The Tallest Duck in Heaven

There he lay in the gutter, the one duck that stood taller than all the rest.  Literally.  He must have been a different breed or mix because he surely wasn’t an ordinary duck.  The majority – mallards and your typical white ducks – were gathered on the sidewalk, preening, eating corn, while he lay there cold in the gutter.  Not the smartest thing to build a duck pond near a busy road.  As I marched along on my morning walk, all joy went out of me when I saw him there, his neck unnaturally bent back.  Oh, yes, the city will come and take him away as they always do, but this duck was getting a proper burial.  I stood and looked down at him for a bit, thinking how quickly life can get snatched from any of us – just weeks ago he was stretching his long neck, looking prettier than most, paddling his orange feet along in cool muddy water, drifting with the others like bobbing marshmallows on a cup of cocoa.  One brief mistake and now, he lies here at my feet, silent and cold.

I hustled home, grabbed two shovels, one for digging, the other for lifting him off the street, two paper sacks, my gloves.  I pulled in behind and got the flat shovel and paper bags, tearing one open to use as a sort of stretcher, then laid him on it, folded it gently and slid it inside the other sack.  His head, hung over the side, his golden eye glassy.  A parks and recreation truck pulled up behind and a big man named Jim approached.  I’ll take him if you want he said.  I would like to bury him, I told him.  He said I could but offered again. I asked if they would bury him.  We have a place in the yard” he said – I imagined a mass grave and others who hadn’t made it across the road, telling him that I really wanted to take this one and find him a nice spot.  He told me how many ducks he’d picked up over the years as I looked down at my duck and his greenish bill hanging down over the side of my grocery sack.  I set him gently on the floor of the car and went off to find a soft patch of earth. 

I drove around, testing several spots, everywhere the ground was just too hard for digging.  Then I remembered a meadow where we’d pull grass for the little pigmy goats, I’d go there.  I put the shovel in and gave it a shove with my foot and it slid into soft earth beneath long green grass.  Yes, he would go here, beneath this tree.  I managed a hole big enough, pulling back huge handfuls of grass, until I had one the right size, then I laid him in it, looked at him there, wishing I could straighten him and make him perfect.  A few feathers blew out and floated on the wind as I laid the dirt gently on top of him and then tamped it down with soft green grass on top.  A dot of blood was on my shovel from where the car bit into his side.  I said a prayer that God would watch over him.  He will be the tallest duck in Heaven.


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