By Rebekah Sauder
Sally and her family lived on a back road in a foresty area with a small pond beside their house. Every year at the end of winter Sally’s mother would start saving up bread crusts to feed to the mallards when they came to the pond. Sally would peek out the window every day to see if the ducks were there yet.
“My favorites are the ones with green heads,” Sally told her mother as she smashed her nose on the glass.
“Do you know why they have green heads?” Her mother asked.
“Because the ones with green heads are man-ducks. They’re called ‘drakes.’ The brown ones are ladies.”
“Drakes,” Sally repeated to herself.
Soon the mallards arrived. When Sally saw them sitting peacefully in the water she shrieked.
“Mom, the ducks are here!”
Her mother sent the excited little girl out the door with the bag of crusts, watching from the kitchen window. Sally tried to walk slowly to the pond so she would not scare the ducks away. There were two female ducks and one male. Sally started ripping up the bread and throwing it into the water. She shifted from foot to foot impatiently as the ducks slowly swam over to get the bread.
“Hello, ducks,” she said. “Hello, Mr. Drake.” She thought he was the most beautiful duck she had ever seen. “Why do you have such a nice green head, but the ladies don’t?” she asked him.
The drake seemed interested in what Sally had to say, but the others ignored her.
“Do you wanna know something?” Sally whispered to the drake. “My friend Anna goes to ballerina class. I can show you how to dance, if you want.”
Anna often came to visit Sally after ballet lessons on Thursdays. Sally always asked to see what she had just learned. Sally would practice what Anna showed her when she was alone — but only after making sure no one was coming and shutting the door.
It looked like the drake was interested, so Sally showed him what Anna had taught her. She put everything she could muster into her jumps and twirls. The two female ducks quacked in protest and swam quickly away. The drake, however, was not disturbed. Sally stopped dancing when she saw some of the ducks leaving. But the drake was just watching her calmly. Sally turned and ran back to the house with a huge smile, thinking that she should have worn her twirly skirt.
Sally burst into the house. “Mom! I made a new friend.”
Her mother greeted her with a smile. “That’s good, dear, but next time be more careful when you’re that close to the water. If you jump around too much you might lose your footing and fall in.”
Something inside Sally crumpled up and slid into a dark place. She went to her room and hid all her stuffed animals under her bed.
The drake rejoined his companions. “What’s wrong with you?” they scolded. “Don’t you know not to sit so close to something that moves so suddenly? It’s dangerous and stupid.”
The drake did not respond. He just swam peacefully in little circles.
Rebekah Sauder lives in Plain City, Ohio, where she works at an assisted living home, rides around town on her bicycle, and watches “a ridiculous amount of movies.” Every once in a while, she writes a short story.