Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Slice of Life: My Husband's Duckling

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I have been writing a lot this summer, aware of and attuned to all of the stories that swirl and whirl in my decadent summer life, and slices of life have been rolling in! Here are the contenders for the week:

  • my sister-in-law's 88 year-old mother doing jello shots at her birthday party. (no, we did not make them very strong and yes, she like them!)
  • deciding that we never want to ride horses on Block Island, as it is much more fun and worthwhile to hike through Rodman's Hollow (one of the most spectacular places in the United States) and spend the money at Rags in the center of town. (Or on mudslides at the National.)
  • receiving the somewhat backhanded compliment from an 18 year-old boy that I am much better at providing tubing rides than he would have guessed. (I am proud to say that I dumped him in the harbor four times. Yes, FOUR.)
  • watching one of my husband's friends sweat his way through his first hot yoga class. (My husband won't go.) At one point I'm sure that his eyelashes were sweating when I looked over at him. 
  • Having to hear about (and not see for myself) the six-foot shark that the morning beach walking crew saw on the beach on the ONE morning that I opted out of the daily walk. The shark was alive and managed to get back into the water!
But the winner for the week's slice of life, the one that may one day end up as a children's book, has to do with the duckling that my husband brought home from his golf outing. (Plot spoiler: this slice of life is sad.) Despite my advice against naming the tiny bird, he was dubbed Waddle. At first I only saw pictures of the little guy, because I have been mostly staying at the beach. Garth found the duckling on the third hole, and my husband, softy that he is, carted Waddle in the basket of his pull-cart for the remaining fifteen holes, not knowing what else to do with a softball sized lost bird. 
Garth did everything right for this little duck. He called the nature center and was told that if he could find a family of ducks with young about the same size as Waddle, he could slip Waddle right in. The mother could be momentarily confused, but the nature center expert reassured Garth that the family would adopt his duckling. Garth drove all over searching ponds for ducks with families. July is not the usual time for ducklings to hatch. Foiled in his quest, he found a place to adopt Waddle, but the duck adoption agency was only open on weekdays. So Garth brought Waddle to our Rhode Island house, planning to take the duckling to his new home on Monday morning. 

Maybe it was the throngs of people, the overstimulation, overfeeding, overwatering, hypothermia, or just the course of nature, but Waddle died the next morning. Poor Garth was devastated. He dug a hole in the back yard and marked it with a stone from the beach. I tried to console him with how hard it is to keep wild animals alive, how maybe there had been something wrong with him in the first place, how he had done a great job keeping the duckling alive for 48 hours, how I really will write a picture book about Waddle (although I am struggling with whose perspective to take and I am REALLY struggling with the ending...)

Having once hatched ducklings, I know how much work they are and I wasn't on board for keeping Waddle, but he really was a cute little guy and I SO wish that he could have made it to a place where he could have become a full-grown mallard. As my daughter tweeted, rest in peace Waddle. 

Happy writing,


  1. Oh, Melanie, so sweet. I'm glad you warned me about the ending. My sons have brought home animals (one was a juvenile duck). They (the animals and the boys) break your heart! Your guy will heal. Maybe the ending of your story hasn't happened yet. Keep on the look out. Or imagine what isn't there.

    I'm loving your summer stories keep them coming!

  2. You have such a great list of story ideas! I am glad that you gave us the warning about the end of the duckling story. I am so sorry for Garth, I am sure he his heartbroken right now. I love the idea of the picture book. I am sure you will find the right story to do Waddle justice.

  3. It's just so hard not to grieve when something doesn't make it. I'm sorry for Waddle, and for your husband's feelings, too. It does seem late for a little duckling, doesn't it? Glad to see all the ideas, too, Melanie. You have lots to write in the coming weeks, including a picture book. Perspective? Maybe that all-seeing third person so you can imagine what happened before your husband found Waddle? Happy writing, Melanie.

  4. A true slice of life story. Waddle might have been with you a very short time, but he definitely will be part of your memories.

  5. Rest in peace, Waddle - up there in duck heaven, know that someone tried his very best for your story to have had a different ending.

  6. What a sweet story and I'm sorry that your story had to have a sad ending. Your husband is a trooper! I hope you do write this story. I'll look forward to it. :)

  7. Great story, but such a sad ending. I'm sure it will turn into a fantastic picture book. Your hubby did his best to care for this little creature.

  8. a story chock full of emotion and empathy Melanie. Summertime is so often a time for rich and varied stories. Great fodder for we writers. Garth's efforts were most admirable, but as we know reality bites sometimes. It does have the potential for a picture book story. The ending does present a dilemma. Good luck with that. They say the best writing is honest. Not sure that picture book publisher always appreciate or feel they can accommodate that fact.

  9. I enjoyed reading your celebrations You made me laugh!

    Thank you for the spoiler. It was good to be prepared. My eyes still teared up when Waddle passed away.

    ...Your husband tried so hard. Waddle was well cared for in his last hours. <3