This was written with my Thursday night writing group with the prompt, “Don’t feed the ducks.” It should be noted that the photo above is of Joe Mallard, as his mate Marietta is rather camera shy.
Joe and Marietta Mallard were vacationing in Sacramento valley pools they caught sight of as they traversed the flyway. It was an annual ritual they enjoyed as they flew north seeking a cooler clime to spend June through September. Marietta noted that most humans were considerate enough not to feed them and she appreciated that, but there were a few who insisted on tossing dry and moldy bread their way, and she really didn’t want Joe eating all that gluten. She was happy they were going north. Joe had eaten way too much pan dulce in Cabo this past winter. A summer of fish and berries would be good for him. This evening they bedded down in a lowly backyard in a sweet patch of marigolds and rosemary near a few tomato seedlings. The marigolds were attracting snails which were a yummy treat for Marietta. Joe ate a few, though he was jonesing for a muffin. He’ll get over it, Marietta thought.
They spent the evening watching the stars and planets. Joe knew stories about the constellations. “That horizontal band right there,” he told Marietta pointing with the tip of his wing, “that’s Orion’s belt.”
“O Ryan?” Marietta echoed. “Is that the movie star who was in LaLa Land?”
“Yes,” Joe said authoritatively. “That’s the one.”
They’d seen billboards about the movie as they flew over Hollywood.
Marietta nodded as she saw Joe tuck his bill beneath a wing to sleep. She wasn’t sleepy yet. She wanted to know more about the stars, both the ones in the sky and the ones on the screen. Marietta knew that the world was a place filled with things that were natural and flowing like wind and rivers and thoughts and confusion and flower seeds and fish. She also knew it was filled with things that were hard and static and artificial like billboards and high-rise buildings and freeways. She knew these things were built to serve one species and it wasn’t hers. She did appreciate swimming pools; they were wet and helpful, a peaceful refuge on the journey, though they smelled funny. She knew it was not for her to think about these things because she was a duck, and perhaps only ducks in stories wonder about such things. For Marietta, she just knew flying and eating and nesting. But she also threw the full force of her instinctual trust on the mother of all things, the great feminine receptive darkness, the emptiness waiting to be filled, the future waiting to be lived. In lakes and rivers and green swimming pools, in rain water puddles, and in trickles of tears, Marietta knew without words that water was God and the scent of God would lead her.