Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Duck Who Couldn't Swim

Mother's Helper by Henry G. Plumb

A children's story for a Word Catalyst prompt.

The Duck Who Couldn't Swim

Charlie jiggled his turned-over straw hat above the water barrel with quick, gentle movements. In a flurry of white feathers and orange beaks and feet, two more baby ducklings plopped into the water. One last bird remained in the over-turned hat, that 'quacker' edging backwards to avoid a tumble to the cold water below. Charlie shook the hat with more vigor, but the duckling remained clutching the hat innards for dear life.

"Hey! What are you doing?" the little duck squawked, fluttering and struggling to cling to the prickly straw.

"I'm fixin' to teach ya how to swim!" the boy replied executing more strenuous attempts to dislodge the bird.

Mama Duck stood by, a disagreeable expression on her face, not that we humans can see different expressions on duck faces since they basically pretty much all look the same to us, but other ducks know. Not to be ignored Mama rustled her feathers with a vengeance that almost toppled her off the platform where she stood. The boy ignored her.

"Hey! Leave my little Fuzzy alone!" she finally screeched, flapping her wings for emphasis.

The boy looked back with wide eyes, his face etched in innocent lines. "I thought you said I could teach the kids how to swim."

"Yeah, but Fuzzy is different. He's afraid of the water!"

"Pfft! That's stupid! Whoever heard of a duck that's afraid of water?"

Little Fuzzy, hearing this, stiffened his feathery little body while stifling a tear. "I can't help it!" he whimpered.

Mama Duck shot him a concerned smile, then turned to gaze again at the boy. Fuzzy's brothers and sisters giggled as they paddled around in the water barrel. His oldest brother, Chester, flapped his webbed foot and splashed water on Fuzzy's face. This erupted a new round of laughter from the ducklings as they paddled faster and showed off.

"Children, stop it!" Mama Duck hissed. She turned her attention back to Fuzzy and Charlie. "What Fuzzy needs is a gentle touch."

"Huh? But this is how my dad taught me to swim. He pushed me off the pier and said, 'Swim, boy! Swim or die trying.' He told me some things just come natural."

"Oh, how ghastly!" Mama Duck turned a paler shade of white, not that we humans can tell when a duck turns a paler shade of white since different shades of white on ducks look basically pretty much the same to us, but other ducks know.

"Don't I get a say in this?" Fuzzy asked.

"Mmmm, no, I don't think so. My pop didn't let me say anything. He just pushed me in the water and that was that."

"NO!" Mama Duck flapped her wings again. "Let me show you! Get out of the pool, kids!"

Fuzzy's brothers and sister scrambled to get out of the water barrel as Mama Duck flapped up to roost on the barrel edge. "Now, Fuzzy, you jump on my back."

The little duck obeyed.

"Now I'm going to ease into the water and you can watch how I paddle my feet to swim. Ready?"

Fuzzy trembled in fear and his pretty feathers turned that paler shade of white, the one we humans can't discern because we're not ducks. Mama duck paddled in circles like the pro that she was. Fuzzy held on to her back for dear life, fearful he would fall off.

"See, Fuzzy! It's easy. Now I'm going to dip down and set you off on your own so you can try."

"Mama, NO!" Fuzzy flapped his wings and got so excited he almost fell off Mama's back.

"Are you sure that duck's not a chicken?" Charlie asked, hands in his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels as he chuckled.

"My Fuzzy is a brave little duck!" Mama Duck squawked.

"Well, let's see how brave he is!" Charlie said. With one finger, he reached over and flicked the little bird into the water.

Fuzzy couldn't have been more surprised. not that we humans could tell, because duck expressions look all the same to us, as we determined previously. The little bird flipped and flapped and fluttered until he realized he wasn't sinking. He'd begun moving his feet back and forth without even thinking about it. Floating and swimming came naturally to him! He was swimming just like a little duck should.

"Mama, look! I'm swimming!"

"That's my boy!" Mama Duck smiled, not that we humans could tell...well, you already know all about that duck expression business.

"See!" Charlie said. "Some things just come natural."

Copyright 2008 JO Janoski


  1. Awwh Jo this is so cute! Not that ducks know what cute is or how cute they look to us!

  2. Neat children's story, Jo; not that us humans' can actually tell. I love the use of that line.

  3. Thanks, guys! I just love little ducks, not that they can tell I love them, but other duck lovers know.

    Jo, did I see you outside with an ironing board at your ornamental grass patch?

    Dan, btw,loved your xmas card insert and did you know you look exactly the same in every picture of yourself? How do you do that? It's like you rubber stamp your face on all the pics...

  4. I'm not sure that's a good thing. I suppose if you can still say that in twenty years I'll take it!

  5. Meander With Me4:09 PM

    Jo, you brought back memories of the stories I used to make up and tell my children at bedtime, stories they still remember. So, thanks for a bit of a trip down my own personal Memory Lane

  6. Thank you! In your case, I'm sure the storyteller was as memorable as the stories!

  7. Awwww! So cute! Not that... well you know. :) heehee!

  8. Nan, quack...blblblbl....quack...blblbl...well, you know!