Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Dead Duck on Deck
After all my posts on politics, you may think this is a lame duck story. But no--this is a dead duck story. Pardon my spoiler.
I am still traumatized, though fans of "a l'orange" must be baffled.
The back-story: We have a useless pool. A swimming pool, which, here in the Great Northwest, is a large, square precipitation-collection device that dominates our back yard. In the winter, constant rain means frequent siphoning off the near overflow, lest the pool crack off our hillside from the weight. In the summer, no siphon is needed--the money to heat and filter and clean it goes straight down the drain.
If you figure all the warm days we get, and the amount we actually use it, each dip in the pool costs about $500. We did not install this pool--our otherwise wonderful house came with it. We are not swimmers; out of guilt, we occasionally bob around the pool propped up by foam "noodles," and my son sometimes makes a sloppy dive from the edge, or balances on the rails at the steps that descend to the deep end. Residents of the northwest need a back yard pool like a fish needs a bicycle.
Ducks, however, consider our pool their own Riviera. When a pair of ducks first appeared about four years ago, we thought they were cute. I ran to get my camera: Awwww. But when they came back day after day, pooping in and around our expensive swimming hole, they got far less cute. Though the pool was unheated, we decided to unfurl the unattractive plastic bubbled solar blanket so our feathered visitors would no longer have the pleasure of such an extravagant toilet. Problem solved--the first year.
Second year, we got four ducks. Same drill--ugly plastic cover goes on the pool. The quartet found happier waters. Last year, we got six ducks. They stayed longer after the cover went on. We took to running outside shouting to scare them off when we saw them plopped on top of the cover, leaving their distinctive residue. Sometimes we threw fir-tree cones at them. Sometimes they didn't mind being smacked by a fir cone and we still had to run outside, waving our arms, clapping our hands and shouting. We got more ridiculous-looking, and ever more tired from all the exercise chasing them away.
This year, the six ducks invited their friends. We have at least thirty ducks in the neighborhood this spring, enjoying our neighbors' pools and even spending the night sometimes cuddled up on top of our solar blanket. We have several couples; We see duck groups flying over our house and yard often. Our running and yelling has become so frequent we're wondering if we need keep up our gym dues.
This morning I was in the kitchen when I saw three ducks, two males and a female, come in for a skid-landing on our pool cover. As usual, I flung open the back door and ran outside flailing my arms and whooping. As I got closer, I was horrified to see that the two males were attacking the female, furiously pecking at her head and eyes as if enraged and definitely trying to kill her. They grabbed her head in their beaks and bit at her body--she could not fend them off. I was about two feet away, screaming and clapping my hands loudly and they kept destroying the female until I was nearly on top of them, at which point the two males suddenly flew up and away; the injured female began to fly but--THWACK! Probably near-blinded, she flew right into the glass railing to our poolside deck. I froze and watched the female lying on her back, furiously paddling her webbed feet in the air for an interminable 15 seconds, and then...nothing.
Dead duck on deck.
Yuck. I was not about to approach that duck. A Jewish studies class was about to commence in my home. The rabbi arrived; the ladies sat in their places around my dining room table. I did not tell them of the trauma I had just witnessed, nor did I point out the duck outside on the deck, webbed feet in air. After the class, I called Evaristo, a man who has seen just about everything the world has to offer, to come and take the carcass away.
A couple hours later, there was a solitary male duck sitting on our pool cover. Evaristo explained that he was Dead Duck's pining mate. Such things happen in nature. But I find myself looking outside to that spot on the deck where the body had lain. And the quacking and flapping crosses overhead once again.