The Death of Cool On the Island of Diabetic Ducks: An S.P. Wildeman Story

You may recall, gentle readers, previous missives, published here by one S.P. Wildeman.  The same author has been in touch and asked to submit another story.  I have so obliged.

Richard Bryant, Proprietor, Richard’s Food for Thought

Note to the reader: Everything in this short story bears a resemblance to someone living and something dead. Whether man or machine, fowl or person, we’ve all met for coffee and coordinated our versions of the truth.
-S.P. Wildeman

In May of 1979, I live by selling bootleg seersucker suits from the back of a yellow 1975 Volkswagen Sirocco. We had both seen better days.  The car and I reeked of low-grade diesel fuel. This was before the environmental movement hit fuel swing – pun intended. Driving anywhere was a dirty business for motorists and Mother Earth.

The seersucker suits, in all their wrinkled glory, however, were immaculate. Their finely tailored cuts (designed to fit any gentlemen) and thin blue lines were crafted by the best Russian tinker, tailors, soldiers, and spies. With their help, I was going to be America’s next men’s clothing giant. They guaranteed it. American’s would love the way Russians thought they should look. Who was I to second guess their advice?

On a cold morning in Moscow, using only the letters in my Captain Crunch cereal, I spelled out the letters of the clothing brands I could duplicate. My company was to be Trooks Trothers. I’d open a chain of stores called Barks and Bencer to sell Trooks Trothers suits. 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 believe you are wearing. Labels only mattered to a point. With only $2.74 remaining to my name, I returned to the only place I thought might be cool enough to buy seersucker suits from Russia on the cheap.

Long story short, it was one heck of a drive. Before it was all over, I drove the car and nine different boats; the last of which was a ferry. I should have known something was wrong the moment I arrived at the ferry terminal. Everyone was leaving. I was the only person going over to the island. What could be wrong? No one seemed to know. It was when I arrived that I noticed the ducks. Something was amiss with the ducks. Broad 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 enough. Come on, who’s afraid of a duck? A duck exudes the gentle air of waterborne bunny rabbit with a beak, or is that my Pepsi fueled imagination talking? I’d driven (without fear or common sense) from Russia to the Outer Banks with no memory of a bridge at the Bering Strait or Oregon Inlet. I was held for 29 days by Rohingyas on the north end of Burma. When my parents 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. Today was different. These ducks, they scared me.

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 stomped about like angry teens realizing their fake ids are not good enough to buy vaping products.

Might they be diabetic? Yes, these were diabetic ducks. Everywhere, chocolate-covered quacks for help came from bushes, ditches, and roadside glens.  What does one do for ducks overdosing on Toberlorone?  I didn’t know.  On occasion, I ate duck.  I was not a speaker of duck dialects.  They ignored my pleas to “Stop Eating the Chocolate”.

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 a veterinarian with a kayak.  Neither the kayak or the doctor arrived.  Morning showed up right on time.  The ducks, however, were gone.   Local news reports place them somewhere south of here, north of there, and looking for their next oversized Kit-Kat fix.

Even though years have passed, if the winter wind is just right, I hear plaintive quacks for duck insulin.  While I did not know them personally, the emotional bond remains.

When it was all said and done, I learned one thing: no one wants to buy chocolate stained seersucker suits, regardless of how cool they make you feel.

Three Chickens and Two Dogs

We have three chickens and two black dogs. The chickens, in alphabetical order, are called Enelle, Mayzelle, and Vernelle. They are all hens and sisters. The dogs, self-appointed protectors of the chickens, are oblivious to social constructs and hierarchy of the English language. So we call them Ruby and Hurley.

While I cannot prove it, I believe the chickens talk to the dogs. I’m not sure the dogs respond or understand. This, however, does not keep the chickens from trying to speak. The chickens have a perpetual need to be recognized. As grandmother said, “An unheard chicken is akin to killing a dead mocking bird.” The dogs lived to listen, not to speak. Yet, if you asked them, they might tell you everything you needed to know. The trick is knowing how to pose the question.

Enelle is the youngest of the chicken sisters. She is in the 10th grade at the Hen House school down the street. Her older sister Mayzelle, by only two years, is also there and about to graduate. Because our farm is remote and their school was small, many of their classes were taught remotely. They watch computer screens displaying hens in faraway places, sitting on eggs, and learning eggonomotry.

Mayzelle’s eggspertise is taking her to Chicken U in the coming months. She won a scholarship from the Friends of Kentucky Chicken Children to attend a program for gifted chickens. This endowment enables her to have full nest and hay in a hen house on campus as well as pay her tuition.

Did I forget Vernelle? No, how could I miss Vernelle? She’s the only chicken within fourteen miles who has dyed her Rhode Island Red Blue. She’s a blue-haired chicken. You can’t miss her. Vernelle is home in the hen house and working at the Feed Shack. I don’t know what they put in the stuff but chickens from around the world keep coming back to peck in their yard.

Peck. Peck. Peck. I’ll have a mocha seed latte with milk.  To go.

Richard Lowell Bryant