Cleo’s best friend – other than me, Keeper of the Food – is a duck. A stuffed duck.
A stuffed duck with a ripped beak and a limp neck.
Cleo takes Ducky everywhere, and is happiest when the fattest part fills her mouth. “Where’s Ducky?” we say, “go get Ducky!” She frantically searches upstairs and clatters back, full of triumphant duck. Then she tries to impress us by whacking it about the neck. “Is that a kill-ing?” we’ll say, “are you killing Ducky?”
Cleo can’t kill a ladybug or even retrieve a tennis ball. She shakes the duck but winds up shaking her own body, getting dizzy and hitting the rug. Still, we egg her on. “Yes you do…you do kill that Ducky!”
And that’s where reality breaks. For people who are not hunters, people who do not shoot waterfowl or sit in cold duck blinds, we sure do think it’s cute. Labs and ducks…so very Orvis, so by-the-fire! Josie won’t touch real duck – not roasted or smoked, not cherried or stuffed, she declares it just too Donald. “They swam in the pool,” she’ll remind us, “at the Wilderness Lodge.”
The duck makes us do stupid things. I run around yelling “Get Ducky!” and ring like Eliza Doolittle – “get ducky, guv’na!” When we urge Cleo to entertain us with a “killing,” we’re suddenly a plush toy lynch mob. Not one of us would ever hurt a duck. Maybe a slice of smoked duck breast now and then, fine, as long as I didn’t make it, but…there’s no getting around it. There’s just something about those eyes and that floppy green neck…