December 15, 2009

Jack Swenson

Just Doin' Our Job

Bert takes care of Number One. He's not interested in the birds of the air or the beasts of the field. I'm the one who spots the baby ducks in the parking lot huddled up against the curb. It is just before Christmas, and we have just finished our morning walk.

"Leave 'em," Bert says. He figures the mother duck will find them.

I'm not so sure. I call my wife on the cell phone. She calls the animal shelter, and they tell her some ducks don't make very good mothers. My wife tells me to take them to the shelter.

Bert heads for his truck, and I tell him to come back and help. He does, but he’s not happy about it. I have a paper sack in my truck. I tell him to hold the sack, and I’ll grab the ducks.

When we approach, the babies stir uneasily, but they don't scatter like I thought they would. I kneel down on the asphalt next to the ducklings, and one by one I put them into the bag.

When the truck gets moving, they begin to protest. They aren’t at all happy with this turn of events.

I set the bag of ducks on the counter at the shelter. "What you got there?" a young woman asks. She is a beefy gal with red hair and freckles. She opens the bag and peers inside. "Hey, Patty!" she yells. "Come here and get these ducks!" She tells the other girl to stick them in one of the incubators in the back room.

She thanks us for bringing in the ducks. I stick a twenty dollar bill in the collection jar on our way out. Bert sticks his hands in his pockets. Charity begins at home, as far as he is concerned.

The next day before I leave the house I call to check up on the ducklings. They are doing fine, the gal says. She thanks us again for bringing them in. I tell Bert when I get to the business park. He nods, and the corners of his mouth curl up in what passes for a smile.


Jack Swenson's stories have appeared in or been accepted by Wigleaf, Ghoti, Staccato, Fiction at Work, Boston Literary Magazine, Grey Sparrow, and many others. He is a teacher and writer living in California.

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