In May of 1979 I was selling bootleg seersucker suits from the back of a beat up yellow 1982 Volkswagen Sirocco. Both the car and I reeked of low grade diesel fuel. The biodiesel movement was yet to hit full swing and driving cross country from Lahore to the Outer Banks with one pit stop in Rangoon doesn’t lend itself to ecological efficiency.
The seersucker suits, in all their wrinkled glory, were immaculate. These finely tailored cuts (designed to fit any gentlemen) with thin blue lines were crafted in the best Pakistani sweatshops. (Please stop me if I’m moving too fast.) One morning, over a bowl of spoiled milk and with the aid of the Bangladeshi version of generic Captain Crunch, I spelled out the letters of the clothing brands I could duplicate: Trooks Trothers and Barks and Jencer. This was the only business plan I thought I would ever need. After all, cool wasn’t about who you wear, it’s about whom people think you are wearing. Labels only mattered to a point. With only $2.74 to my name, I returned to the only place I thought might be cool enough to buy seersucker suits from Pakistan on the cheap.
Long story short, it was one hell of a drive. Before it was all over, I took the car and nine different boats; the last of which was the SS Pelican Nickel. I should have known something was wrong the instant I arrived at the ferry terminal. Everyone was leaving; the Nickel was empty.
I was the only person going to the island. What could be wrong? No one was willing to say. For two long hours, I waited. In silence, drumming my fingers against the Formica counter tops of the Nickel’s recently refitted galley, no one uttered a word. It wasn’t until the boat rounded the final turn toward the harbor that I noticed the ducks. Something was amiss with the ducks. Large groupings of ducks milled aimlessly, up and down the center of the street, quacking loudly at friend and foe alike. What traffic remained on the island came to a halt. Nothing moved north or south, left or right, and up or down because of the ducks.
From a distance, they appeared harmless. Come on, who’s afraid of a duck? A duck exudes the harmless air of water borne bunny rabbit with a beak; or is that my Pepsi fueled imagination talking? I’d driven from Pakistan to the Outer Banks with no memory of a bridge at the Bering Strait or Oregon Inlet. I was held for 29 days by Rohingas on the north end of Burma. When my family refused to pay the ransom, even my captors realized I was worth less than the distinguished blazers in the back of my cheap German car. That’s another story for another day. These ducks scared the hell out of me. It was as if half of them were high, stoned, and zapped out of their small duck minds.
In the parking lot of the community store, where a large crowd of mallards had gathered, the ground was littered with Kit Kat wrappers, M and M bags, and Reese’s Cup containers. These birds were mainlining chocolate. While across the street and down the road, another group was thrashing and crashing like a bi-polar drug addict coming off some unknown opiate. Were these ducks diabetic? Absolutely, these were diabetic ducks. Everywhere, chocolate covered quacks for help came from bushes, ditches, and road side glens.
How do you help diabetic ducks stranded on an isolated island some twenty odd miles off the North Carolina coast? Diabetic ducks can’t fly. Airborne veterinarians don’t come cheap. In fact, they don’t come at all. Someone eventually reached a level one trauma center with a helicopter. They promised to send an airlift the next morning. To this day I still hear their plaintive quacks for duck insulin and the helicopter pilot’s constant question, “you said what?”
When it was all said and done, I discovered one thing: amidst the summer heat and diabetic ducks, no one wants to buy chocolate stained seersucker suits, tarnished by the webbed feet of the same diabetic ducks, no matter how cool the seersucker looks.
Cool is dead. Pass the Snickers.