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Possumhaw: 'A time to embrace and a time to refrain'

 

Shannon Bardwell

 

If ever I felt like Mother Goose, it was that day. A duck was tucked against my chest; my arms were wrapped tightly around her. I wanted her to feel the beating of my heart. I whispered to her, "You're OK." 

 

We had two guests for the weekend and three dogs. Jack, the cat, was incarcerated in the house. Whenever guest dogs looked in the glass doors Jack snarled and slammed himself against the glass. The dogs snarled and barked. Four people yelled and shooed the carnivores from the glass doors. 

 

The rabbits were safe in their pens, though they were wary and not too interested in carrots, apple slices or lettuce. They hid themselves inside their hutches and wouldn't let me nuzzle their soft fur. 

 

Sam, me and the guests were visiting on the porch when all chaos broke loose. The three white ducks showed up at the house, and the dogs took the offensive. The ducks let out alarm quacks. The two "peeps" jumped in a small unfamiliar pond nearby, but poor startled Leah, with one blind eye, was cornered by two barking dogs when suddenly she was snatched away by Superwoman. I pity the dog that touches that duck. 

 

Leah was comforted and returned to the familiar, the dogs were contained, and the peeps waddled on their own back to the big lake where they belong. It is said that God works good in all things, and the good was that the ducks have not wandered back to the house. It seems three deranged dogs did more than a swooshing broom ever could. 

 

A few days later Leah teamed up with one of the peeps, and the other peep separated, sometimes wandering into the fields -- fields filled with danger.  

 

I can tell the peeps apart now. The one that stays with Leah has freckles on her bill. I call her Peep Peep.  

 

One morning I went to feed the ducks and there was only Leah and Peep Peep. I looked all around. Leah and Peep Peep seemed disturbed, they didn't want to feed; Leah strained her neck and peered around the dock. She whimpered quietly. I scanned the fields above the blowing sedge. No duck. 

 

I swallowed hard, knowing it was only a miracle that the ducks had survived at all. I told myself it was OK, it was life. I ignored the pain in my gut even as tears rolled. I found Sam. Before I could speak, he said, "I saw those three ducks out in the field. It's not safe." 

 

"Just now you did?" 

 

I ran to the field. The missing duck was on a nest. Our eyes locked, neither of us moving. The other two ducks foraged around her then waddled back to the lake. It's not safe for her to stay with the nest. I wrung my hands. I don't know what to do for her. I've not been back. I don't know what to do for her.

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.

 

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