. . . Language of Ducks

. . .

Sleepy and Happy The Secret Language of Ducks

On a research trip to Vancouver environs a couple years back, Hotsy Totsy representatives (through no fault of our own) ended up in a beautiful stretch of forest nipping into a lake.

There, a coterie of ducks lingered.

We lingered as well. After an hour or so, one of the ducks very hospitably joined us. And that's when we learned...


Most of us (if I may presume) have heard the usual duck quack: panicked, bossy, querulous, much like the boy-o himself.

And some have heard the domestic squabble duck quack: more Donald-like, down-pitching and muttery.

But the absolutely contented we're-all-just-ducks-here duck quack is something completely else. More of a purr, or a trill; kind of between a dove coo and a quizzical cat, which isn't where we'd usually want between.

Being monkeys, we imitated the sound. Successfully! (NB: Ducks don't have ears.) Soon we were surrounded by cozy ducks, like some kind separatist post-patriarchy fantasy or nineteenth-century French naturalist or something.

And, not wanting to break the mood, we didn't cook them. Mmmmm, duck....

The weird thing is duck-speak is universal (or North American, same thing). 'Cause not long ago one of the Club members was down in Redwood City visiting an Oracle worker at the Oracle lake and she demonstrated the Secret Language of Ducks and the duck she demonstrated it on followed her all the way to the Oracle parking lot to get cozy. Very embarrassing.

Seduced and abandoned Please be careful with the Secret Language of Ducks.

. . .

Text for a Picture Book

I learn from Chris Ackerley ("Obscure Locks, Simple Keys: The Annotated Watt," Journal of Beckett Studies, Vol. 14, Nos. 1 & 2) of herniation in the short statement made by the reappearance of Arsene (known at that time as the gentleman with the fine full apron), extruded between "For in truth the same things happen to us all, especially in our situation, whatever that is, if only we chose to know it" and "But I am worse than Mr. Ash, a man I once knew to nod to" in the first edition and excised (leaving scar) from the next. Watt's narrative flow brooked no digression.

Being neither precious nor illuminating, the material should strike a (two-note) chord with our longest-suffering readers.

But what is this, so high, so white,
And what is this, so black, so low,
Burning burning burning bright,
Quenched long ago, cold long ago?
It is a duck, a duck, a duck,
An old East India Runner Duck,
On a mat, a mat, a mat,
A hairy mat, a hairy mat.
Oh ancient mat, oh hairy mat,
Oh high white brightly burning duck,
Cush's stones are crying yet,
Forth from the wall to Habbakuk,
And from the wood the answering beam
Cries yet of the appointed time
Still tarrying, and of old resolves,
Of wind, and sand, and evening wolves.

Impatient to be off, the little rascal, she has crept in and sat down on the mat. See how she opens and shuts, in imitation of her master, her orange bill. How against the fawn the dark eyes flash. But Not Heard, she is saying, in her duck language, it is time we were gone. Like the Jerusalem Artichoke, she was born in Newtown-Mount-Kennedy, and can hardly walk, but she is a true Indian Runner for all that. Her breeding is so high that she can eat nothing but pork scrap, pea meal, boiled bullock's lights, boiled sheep's paunches, and a little grit and gravel well scalded together with thirds and middlings. The lines were to her grandmother, I think. I was living in World's End then, I believe. For I have never been without my India Runner. Where I go, she goes too, and every time I leave she leaves with me. So we all bring something with us. You bring your bags, and I bring my duck. In this way we are sure not to go emptyhanded away. Pretty Nuala! They are the best wives a man ever had. And every Sunday she lays an egg for my breakfast. I wake up in the morning and find it in my bed. A long green egg. Which I gob.


"And said in goose, Alas"


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Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.