Monday 30 April 2012

Wentworth Went

Wentworth was the littlest duckling in a small family of little ducklings. Like most ducks, he could not afford the excessive rental prices of a medium-density residential area, so he lived in a tiny pond found in a miniature park on the shortest street in the smallest village in the— Well, Wentworth was not really certain that there could be anything larger than the village so he did not think about what the village might be in because he was a duck, and ducks did not give much time to speculation.

From very early on Wentworth knew that he was not a typical duck. For one thing, he had a name — something that none of his duckling siblings seemed to have. He would never mention it of course, but Wentworth could not even tell if his kin were girls or boys and when it came time to buy Christmas presents, he usually relied on how masculine or feminine their “quacks” were . Another thing that made Wentworth different from other ducks was that he celebrated Christmas and could use words like “masculine” and “feminine” correctly, even if it was only in his internal monologue.

As he was the littlest duck in a small family of little ducklings, Wentworth always brought up the end of the line when wandering with his brothers and — he assumed — sisters, because they inexplicably arranged themselves in descending height order. From his position at the back, Wentworth had a lot of time for observation. As he dodged away from, and occasionally squelched right through, the nervous leavings of siblings scared by a sudden breeze, he observed that ducklings have surprisingly little control over bowel movements. As he waddled his fastest to keep up with the others, he observed that his wings were little more than fluffy nubs that did nothing to soften the fall when he stepped into a gap between bricks beside the pond. As he struggled his way out of the hole, he observed that ducks and ducklings do not look behind to see if all of their number are accounted for. As he scurried with uneven ducky steps to ensure his family did not leave without him, he observed that the wind was getting colder.

Wentworth did not love his family — love was something that happened to other animals — but he would say — or at least think vigorously — that when he was waddling or paddling behind his mother and nest-mates, he could not imagine any other way the world should be; not only because ducks did not spend much time imagining, but because he felt that nothing was wrong with how things were, he was not even sure he knew the meaning of wrong. Wentworth did not consider himself valiant or selfless — because these words were not part of his astounding, duck, vocabulary — but something inside him flashed when he saw his duckling kin struggling. When a brother or — he assumed — sister was having trouble catching the small fish that darted in the water under their wading feet, Wentworth would always be sure to pass on anything he caught to them, because he knew that he was the littlest duckling in a small family of ducklings and food should go to the ones who need it most.

Wentworth may have had difficulty identifying the differences between the ducklings he roamed with, but he knew how to count — well, at least, he knew there were this many ducklings he followed —so one day when Wentworth saw that instead of this many, there was now this many ducklings in the line, he veered from the trail, risking being left behind, to find out where his brother or — he assumed — sister had gone. Wentworth followed a haphazard line of duckling droppings and saw that a gust of wind had blown his nest-mate into the pond. Because of what Wentworth had observed and because only Wentworth could observe, the rest of his family had continued without them. The two ducklings ran, in the lopsided way that ducklings run, and caught up to their small family. Wentworth did not know what comforting was — ducks do not give much time to comforting — but he placed a small, fluffy wing on his recently-lost duckling sibling and left it there until the trembling stopped.

Recently, Wentworth had been observing changes that were occurring beside the tiny pond in the miniature park on the shortest street in the smallest village. The leaves on the trees had been changing colour and today, they fell down to the ground in a rain of orange, brown and gold. The wind, that Wentworth had observed as colder than it used to be, was now cutting through his fluff-like feathers and blowing so hard that he had to stop observing and start concentrating on walking in a straight — well, as straight as a duck is able — line.

Wentworth knew that his family would soon leave the tiny pond, leave the miniature park, leave the shortest street, maybe even leave the smallest village. He could not say how he knew — perhaps it was the far-away sound in his mother’s quacks or the way she frequently stared beyond the trees and past the village — but he knew. If he had known what it was to be anxious or excited, he might have thought himself just that, but for now, he continued to follow his duckling siblings and observe the things he knew were right.

As Wentworth avoided a particularly runny dropping he observed that again, his family line was reduced to this many ducklings. He paused and looked around, seeing that his brother or — he assumed — sister was in the middle of the pond and bobbing for food. Wentworth observed the little orange feet sticking out of the water and if ducks could laugh, he would have laughed at the way the feet seemed to be walking upside-down on the spot. He waited and watched and observed; he observed that sparrows too, have little control over bowel movements, he observed that there were many ducks flying across the sky and past the village, he observed that the sun was nearly hidden beneath the trees, and he observed that the pond was empty and his brother or — he assumed — sister, indeed all of his brothers and — he assumed — sisters, was nowhere to be seen. While he had observed everything, the world and his family, had moved along.

Wentworth was no longer the littlest duckling living in a tiny pond found in a miniature park on the shortest street in the smallest village. Wentworth was the only duckling, the only duck. And as he turned in circles looking out across the pond and across the park and through the trees into the village, he observed that the only thing small now was himself, he observed that never before had he been alone, and he observed that he was lost, beside the tiny pond he called his home.

Wentworth did not worry — he had never had a reason to worry and his path had always been set by those tallest at the front — but he felt that should his family return now —soon, as quickly as possible — the aching inside of him would go away. He observed that ducks should not ache for no reason, and he observed that personal observations were another thing that made him different to a typical duck. He quacked — set out to quack, he was certain that was his aim! — and his bill trembled as a tiny squeak emerged and died in the air far too close to be heard. He took a step, the first ever without some kin to follow, and then another step, and another. And Wentworth went.

Wentworth went with no aim in mind because ducks do not plan. And when he curled upon himself to sleep in a pile of golden leaves, Wentworth did not shiver, because ducks do not stay in places that are cold. And when he woke to see his world had turned white, he did not shiver with cold as he did not panic, because ducks do not panic. And when he went to the pond to sate his hunger, he did not shiver with cold as he did not panic as he did not slip and stare at water turned to ice, because ducks do not live near ponds that freeze over and restrict the food.

And Wentworth wondered — even though he knew that ducks do not wonder — why he shivered with cold and felt panicked and was slowly falling to sleep upon the ice. He wondered why he could wonder and wondered whether he would still be lost if he was not so intent on observing. Wentworth wished — even though ducks do not wish — that his family could wonder and he wished that they would wonder where he went. And Wentworth went to sleep, feeling regret — even though ducks do not regret — that only he knew who Wentworth was. Wentworth was not a typical duck, and so …

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