This morning we hit -20F. Our little adobe house isn’t meant for these temperatures, but we’ve gotten by just fine.

I find myself worrying about the birds and the wild animals.

It’s silly, I know. I should worry about the homeless people. About the poor living in poorly heated places and the kids going to school with too-thin jackets. But I have this thing where I fret about the animals. I wonder how the birds make it through the night and I’m relieved to see them in the morning, puffed up with indignation against the cold, clustering around the feeder. They know how to make it through the night.

It’s not like I can do anything to save them anyway.

Another feature of the Las Vegas strip are the rows of people handing out the little cards advertising the hookers. They have this technique where they pop the cards against each other, making loud clicks that draw your attention and they hand you the card. You have to get good at tuning out the sound – and the row of dour-faced men offering the cards – or you never get anywhere.

They mostly tried to hand them to David, though they’d give ’em to me, too, if I let them. As we walked down by the Mirage, enjoying the warm sunshine, I asked David what was on the cards. I’d so carefully not looked at them, that I then wondered. Pictures of girls, he told me.

We stopped by the fountains at the Mirage to admire the many kinds of palm trees in their landscaping. What? We like palm trees. Paddling around in the water was a duck and two very new ducklings. David was surprised they’d hatched in January. Some tourist guys tossed bread at the ducks, laughing as the little things tried to gobble the stuff down.

I confess I fretted about them. Did they hide when Mirage does its volcano effects? Would some idiot feed them something poisonous or try to play with them? I blew out my breath and let it go. The ducklings lived before I knew about them and I can’t sweep in and save them anyway.

As we got near our hotel, David started accepting the girlie cards. Like a wave, the grim-faces turned to smiles and the guys happily handed him cards. Within seconds he had a handful. I asked why he started taking them and he said “I thought you wanted to see them.”

So, we drank wine in our pretty hotel room, watched the sunset and flipped through the nearly 50 cards he’d acquired in the course of crossing the street. We talked about which girls were pretty and which poses looked sexy and which not. Then one card caught my eye. Kari, thin, red-head pale and with a glassy-eyed, lost look on her face.

“She looks way too young to me,” I commented.

David took the card from me. “She looks strung out on drugs, is what she looks like.”

She probably is. And she might be legal and she might not. I wondered where in all that tumult of noise and lights she might be. And I realized I fretted about her like I worried about the ducklings. There’s something about the small, the young and the weak dealing with a frequently harsh world that tears a little piece from my heart.

I meant to save Kari’s card. David threw them all away and I formed the idea that I should write about this and go dig the little card out of the trash. I could scan in her picture and tell this story. I fantasized that someone would recognize her, save her, perhaps. Then we checked out before dawn and I forgot in the flurry.

In the end, I suppose, as for all of us, it will be up to her to save herself. As it’s up to the birds to survive the cold snap and the ducklings to enjoy their bit of tropical paradise and avoid the dangers.

Still I remember Kari’s face and send hopeful thoughts her way.

11 Replies to “Ducklings”

  1. You know. I had a long, drawn out, well-considered comment written and then Blogger ate it. So never mind. Just keep putting out high fat food for the birds. It'll keep 'em warm.

  2. Wanna hear my fretting about small animals story?
    No, probably not. Who needs more fretting?
    But I'm going to tell you anyway.
    Every year, at the end of May, we go for a long weekend to Cottonwood Hot Springs, a lovely mountain spa near Buena Vista, built on the banks of Cottonwood Creek. At this spa there live some ducks. They love to paddle around the warm, hot-spring-fed ponds and gorge on, I’m gonna say, algae. They also wander down to the ice-cold creek (for contrast, I suppose) and hang out in the eddies. Being Springtime, there are often little ducklings, as well. I always fixate on the scenario whereby a hapless duckling follows the family into the creek, but goes too far and gets swept downstream by the raging waters, never to be seen again. It seems silly to worry about that particular fate out of all of the potential hazards of a tiny water fowl living in the mountains. It could get eaten by a mountain lion, or a mountain goat, or a tourist. But, no, I worry about them getting sucked away to some unknown but certainly unpleasant end far downstream from home.

  3. Ah, Branli – now everyone knows you've never met me in person!

    Sometimes that's all we can do, isn't it, Marcella? Put out the feed, make the sustenance available. Hope for the best.

    Oh, Kev – this is exactly the kind of tragic story I think up. This must be a projection of our own fears somehow. Perhaps we need a story about the duckling swept downstream who then becomes part of a grand adventure and comes back to the staid hotsprings ducks, with wealth and fame.

  4. In the warmer weather, I sit out on my back porch far past sunset and well into hard night. I can hear the yip of fox kits, the keen of raptors, and the soft shushing of canis predators.

    In the dead of winter, I might find their prints after a heavy snow. Might. When I don't, I succumb to the internal wrestling of could versus should and monkeying with the Natural Order.

  5. I so identify with your impulse. The animals always tug at my heartstrings, and I can worry myself silly about strangers I see in the grocery store, especially older people who look a little lost. *sigh* TG tells me I was born with a hyperactive worry gene.

  6. I try to repeat that phrase to myself, KAK: natural order, natural order…

    Oh yeah, Linda – the lost-looking and frail older people. *sigh*

  7. Do you think its because as a writer we need those happy endings? This was a great post, as I am now going to spend the reminder of the day wrestling with that one.

    Have a great weekend.!

  8. That's an interesting point, Kelly. We love the happy ending, the peaceful resolution. If we don't get to know it, it makes us nuts.

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