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It's A Duck Thing

“Do you want a duck?”

It’s a question one doesn’t hear often. (I’m speculating, of course, but ask yourself, “How many times in my life have I been asked if I want a duck?” and if you can honestly say it’s happened more than once, I’d said you’re a rare bird … pun intended.)

So, when asked, there was only one appropriate reply. “Yes, thank you. That’s so kind!”

Now, had it been the real thing, a living, quacking, waddling, pooping type of duck, I likely – check that, I most certainly – would have politely declined the offer. I can only imagine Joanie’s reaction had I come home with a full-grown duck under my arm as I breezed into the house casually making small talk as though things like this happen every day.

Me (enters kitchen from garage): Hi Hon. How’s it going?

Joanie (at kitchen table, head in her work): I had a good day, just …

Duck: Quack, quack …

Joanie: (head snaps up from what she’s doing) … wrapping up … a.… few things from … today’s … what’s that?”

Me: Oh, it’s a duck. (sets duck down so she can get comfortable with her new home)

Joanie: (still questioning if what she is seeing is real): Uh, yeah, I see that … uh, but I guess … what I meant to ask is …

Me: It’s a gift, you know, from the kids. They have a duck thing going on at their school, and they asked if I wanted one. I thought that was cool, so I said yes.

Duck: Quack, quack … (waddles into living room, bored by the conversation)

But it wasn’t a real duck. Instead, it was tiny plastic replica of the classic “rubber ducky” made famous years ago by Ernie of Sesame Street, given to me by some super-cool, gracious, whip-smart high school students I had the honor and pleasure of meeting earlier in the day.

So, when immediately posed with the follow-up question, “Do you want two?” there was no way I could turn down such a generous offer. So, last Wednesday afternoon, I (or we, since Joanie is a 50/50 beneficiary of such a beautiful gesture) became the proud owners of two tiny, non-waddling, non-eating, non-pooping yellow ducks.

ASIDE: For all of you of a certain age, I apologize for putting the song “Rubber Ducky” in your head for the rest of the day.

Why do I share this? That’s easy. I had been asked, and (as I always do if my schedule permits) accepted an invitation to speak about writing, this time to the aforementioned group of super-cool, gracious, whip-smart high school students.

When I have an audience, it’s always a good experience for me because 1) I love to talk, 2) I love having an audience, whether it’s two or 200 and 3) I love to talk, so much so that I felt the need to list it twice.

Thing is, I never know how an audience will respond. Will they laugh at my jokes? Will they nod in understanding as I share the stories and sage wisdom I’ve accumulated across all those years “in the trenches”? Will they lose interest soon after I begin, leaving me desperately trying to reel them in with more stories and jokes, each one missing the target worse than the last?

On this day, I didn’t have to worry about it. In two, one-hour sessions (the first a small cohort studying essay writing, the second a much larger group who listened to me read from my books) they listened, they laughed, they asked questions (really, really good ones), and they shared their stories and sage wisdom from their own experiences “in the trenches.” (You don’t have to be old to have “trenches.”)

It was, in a word, a BLAST for me, and the two hours flew by.

And so, after I finished, when approached by one of the students who asked, “Do you want a duck?” I knew I had been accepted by this group, an honorary member of the Super-Cool, Gracious, Whip-Smart Student Club. (That’s a working title; I’m sure they can come up with something much better.)

It meant the world to me. And as I drove home with my ducks, I kept thinking how much I hoped I had said something – anything -- during my two-hour ramble that inspired, influenced or at least entertained them.

But maybe that’s what the second duck was for, to tell me, “You did OK.”

Now, I might never sell as many books as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, David Sedaris, Oprah or James Patterson, but I’ll challenge any of them with this question: “Have you ever, in your life, been offered a duck?”

I’ll bet they haven’t.

And I’ll take, keep and treasure those ducks as payment, validation and acceptance any day of the week.

P.S. If it’s already escaped your mind, let me help … Rubber ducky, you’re the one/you make bath time lots of fun/rubber ducky I’m awfully fond of you/vo-do-do-di-oh …

© 2023 David R. Haznaw

(To see photos of my experience at Endeavor Charter school, go to the Fun Stuff section of my website.)

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