The kids washed a dead duck today. At least I hope was dead. It certainly was when they were finished with it. They mentioned that it was dying, when I phoned from work, and that they were trying to warm it. This on a day that had hit the 90s.
“No, Kevin, it’s not cold. This isn’t a cold day. Take my word that it’s not cold and just leave it. I’ll look at it when I get home.”
I could tell that they were really pooling their resources and trying to find a way to help the poor, half-fledged thing. And they had already learned something from the experience.
“Mom, I don’t know what’s wrong with the cat. She’s just acting crazy. I don’t know what to do.”
“What’s she doing?”
“She just keeps attacking it.”
“No, we brought it in.”
“Oh, OK. The cat’s fine. That’s just the way cats are, they’re hunters.”
“Oh. Should we shut the bedroom door, then?”
“If that’s where the duck is, yeah, that would help.”
“Hey, David! Shut my bedroom door!” (If she’s crazy or being bad she’s supposed to get over it or control herself. If it’s just the way she is, well, we can think of ways around it.)
“Mom. David says the duck's dead.”
“Just leave it where it is. I’ll look at it when I get home.”
“He says it’s stiff. Does that mean it’s dead for sure?”
“Yeah, it does. Get a plastic bag and put it in the garage. Can you do that?”
“Oh, sure. I can do that.” (All problems solved, now. Kevin in charge.) “No problem. I’ll go do it now.”
“OK. The next pizza’s up anyway. I’ve got to run. See you in a few hours.”
A few hours is more than enough time to forget a duck when you’re working two part time jobs that don’t mesh together well. More than enough. When I got home at 10:15 and the dinner dishes were still on the table (although the bowls that I had told Kevin to do were done) and there was an unbelievable pile of things in the bathroom with my hair dryer, of all things plugged in in Kevin’s room, I did not, at all, think of the duck.
I went into Kevin’s room where the three of them were sleeping in a sweaty one-sitter-sacked-the-next-not-yet-found mass (I’m certainly not going to tell them they have to sleep in their own beds when any fool knows there might be something looking in the windows) and I got them up. Sort of.
They don’t wake up well in the middle of the night. Eric tried his hardest to pretend he couldn’t possibly wake up and therefore almost couldn’t. Kevin got up and laid back down four times before he actually knew he was awake and that someone was talking to him. David got up. Was told to clear the table. Wandered into his room thinking he had been told to sleep in his own bed. Got yelled at. Got up. Almost went back to bed. Decided he was supposed to be doing something and started trying to pick up his pants and take the belt out of them so they could go into the laundry.
When I stuck my head in the door and frowned, he groggily yelled, “I’m doing it! I’m doing it!” I led him to the kitchen. I led Eric to the bathroom. I asked Kevin what my hair dryer was doing in his room.
“Oh. We were using it to warm the duck.”
Now they’re back asleep and I’ve unwound and there were soggy black pinfeathers stuck all over the tub when I went in and took my shower. And I realize that what was for me a four minute phone call was for them the whole night and a good deal else besides.
It was a test of their ingenuity / competence / resources / knowledge / independence. It was a chance to learn and do without an adult to map it out for them (until the phone call – but that was too late anyway).
They had been proud and excited and had worked together on it as hard as they could. And it took up so much of their time and their thought, even after it was all over, that of course they had no time to remember other things they were supposed to do.
It must have been really something.
I can picture the collaboration, the arguing, the suggesting, the deciding. Of course warm water, but that wasn’t working and now if we try something else, it’s wet, and that will make it cold . . .
A fluff dried dead duck. I can picture it. If the duck went the way of it’s recently departed brothers and sisters (who died when I was home and the kids weren’t), it was dead when they found it in the yard. I hope so. They said it never moved the whole time they tried to revive it.
I think I know, now why there was a suitcase in the bathroom with one of the sheets off of their bed stuffed into it. I’m not so sure about the tape player. Maybe that was to cheer it up. I’m not sure I want to know.