Peter and The Duck

She’d rehearsed it all: upon the wolf’s approach, she’d slip behind a rock and throw up a poof of feathers. She got to open a new bag every time, because after the show, the feathers became collector’s items for kids in the crowd. They were especially coveted after her surprise appearance at the end of the ballet, sporting a halo, strumming a plastic harp. It was a happy ending of sorts: an afterlife, even for a gobbled-up duck. And she wanted every bit of it perfect.

The front row held a boy in a letter jacket. The duck’s boyfriend. Beside him, a grayed woman with a camera. The duck’s grandma. They’d just met, and together, they watched their girl get mauled. The boy laughed and the grandma winced and the boy regretted laughing .

Meanwhile, the duck worried that her tutu maybe stuck out from behind the plaster rock. She scooted on her knees, and her tights snagged against the concrete—they were performing outside. The duck peaked between rocks, watching the wolf pick its teeth with a feather. The wolf to duck ratio was off—the duck being taller and rounder than the skinny wolf-girl. The wolf-girl had gotten the parts the duck wanted in Nutcracker, year after year. But now, wolf-girl wore a gray unitard, covered with swaths of matted-faux-fur. And the duck wore a white tutu. Like swans do.

The boyfriend was swigging Gatorade and burped. The grandma was taking a thousand photos a minute, holding the shutter continuously, remembering that the harp/halo part was coming up.

The wolf-girl leaped wildly, an apotheosis before Peter’s heroic capture. On and on she danced to Prokofiev’s French horn. The duck, still crouched behind the rock, had readied her halo. But the wolf’s french horns still crackled through the speakers. Even sans tutu, the wolf had been on stage longer.

The boyfriend was ready to split. Time to move on to other things. The grandma’s heart swelled. All those classes and now, finally, a tutu.

In history, the duck had learned that Hitler and crew kept cyanide capsules ready toward the end. As the Soviets closed in from the east, and Allied forces approached in the west, Hitler was prepared. So she bit down on her capsule, letting the liquid fill her mouth, happy to let some ooze from her lips. She adjusted her halo, rose from behind the bush, and smeared her hands from lips to chest.

The boyfriend gasped. Of course his eyes had been right there. But the grandma didn’t notice until the duck waddled to the front of the stage, beckoned again by the oboe. Her eyes had barely settled when the duck lunged toward the wolf.

The duck’s bloodied mouth grasped for the wolf’s tail. She crouched low to the ground, yanking, gagging, as the wolf staggered forward. Peter stumbled backward, dropping the lasso, losing his hold on the wolf. The wolf struggled and spun to face her captor. Right then, the duck dropped the tail, rose to look the wolf in the eye, and swept into a curtsey.

 

by Patrice Hutton

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