”

“But are you coming back any time soon?”

“That depends,” Boss says.

“On what?”

“Oh, come on, pal, you know,” Boss says, and the minions Quah-kah, Quah-kah, as they all zip into that perfect plate of blue sky, eventually vanishing, as if they were never even there.

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