So today I was thinking about the duck that I grew up with. I don’t know his stock. Don’t have to. But I do remember his breed.
He lived with the chickens whose eggs we regularly pilfered for our table. He would waddle about their pecking like an aristocrat among rustics. I loved to watch him slurp water.
My mum abhorred the idea of clipping the chickens’ wings, so when they got to scratch around the garden, they did it on trust — my mum trusted that they’d never fly away, and, being chickens, they didn’t. Instead they strutted around the garden as if my mum’s trust had given the fowl dignity.
Not the duck, however. He, too , didn’t have his wings clipped. Which was a blunder of my mum’s leniency. She thought our mallard would follow the status quo. That he would shuffle among the dandelions, chained to earth by her invisible convictions.
But he was such a rebel. Every opportunity he got he’d spread his wings and fly away.
I loved it and was complicit in his misdeed. Would smirk each time he’d flap awkwardly over the creosote fence and fly crookedly away. But my mum would rail against all waterfowl, round up the chickens, and deftly herd them back into the coop.
But it never fazed the duck. He was in his element. He had achieved his coup d’ grace. He would sit on a neighbour’s roof , aloof, uninterested in the din of clattering bowls.
I think my mum thought she could win a war of contrition with the mallard. Thought she could drive him to repent by locking him up with the obedient fowl. I could have told her he was not to be hen-pecked, not to be tamed of his wild nature.
So when my mum gave up and retreated back to her kitchen, I’d always revel in the mallard’s flights of fancy. I’d race around the garden, my arms stretched wide, feeling the soft down of freedom become as hard as the chickens wishbones my family broke every festive chance they got.