Quack, Quack (#AtoZChallenge)


Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE)


The trickling of Swan River ran for miles. In some places it opened up wide, creating lake-like conditions, before it would narrow out again as it meandered from North to South. Along the course of this waterway ducks, geese, swans and other fowl took  residence. Most would leave during the winter months, their snow bird trek for warmer climes part of their nature. Over the years, with weather fronts changing, there would be times small flocks would not leave, making the river their home year round. This soon became the true barometer for many of the Swan Rise Apartments residents: when all the birds flew south, they knew they were in for a very cold, most likely very snowy, winter.

The river ran to lake size just opposite of Swan Rise complex; many apartments had views that overlooked it. A walking/bike riding path had been laid down years ago, with wooden and stone foot path bridges connecting the two sides at the narrower parts. Benches were placed at intervals along the way, and there were spaces to sit and have a picnic during the warmer times, which some hardier souls did even though they had to deal with territorial geese and their leavings.

Families and couples strolled, joggers jogged, and assorted wheeled instruments moved around the edges of the water, but never owned it. Swan River was the province of  the wild life, and life, death, love and hostilities were played out here in full view.

A scene from an early spring:

The numbers of ducks and geese have increased, and there is constant flow of swimmers, drifters and those folding their heads into their wings for sleep while others keep watch. Pairs are seen more than not: the bright green or blue colored heads of the drakes are bobbing along, overseeing their hen, their mate, she of varying shades of browns. She is the one you hear, the “quack quack” we associate them with, far lighter then the heavier honking of the geese, and very different from the swans, who have yet to return.

Large groups are swimming around various parts, many by the bridges when humans are by, hoping for food.

Not all, though. The center of the body of the river is empty. By the West bank is a drake, green headed; by the East bank, a hen, a mottled light brown. Whatever signal is given, whatever the prompt, they both turn towards each other in unison. Their speed is matched at they swim towards each other, the echoes of their movements played out in the otherwise still waters. They meet almost exactly in the middle, a slow turn around each other. She vocalizes twice during this do-SE-do. With the sun reflecting around them, they swim off together, she in the lead, he watchful and close behind, as they join the larger groups to the north.

Two different viewings of the same scene:

(1) Lev sat in his apartment most days looking out the window; days when the weather was nice he’d sit on his terrace. After his wife died, his son tried to get him to move, but Lev had no need to move, yet. Knowing his father’s penchant for star gazing, Seth bought him a telescope years ago. Lev used it some nights, as was intended; during the daytime, he’d watch the river life when he could.

It happened that he was focused at the right time, witnessing the coming together on the water. Transfixed from start to finish, in what really amounted to not a lot of time, Lev was brought to tears. He brought his head away from the scope, sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. He felt it was just like that, with himself and Anna. Both survivors of the camps, set free but adrift after liberation, at almost opposite ends of a muddled land…yet, they found each other, and swam towards and around  together, until she died, a little more than two years ago.

Lev sat remembering, anguish mixed in with all of the happy memories they shared. After a time, he got up and went inside. Lev called Seth, asking if he would come over that evening. “Bring the family,” he asked.

(2) Amy was four years old and loved the park. She loved feeding the birds, chasing he birds (although repeatedly told not to), throwing sticks in the water, running and spending days like this with her mommy and daddy. They were holding hands while they watched her scamper, warning her when she got too close to an edge.

“Looky!” she called out, pointing, and the three of them stood transfixed, in their own ways, watching the ritual taking place before them.

Amy clapped her hands and yelled “YAY!” when the ducks swam away; she then did a little dance as she scampered along the path.

Stephen and Kattie, her parents, followed after, hugging each other, and both had wistful smiles plastered on their faces. They met up with Amy, who had scooted ahead, to the foot bridge. Amy was looking over the edge, on tippy toes, trying to find the pair of ducks among all the others milling about.

Stephen surprised them both, and himself (in all honesty), when he took Kattie’s hand and got down on one knee.

“Will you marry  me?” he asked, eyes twinkling.

 “We already are, silly.”

“I know. I’d do it again…will you marry me?”

“Say ‘YES’ Mommy” someone shouted.

She hesitated, heart skipping a beat. “Yes,” she finally said, and was swooped up in a hug/kiss by both her husband and her daughter.

Two quacks, among others, could be heard.

Ducks Swimming

16 responses »

  1. This was a great read Stuart. I couldn’t’ help but think of my 4 year old who loves to chase birds. The contrast in the two perspectives made me stop and think. One from a perspective of finality, the other from new beginnings. Can two people ever experience something in the exact same way? I think not. We base our experiences upon past experiences. Who we are is then reflected in what we see when we look out at the world. Yet further proof that Gandhi was right when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.


    • Very true, Bill. All four humans had a very different POV, life’s experiences, and such to view the same scene. I didn’t “Rashomon” it (Kurosawa movie reference!) but…still…no one seems to realize that Kattie had a slightly different take. Subtle, but…



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