The Unexpected Resident
It was a calm and beautiful summer's day. I was doing the regular summer thing to do in suburbia, which was avoiding anything to do with the outside, because numbing your brain with video games was a much easier prospect, when I was rudely interrupted by my mother.
"Max! Come here!"
"What mom, I don't have time for this."
"Put your stupid games down and come take a look."
My mother doesn't pull me away from my second profession very often, as she knows just how important it is that I maintain a great kill/death ratio in first-person shooters, so I shrugged my shoulders and proceeded to the front door. Tip toing to the sheer curtains looking out to the front stoop, it turns out we had a stationary visitor. Just outside of the front of the door was a duck. Squatting in the flower pot right outside the front door. It was a female mallard with shining brown eyes. It ruffled its tail feathers and stared off into the abyss.
I'll admit, ducks are basically my favourite animal, but we see them all the time, so this really isn't a big deal.
"Okay, so there's a duck having a chill-out session right outside our door. What's the big deal?"
"Wait a minute."
Okay, so I wait around, and then eventually the duck leaves. I see immediately that admist it's recently departed downy feathers, there are two eggs. We have an adopted family nesting on our stoop.
As the weeks progressed, we watched as more and more eggs were added to the mix. It was surprising enough to see a couple extras, but eventually seven eggs were ultimatedly laid, and duckie was looking as cute as ever. We began to get really attached. Sneaking looks all the time, attemptedly leaving food (although it was never taken...fussy duck), and gazing at the eggs when she left, as if they were our own, were a few of the things we did. We even ended up cutting off the steps to our house (with a sign that said "beware of bees nest") to try and preserve the privacy of our wonderful guest.
She became the talk of the household. I was a regular question to come back home at the end of the day and ask how duckie was doing. We didn't have a pet at the time, so this became our animal fixation. To know that duckie was doing well, and ducklings were on the way, made us joyful beyond belief. The way she eyed us when we curiously peered through the sheer curtain. The way she quacked contentedly from our stoop. The way she adjusted herself and her eggs to give her little babies the best care possible. Who needed television when you had a duck?
So. This came to an abrupt halt one day. I get a worried voice mail from my mother after a day of fraternizing with friends. She was worried. I didn't know what possibly could be wrong. My father was out of town so I rushed home. My mother is a lady of steel nerves. Nothing breaks her down, and in my memory, this was the only time I have ever seen her cry. I burst through the garage door and I see two eggs nestled in tissues situated in a bowl with a lamp shining down on them. This is not right.
In tears she tells me that magpies had caught wind of this covert operation and were eyeing duckie to see when she leaves. Well, today was operation sting, and they swooped down and proceeded to ravage the eggs. My mother stepped in and warded them off, but the damage was done. Not wanting the eggs to be totally destroyed, she brought them inside. Duckie had not returned. In a flash I figured out we needed a heat lamp and a thermometer to regulate the temperature of the eggs. I hopped back in the car and was about to leave when I saw the unthinkable.
Silhouetted against the lights all the way down my street, a familiar figure waddled down. With one awkard shuffle in front of the other, and rain pouring down from the heavens as if to lament the loss of her children, she marched towards her nest. I immediately popped back inside the house and carefully placed the two eggs back into pot.
Duckie came down and we could immediately feel the overwhelming sense of loss. She looked around and, after a long and nervous pause, proceeded to once again sit atop her throne, but the next day, she left and never came back. We were heart-broken, and do this day, I am not very fond of magpies, despite their useful habit of eating garbage (free street cleaning... if they aren't going through the dumpsters and poking holes in bags!).
It turns out she must have been an inexperienced mother, because she was not only nesting really late in the season, but she would leave her nest for hours at a time, which apparently was just about the worst idea for incubating them. My mother and I learned some valuable lessons from this whole ordeal. One, don't get too attached to something you're not in control of. Two, plant some flowers in the damn flower pot...what kind of silly duck thinks it's a good idea to nest a metre away from somebody's front door?