Tuesday, I decided to take a walk around Jamaica Pond. It was a compromise. I need to start going to the gym again, but going on a walk is more fun, because you get to see people and dogs when neither are dressed in spandex. So off I went.
While I was there, my friend Gina called me. I was delighted, because I hadn’t talked to Gina for a long time, and because I could then use this as an excuse for not exercising at all. You see my problem: I’m lazy, and excellent at procrastinating.
I hate being that person who’s screaming into her cellphone in public, though, so I scuttled down the bank, off the path proper, and found myself a log to sit on by the water. There was a pair of ducks paddling around in front of me, and pollen motes floating in bars of sunshine, and so on. It was all very bucolic.
I was just describing the scene to Gina, by way of telling her how peaceful and serene it was, when one of the ducks took the other duck’s scruffy neck in his bill and started earnestly and persistently trying to drown him.
“Oh my God,” I said to Gina. “This horrible duck is trying to kill this other duck.”
“He’s got him by the neck and he’s shoving his head under water. I think the other duck is sick or something. His feathers are all patchy.”
“Well, do something! Make him stop!” Gina is one of my lefty buddies. She’s a teacher, went to Hampshire college, brings thoughtful presents to housewarming parties, and generally has something nice to say. She’s a big believer in intervention, whereas I was trained as a reporter and sometimes forget that I can help. Until she suggested it, I was prepared to give a dispatch on the murder of the duck. Now I saw that this would not do.
“I’ll get a stick or something,” I said. “And get him away from the other one.”
Getting a stick would’ve been great. Unfortunately, all I could find were little pieces of cut-up tree branch, about two inches long.
“Do something!” Gina said. “Is he still trying to drown him?”
“Um, yes, but I … oh hell.” I just started chucking the little pieces of driftwood at the ducks. “I can’t even find any decent rocks or anything. Hey, you. Get away from him. Leave him alone, you disgusting thing!”
One of the pieces bounced off the piebald duck’s head, which was momentarily above the water. The sick duck looked at me like, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. Now you’re stoning me to death?”
After a minute or two of getting shouted at and having things lobbed at his intended victim’s head, the bully let go and started to paddle off away from the shore.
“He’s let go!” I reported. “He’s saved! We saved him!”
“Yay, duck!” Gina said. “You did a good thing today.”
“I know, I feel really good. Isn’t that funny? I mean — hey. What are you doing? Don’t follow him! He just tried to kill you.”
“What’s going on now?”
“You will never believe this. The sick duck? Is following the other one. The one that just tried to kill him.”
“Yes! The healthy one is trying to get away, and the sick one is just going right after him. He’s a glutton for punishment. Gina?”
“This duck? Is kinky.”
She laughed. “Well, you did the best you could”
“You can’t be responsible for their dysfunctional relationship.”