Teaching Ducks English

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I’m not sure how I got lost. The moon was out and I’d chosen a wooded trail, but with unseasonably warm weather the snow had all melted and it proved darker than I’d expected. I’d been following the creek which meandered off to my left. I’d hear it occasionally babbling away in the dark; happily, contentedly, peacefully. Such a lovely sound, but then at some point I realized I was running into more trees. As I looked back over my shoulder to see if I could discern the trail I stepped full on into the creek. A pair of mallards had been sleeping in the same spot and my sudden arrival sent them into the air dashing right by my head as they aimed for the creek. (Okay, maybe an exaggeration, but if FELT like they flew by my head) Such a ruckus they made, and now completely startled, I screamed stumbling backwards, slipping on some river stones and bum-planted into the muddy embankment. For a second, I was a bit stunned, until that comedian’s voice that lives in my head suddenly piped up, “It’s always a good time until someone ends up in the river”. If I hadn’t been so cold I might’ve laughed. The birds continued to squawk and quack announcing to the entire woodland that the sky was falling, as they splashed down into the creek maybe fifty yards out.

“What are you all quacking about?” I hollered at them, completely flummoxed, “I’m the one in this bloody snow melt with no duck fat!”

Ducks will gad on, long after they’ve headed downstream, as if they are endlessly calling back rude comments at you.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” I mutter as I pulled my now cold, wet and muddy arse out of the creek. “Everyone’s gotta an opinion. Move on,” I call out as strong as a Boston beat cop. “There’s nothing more to see here….” The birds ignore me, but their quacking is now idle bitching and I stumble back toward the trail.

Profanities are a greater gift than most people realize. In such moments they give real vigor to an otherwise completely impotent moment. The “F” word in particular is not only The Great Profanity, but one of my favorite words in the English language. No word holds its influence or power. We use it to express anger, fear, love, passion, confusion and brimming joy. It’s a noun, a verb, an adverb and an adjective depending on our predicament. On this occasion I used it liberally on the long and numbing walk home. I make no apologies. My feet were colder than Icelandic cod three days dead. If the ducks were offended I can hardly be held to blame. I certainly didn’t teach them English, but if I did, I would’ve definitely started with the “F” word.