When I first saw the pretty, green-headed mallard in the gutter, I thought he’d just been hit. I didn’t go back that day; it was getting too dark to go bury him in my regular place, under the big walnut tree in the field nearby. That night, it rained and rained – and rained. Yesterday, when I went to retrieve him, he was lying in a puddle and as we slid the shovel underneath him, the smell was pretty bad. He smelled of fish and I could tell he’d been there longer than I thought. Still, I couldn’t leave him there to just lie with his pretty green head in the water. Just days before, he’d been paddling around the little pond, his orange feet propelling him through muddy water, bobbing along with his flock mates like a marshmallow floating on a cup of hot cocoa. Now, he lay dead in a puddle. How many people walked past and looked at him? How many just said, Oh, the city will come and pick him up? But the city didn’t come.
This is duck number three. The first two were just hit and hadn’t had time to start to waste away. Their feathers were intact; their pretty heads lay on dry cement. I could only find one place soft enough to dig – under the big shady tree. So, now I have given back to God three ducks. All are buried under that tree and none have had to be tossed into a big hole over at the city yard – I know they don’t get buried over there. A little squirrel is buried there, too, thanks to a neighbor who walked by our house and casually commented, you’ve got a dead squirrel over here. He was just happily eating cherries in our tree until some neighborhood cat came along.
I don’t understand why a city would build a pond and fill it with ducks, and then build a road right next to it – it seems a cruel thing to do. I secretly want to take all the geese and ducks and relocate them to a nice peaceful lake. Somewhere where traffic is far, far away. Where they can paddle along in clean water, their feathers glinting in the sun, safe from harm and man.