Thursday, October 15, 2009

Too Close For Comfort

Hi Folks!

Welcome back! I sure hope it's not raining where you are because that's all we've been getting lately here in Whoville! It's so dismal and dreary out there that boyfriend John coined his own word: "drismal," which perfectly describes the weather outside and the feeling inside! I'll sure be glad when the sun comes out again!

I had a thing happen the other day that really threw me off kilter. I was out at the pond feeding my guys as usual, when I noticed that new favorite duck Ethel was nowhere to be found. Neither was Big Boyfriend Duck. I called and called, and stuck around longer than usual, but never saw hide nor hair of them. Heck, every wild mallard within a ten-mile radius showed up, but not Ethel. This was very unusual: as I've said before, Ethel is one greedy duck! She stays at the feeds the longest, and eats the most, and her presence is such a given that on the rare occasion that she doesn't make an appearance, it's all the more noticeable.

She hadn't shown up for the previous feed, either. Now I was worried. My concern was compounded by the sudden discovery of a duck carcass. The poor corpse had been picked over so well that there was literally nothing left but bones and feathers. The head was gone - rendering identification impossible because the way I tell Ethel apart from other Rouen females is by the black stripes across her face - and so was just about everything else. No innards, no skin, no nothing. I found one lone webbed foot lying a few feet away. There wasn't even enough duck left to be grossed out about.

Having no idea whose corpse it was, I was forced to conclude from the missing Ethel that the body must be hers. Now I was really bummed. So bummed that I went right from concerned to numb. This was just too much: first Pretty Boy and his sister, Pretty Lady, then Peepers, and never mind the human losses John and I have incurred this year, or the death of his beloved cat, Picasso. This has been the suckiest year on record for sheer number of loved ones lost. I just couldn't handle the idea of losing Ethel, too.

So I tried not to think about it. I did make a return trip to the pond the very next day to recover what was left of that poor duck. John and I will give the remains a proper burial sometime soon. I talked to Pat Mitchell - who suffered her own loss recently with the untimely death of Ducky's companion, Chicken. Between you and I, it's no great loss - he was one mean bird! Even so, Pat was deeply upset about it, and was no less so when I told her about Ethel. She tried to convince me that she'd seen Ethel earlier that day, but I remained skeptical, mainly because I don't think she has a clear idea of what Ethel looks like.

The few times I let myself think about things, what I thought about most was that I don't have a close relationship with any of the remaining domestics at the pond. I entertained the idea of quitting - giving up feeding the rest and letting someone else take over the job. Hell, I put in sixty miles a week, driving to and from the pond; I could surely save a little wear and tear on the old Honda by not making the drive anymore. And I could surely save a little gas in the tank, as well. But my sense of obligation to those abandoned creatures was stronger than my brief desire to quit, so back to the pond I went yesterday for our regularly scheduled feed.

You can imagine the surprise and joy I felt, then, when good old Ethel - trailed, as usual, by Big Boyfriend Duck - crested the hill and joined the crowed. "Ethel!" I called out delightedly, "where ya been, you silly girl?!" She made no reply, but simply tucked into the corn as usual. Life was good again!

I was so relieved that I actually tried to send a text message to John as I drove away. This was, of course, courting disaster, and I strongly recommend that every person on the planet put away their cell phone/blackberry/whatever once they take a seat behind the wheel. As for me, I pulled off the road and then let John know that all was well at the pond.

While I'm glad to have things back to normal, this experience has served as yet another painful reminder of the fragility of life. I've been spoiled for so many years by a false sense of security at the pond: the longer those ducks live, the longer I expect them to live. Losing so much as one of them really throws off my plans for duck immortality. Pretty Boy was never supposed to die, nor Peeps, or any of the others. We were all simply going to live on indefinitely. Naive, I know, but cheating death does that to you, it makes you think you can go on doing it forever. But then one day, reality smacks you in the face and the loss is that much harder to live with.

So yet again, I urge you all to spend extra quality time with your loved ones - humans and otherwise. You just never know when you'll run out of time, and once they're gone, they're gone forever. That's all for now, folks. Thanks again for stopping by. Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

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