Feeding the ducks at Purgatory Park

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: March 21, 2018

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Submitted: March 21, 2018

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He slams the door behind him as he storms out of the boardroom. Bitch! Marches past his desk, through the double doors and down the stairs. Condescending bitch! Charges through the revolving door and bounds across the road stepping into the path of a lorry, forcing the driver to sound his horn and step hard on his breaks, tyres squealing. Stupid, condescending, fat bitch!

He slumps onto the bench like a teenager mid-tantrum and looks out across the water. Since when was there a pond here? Forget the pond since when was there a park? Reaching into his empty jacket pocket he remembers depositing his keys, wallet and cigarettes into his desk drawer ahead of the meeting. ’Bollocks!’
‘Uh oh. Someone’s having a bad day.’
He flinches and turns to face a man sat the other end of the bench. ‘What did you say?’
‘The way you slammed down. Like you were angry with the bench or your backside.’
‘And? Piss off.’
‘Okay. I was only trying to help’. His hands in the air.
‘Well I don’t need your help, old man.’ He looks at his new acquaintance. Sat on the bench alone; nothing but a newspaper and half a bag of bread for company. Meddling old bastard. I bet he was desperate for someone to come along so he could deliver the day’s sermon. He nods at the water, ‘ Why don’t you go back to your ducks, eh?’
‘Oh, they’re not mine. No, these ones are lost I’m afraid.’
‘What? Listen, whatever this is, I’m not in the mood. Okay? I need to get back to work.’
‘A bit late for that.’
‘What?’
‘Just-’, the old man cuts himself off. ‘Listen,’ he reaches out the hand holding the bread, ‘why don’t you sit here a while? Feed the ducks. Calm down. You can’t go anywhere with all that anger inside you.’
‘Will you shut up if I take your stupid bread?’
The old man smiles. ‘Of course. In fact,’ he pauses and makes a show of looking at his watch, ‘I had best be on my way. I’m not even supposed to be here.’ There is nobody else in the park but the old man leans forward and whispers, ‘It’s cheating really.’ The old man stands and walks behind the bench. He places a hand on the shoulder of the younger man, ‘Sit awhile. Feed the ducks. Try to calm down before you go. It will be better that way.’ With a pat on the shoulder, he walks away.

He reaches into the bag and removes a slice of stale bread. Using both hands, he works his way down one side, separating the crust from the crumb. Hands busy, his eyes drift about the pond. There is a duck waddling towards him. Two others following close behind. After breaking the crust into smaller pieces he tosses a handful at the duck’s feet. It ignores the bread and continues its approach, stopping a few feet away. Neck stretched and bill held high it opens its wings and proudly displays its plumage, like a poor man's peacock. The man is unimpressed but the two ducks go crazy; bobbing their heads, letting out short, sharp, high-pitched quacks and low croaking calls. It reminds him of the boardroom and that bitch, Samantha, preening and posing in front of her followers. Mocking his ideas and not letting him finish his sentences. As the anger swells inside him he feels a shooting pain in his leg and something like skin tearing on his foot.

He reaches down to take off his shoe and spots the fattest duck he has ever seen waddling - no, wobbling - into view. The duck is so fat he cannot see its legs. It heads towards the bread he tossed earlier. With no change in pace, the duck gobbles up the bread and alters its course towards him. He tears apart the rest of the slice in his hand as the duck quacks orders at him. This chubby bird reminds him of Trevor and all his jowly bluster. The likeness doesn’t make him angry this time. It amuses him and he relaxes, the pain in his foot gone, or at least forgotten. He throws another handful of crumbs to Trevor, chuckling to himself, and glances around the pond.

He spots another duck sat a few feet away at the water’s edge. It is thinner than the rest, much thinner than Trevor, and looks as if it hasn’t eaten in some time. He throws some bread into the water next to it and stretches his leg, blocking the fat duck from approaching. The skinny duck turns its head idly, inspects the bread, sighs, as well as any duck can sigh, and then lowers its head back onto its body. Too lazy to swim the few inches necessary to reach the meal. He bends his knee, ‘Go on then, Trev. It’s all yours.’

Seizing its opportunity, a new arrival bursts out from the reeds, rushes past him and Trevor, and snatches up the bread. It races back to its spot amongst the reeds and drops the bread onto an already impressive stockpile. It quacks triumphantly. Trevor quacks back. The man shouts, ‘Oi! You little c-’ the words come out strangled and he coughs to clear his throat. ‘Okay, Trev. Let’s try that again.’ He tosses another handful onto the ground but once again Trevor is too slow and the newcomer collects up every piece before returning them to his soggy hoard on the water. The same story plays out three more times before his phone rings.

He places the bag of bread onto the bench next to him and digs into his pocket. Samantha. Fuck that. He flicks the phone onto silent - not brave enough to reject the call. Temper rising, he feels a sharp pain in his back as he twists to push the phone back into the front of his trousers. Bitch. More tearing between his toes and a wetness, like blood. Again he reaches down to take off his shoe and again he is distracted. He sees Samantha - duck Samantha - quacking frantically and wrestling to break free from the affections of one of her followers, who has mounted her. ‘That’s it, my son! Let her have it!’ he shouts and then laughs. Laughs at Samantha - duck Samantha and person Samantha - laughs at himself, laughs at these funny little ducks, laughs at the absurdity of it all.

Reaching into the bag he realises there is no more bread. ‘I guess that’s time up, fellas. Sorry, Trev, I’ll get you next time.’ He stands and stretches, enjoying an unexpected looseness, before heading back to the entrance. The gate is ajar and he takes hold of one of the metal railings. He turns to take a final look at the park he had never noticed before. As he watches the ducks, he envies their simple existence. The gate slams shut. The railing breaking free of his grip. He takes hold of it once more and pulls. It doesn’t move. He pulls again. And again. Harder and harder until he is heaving at the gate with all his might. He checks but already knows there is no lock. He looks through the bars for a passer-by. Someone to help him. He sees his office building across the road. A road filled with activity and blue lights. He sees a lorry stopped in the middle of the road, the driver stood next to it holding a polystyrene cup as a policeman asks him questions. He sees paramedics huddled around the twisted body of a young man. Trying to save him. The victim is wearing the same suit as him. Panic takes over. He tugs at the gate and screams to the people outside to help him but nobody reacts.

The screams garble, turning into something guttural and nonsensical. The world around him grows. Or is he shrinking? Pain courses through him as his skin rips and peels from his body. Feathers sprout from the muscle. His bones break and reform. Wrath fills him once more and he races towards the ducks. Attacking them with his beak and quacking furiously.

End


© Copyright 2018 Matt Ding. All rights reserved.

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