The Agent gave me two guidelines for the blog. Be funny, she said. Your novel is funny. You’re #funnyman, for godsakes. Just be funny. If you’re funny, people might want to read your funny f#%@ing novel.
And two: Not too many stories about ducks, she said. I like ducks, you like ducks, but not everyone likes ducks. Well, this isn’t about ducks, although it has a little duck in it.
My last blog post about the mighty Huey, small ducky extraordinaire, went into the whole thing about counting the ducks and worrying about predators picking off the weakest of the flock. And how Huey, being the runt, as it were, of the paddling seemed pretty vulnerable. And you might have said, hey, Paul, don’t get too attached. It’s a duck. As Chico Marx asked, why a duck? Why a’ no chicken?
Well, you and Chico were right.
I come to you today with a heavy heart (remember LBJ? Didn’t he say that? Of course, that was about Vietnam, not a duck), to let you know that Huey is no more. There was no official identification of his little ducky corpse, but he’s gone, he’s gone, and nothing’s gonna bring him back. He’s gone.
No, it wasn’t a hawk. Or falcon. Probably not a cat, either. No. It was his family. Yes, the family killed little Huey.
I forgot. Nature. I joked about Darwin. Well, Darwinism is no joke.
Huey was small, to be sure. His brothers and sisters were growing by the day. The biggest one was easily 2 or even 3 times Huey. Still, Huey was peppy and would arrive early and even pecked on the window demanding fresh, organic quinoa. He ate and shared water with his siblings. He swam in the water dish. Life was good.
Last week, you might recall that Huey arrived in the morning by himself and I fed him and he ate and left and came back with the rest of the brood, or paddling, or raft, later, for a full feeding, and all seemed fantastic! But something was not quite right.
Well, a couple of days later, on a foggy morning, Huey came by again by himself. So I put out some quinoa. But he moved off onto the grass and ignored the food. Then later, he was hanging around with another duck, a female, not his mother. He sat stoically on the grass, and didn’t move.
I knew it then: he was ostracized. He was too small, and his mother (I am not very happy with her right now) and his siblings shunned him. He didn’t make the Darwinian cut. Poor little fella.
Did Huey complain? Did he beg for mercy? No! He went off into the wild and stopped eating. He gave up his life for the flock. Damn. What a brave little duck. Of course, I’m anthropomorphizing here.
If a ducky dies in the forest and no one is there to see that it was because his mother was a heartless you-know-what, did it really happen? I like to think not.
The thing is, it’s my fault for humanizing the wild waterfowl. I saw the cutest little duckling walking around like he owned the place. His mother saw a weak genetic link.
Last week, I mentioned the mother with the flat head who lost ten ducklings. Not this one. She watches them carefully and does things the right way, which means culling off little Huey. The bad duck mother started with 10 and ended with none. This one will be sending 5 healthy ducks into the world, or at least into Woodland Hills, and I’m pissed off at her for shunning Huey.
Another thing: when I named Huey, I was thinking of Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. But while writing this, I recalled a cartoon character from my youth that had a special connection because the cartoon was created by Harveytoons, an old animation company established decades ago back east that my father did some animation work for back in the 1950’s. Well, they had a cartoon character named Baby Huey, and it came to me that this might have been my inspiration for Huey.
Ironically, the joke about Baby Huey was that he was huge and thought he was a little baby duck, while my Huey was tiny and thought he was a big duck, which is precisely why I admired him (or her, I can’t really tell), and also why I will try not to count how many ducklings there are in the paddling next time around. Don’t want to get more attached than their mother does.
Best of all though, is that Huey will forever be a cute, feisty little ducky, while his brothers and sisters will grow up to be big, fat, mean, nasty ducks who squawk a lot and shit all over the patio, just like their mother and father (whoever he is).
Goodbye Huey. You achieved Bob Dylan’s greatest wish for all of us. You will stay forever young. Of course, I don’t think Dylan’s message was that you have to die to stay forever young, but maybe that’s the point.
Now, I’ve moved on to other animals that don’t follow their mother in a line. This is my new friend, Crabby. He’s cute. Just a couple of inches across. No reason to worry about becoming attached to this one, right? Nothing bad could happen to Crabby, could it?
What have we learned today? Don’t get too attached, especially to wildlife. They will break your heart. Or at least keep in mind Darwin’s theory of evolution, which says, basically, that the cutest ones will die first and the rest will live. That’s depressing, but it’s life, so get used to it. Only the good die young, right Billy Joel?
There’s some survival, but not necessarily of the fittest, in Smoking in Bed. And attachment, but to humans, not small wild animals. There are a couple of eating scenes in the book, but no duck or crab is ingested. And even though it deals with life and death, it’s also funny, so you get to laugh as well as feel sad. Just like life.
And now… off to see my musical hero, Elvis Costello! Have a great week everybody!