Thursday, 19 July 2012

Tragedy At The Duckpond

                                 Tragedy At The Duck Pond

At my day job there is an artificial pond. It is surrounded by grass greener and flatter than a millionaire's golf course. A 200-year-old tree overhangs it. In the middle is a powerful fountain. It jets skywards as if to wash out the eyes of the Almighty so he can see better the helpless agonies of his creatures below.

Every spring a new pair of ducks appear. They swoop down, as if by appointment from some celestial estate agent, to check out the suitability of the pond for bringing up a family. Sometimes they stay, setting up home in a small area of long grass specially cultivated by my employers to provide duck accommodation.
Just over a year ago a half dozen ducklings were born, little downy balls, cheeping in single file behind their mother, proudly marching across the billiard-table-like green.
Idylls never last. Nature always sees to this.
One day two huge black crows appeared like harpies to inflict bloody murder on the manicured green grass. Three ducklings were eaten, a hideous open air picnic which office staff witnessed, open-mouthed in horror, from their windows.
Of course this had happened before, in years gone by, and this is why an area of long grass had been grown. But, as we all know, it is not possible to stay at home all one's life for fear of venturing out into a hostile world (or am I behind times and, thanks to galloping technology most humans need never leave home nowadays as long as they have a computer and an internet connection).
But this is about the ducks. Three ducklings are dead. Three survive. They grow rapidly into what resemble loutish teenage ducks, sleek and bulky. Mum lays more eggs. More ducklings are born. Dad comes and goes as takes his fancy, alas, like some human dads do.
We hoped that with their older siblings to protect them, the new brood would thrive. Far from it. Two of the seven were pecked to death by the teenagers in acts of sheer jealous spite. The crows, to be fair, must also have had young to feed, and they lifted another two. Three were left. Deep breath. Surely the worst was over. A brief respite to enjoy something of life is surely the right of every living creature?
 Not so. The teenagers ate all the available food. We rushed out with breadcrumbs and bird food, but this was also eaten by the crows and the teenagers while those it was meant for cowered abjectly in the long grass. Sadly bad behaviour so seldom goes unchecked nowadays – – and therefore the teenagers loutishly went on an attacking their tiny siblings until, driven to distraction and not thinking straight, mother duck resorted to drastic action.
Before our horrified eyes, one morning, she left home forever, the three remaining downy bundles in tow, away through the big gates and onto the bustling pavement outside with the giant wheels of passing traffic only inches away. There was nothing we could do. Bicycles swerved, cars honked, people sidestepped. Through this intimidating maelstrom strode mother duck with her charges cheaping behind, off into the distance, waddling determinedly. We closed our eyes and looked away as they disappeared. Where were they headed? Where would they go? The odds were against any of the ducklings surviving. It was a tragedy, but mother duck had opted for this rather than stay at home and see her young ones slowly murdered.
I don't know what became of them.
This year a new couple arrived.
Ducklings were duly born. Crows appeared and said ducklings were duly eaten. Even a fox laid in this time, crawling furtively, low to the ground and under the front gates in dead of night. I suppose it had its cubs to feed. A security guard chased it and it disappeared somewhere. Someone said it must have climbed the tree. But, as I pointed out, foxes can't climb trees, as Aesop so vividly demonstrated.
But joy, oh joy – – – sooner or later good must happen. Ill tides must turn. The heavens must open with sunshine and trumpeting angels to uplift the downbeaten and weary hearted – – – one duckling had survived even the fox. With its mother it had swum to a small concrete island in the middle of the pond where no fox could follow. Even crows were loathe to venture beneath the protective cascading arcs of the central fountain. We rejoiced. The news went around. All our lives got a morale boost from the triumph of the weak over the mighty. More breadcrumbs. More bird food. Even digital photographs.
I once said to someone that good times never last. They argued back, saying neither do bad times. Hmmm....sure seems like there are more bad times than good, though. Or maybe that's just me?
Little duck was growing fast, but not fast enough. Meanwhile mother duck was spending more and more time with new suitors. Two weeks ago I got to work and a colleague told me that little duck had died. He'd been found lying in the pond, face sideways, one eye fixed on an impotent sky. "I think it died from sheer loneliness," said a colleague. "Its mum was neglecting it. It had no one to play with....." I thought about this. "I don't know. Maybe you're right," I muttered. After that mother duck went on being courted by three handsome drakes. Whenever I appeared she followed me, irritably quacking for breadcrumbs. I couldn't be bothered any more. "On her own. More kids on the way. Loads of boyfriends. Next she'll be wanting assisted housing," someone remarked. "She already has that. The pond is all hers now," I replied bitterly.
But apparently a pond is not enough, even for a duck. As I pen these lines just a half hour ago mother duck wandered into the road outside and was hit by a car. We all heard the bang. A  brave cleaning lady lifted the twitching and bloodied body onto the pavement, where mother duck finished dying. We had been feeding her so much that she had lost her natural caution of all things human.
Soon there will no doubt be more ducks. None of us seems to be looking forward to that so much any more.
"But at least mother duck is back with her ducklings," someone said.
Yeah. Okay.

Hi, I'm John. Last week I posted The Voice In My Head, a blogspot dealing with an important issue for self-published writers. I promised, then, to stick to events from my life in future blogposts and hence the above blog. Please come back for the next post in a week's time. That one will be called A Pretty Face Is All You Need. And if you have the time, please check out my books at Amazon. Thanks :)
IMPORTANT UPDATE: 22 July. The above blogpost was actually written five weeks ago. The new duck couple in the pond are doing fantastically well! Their ducklings have grown to a big enough size to make the crows think twice about attacking them. There are eight (yes, eight!) of them, and they are very alert---they adjourned swiftly to the centre of the pond at my approach this evening, and mother duck quacked me a stern warning! Hooray, duckies! I'm gonna spend all my saved up pennies buying you stuff to make you grown even bigger and stronger! Here they are: (click on image)

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1 comment:

  1. An interesting though sad post, John, but I know how this all goes as I have a duck pond in my garden. Similar things happen. Plus when I stopped feeding the ducks, they would come up onto the veranda at dawn and tap loudly on the windows. LOL They were relentless until we would get out of bed and feed them the rice, lettuce, and grains that they loved. Once when we were away and couldn't feed them, they left 20 packages that they dropped all over the veranda tiles as a protest. And then they ate the frogs out of the pond. That was it. LOL We let the lilies grow and cover the pond so they couldn't swim in it. They moved to a better pond where no doubt ruled once more. I still love ducks, no matter what, but I don't like having my sleep disturbed by them, the little devils. :)