I wrote this text some years ago, when I was living in France. It is one of my rare texts in English from that period. I had the sudden urge to share it with you. It took me a few hours to find it, but here it is.
The lady duck crossly bustled down the path in front of me. She was giving a very large piece of her mind to at least one of the two males following at a respectful distance.
The first, a strong, silent type, kept a wary eye on her clabbering beak as it turned in his direction. The April wind stirred a few of her ruffled feathers as she paused for breath.
The second male made a vague attempt at some sort of explanation, but she again launched into a long list of recriminations, effectively silencing him.
The first male lifted one foot after the other, obviously uncomfortable. He seemed unsure about staying with the other two. He turned his sleek, green head toward me as if seeking advice.
My knowledge of the French “col-vert” duck dialect is very sketchy. In fact, almost non-existent. While able to follow the general voice tones, I wasn’t quite sure about the subject of the conversation. It was quite clear that the lady was upset about something, but as to what it was…
She broke off suddenly to plunge her beak into the soil that the park’s gardeners had prepared for planting then, petulantly pushing away that clot, poked at another. Male number two anxiously tried a few conciliatory noises and edged a bit closer. Male number one continued to mark time. The next step seemed to be up to the lady.
She rose magnificently to the occasion with an extremely majestic waddle down to the pond. The recently renewed wire meshing loomed ahead. A short burst of speed and she lifted gracefully over it onto the water.
The males hurried to the bank, peering uncertainly through the meshing and the bushes as she sailed towards the floating nest, thoughtfully provided by the Local Council. They then scuttled along the meshing, apparently puzzled by its lack of tears, through which they usually passed.
The lady clambered up onto the wooden platform and disappeared into the nest. The males hastily discussed strategy then, having cleared the meshing, took up sentinel duty on the pond.
Perhaps the argument had had something to do with the Lady Ducks’ Liberation Movement: “You’re always out having fun with your friends and I have to sit on the eggs!”
Or perhaps it was the other way around. He wanted to sit on the eggs and she was letting him know what she thought of his hatching capacities: “Just sit on the pond and look decorative! That’s all you’re capable of doing anyway!”
On the other hand, he was perhaps the friend trying to invite her mate down to the next pond for a quick dip. It’s so frustrating not speaking the language.
I waited around for a while, but as nothing else seemed to be happening, I too set off with a majestic waddle towards my nest, thoughtfully provided by the Local Council. As yet, no-one seems to have taken up sentinel duty on my pond. Is there something wrong with my feathers?