I’d never seen one like it before and my instinct was to feel sorry for it because the other ducks either shunned the white duck or lashed out at it with their beaks. But the white duck paddled confidently on, took to the beach, turned around and stood. And as it did it had an almost regal quality as it threw open its wings and blew out its chest and bellowed. The other ducks seemed to laugh and mock the white duck but over time their mockery turned to idolatry and their quacking coalesced to a fowl sound drowning out the birdsong and tree frogs and building to a continuous, hypnotic beat. This went on for almost four years. The beach the white duck and its cronies inhabited now looked besmirched by their oily feathers and waste. But as autumn consumed the remains of summer, the skies grew pink and a small posse of other ducks appeared from the far shore as if to confront the white duck and square off right there, on the beach.
Seeing this the white duck began spinning and quacking in an erratic pattern, stabbing a wing to the sky as if to summon a god or foreign legion to come to its aid. But it was no god by the looks of it, and I don’t know my raptors, but it was either a turkey vulture or carrion crow, or condor, a dark figure in a tall tree perched on a gnarled branch just out of sight. The white duck nodded and soon all the ducks lowered their little heads, touching their temples as if responding to an inner voice. And these ducks slowly turned to the same dark shade and blended in with one another, and far off the sky grumbled and the surface of the lake grew choppy, and someone cued a piece of classical music as if to honor a Norse god.
The small posse of ducks from the far shore took to the beach and the white duck continued to spin and quack. And we all wondered how this would end, as October came to a close. Would it be the bald eagle, a symbol of freedom in America, flying in to snatch the white duck by its neck? Or would the dark vultures chase off the small duck posse? Would it be like a Harry Potter film where the owls come to the hero’s aid or a Tolkien film, with a benign dragon? No. Instead, what appeared to be a small, rust-colored leaf flittered to the ground, on the beach. And then another and another. But they were not falling leaves, for some fell and then appeared to fly away again as if they had wings. And in fact they did! They were small butterflies that had come from far and wide. Of all shapes and colors and sexual orientations. As they landed on the beach they made the most peculiar motion, seeming to gag up a small, white stone like a pearl. They each landed and left the same small stone and then flew off. And the beach expanded with the white stones and seemed to regain its previous self, its character you might say.
Readers are probably wondering now what the white duck would do faced by this new reality. It appeared that most of the other ducks didn’t want the white duck on their lake anymore. Their numbers were gathering. Would the white duck waddle off to a dark under-hang? Or just retreat to the far shore and launch a right wing quack show? To call this duck lame was an understatement. It was time for this duck to go.
I closed my book and sighed. It was an old story told throughout most of our cultures. The names were different but the characters were all the same. Some versions had happy endings, while others did not. It was important to remember that, to not lose the precious white stone we each had in our throats but to instead go out, and leave them on the beach.
This is an homage to one of my favorite writers Ross Murray and a piece he wrote in July here.