Saturday, January 19, 2008

FOR WHOM THE DUCK QUACKS

By Maurice Updike

“You know what?” Jim Fletcher said. “I ain’t never heard your duck quack. Why is that so?”

Billy Troutman stared at Fletcher like he’d asked why more people don’t drink motor oil. “Just never you mind why that duck hasn’t quacked,” he said. “But I tell you what, if you ever do hear that duck quack – and I’m not saying the duck will ever quack, but it most certainly could – then you best run.”

“And why would I run?” Fletcher said. “It’s just a damn duck. A defective, no-quackin' duck.”

“Oh, that duck can quack,” Troutman said, “It can quack like you wouldn’t believe a duck could quack. I just pray that it don’t care to anytime soon, 'less you want to trade in them work boots for a pair a runnin' shoes and a cast-iron overcoat.”

Fletcher laughed and lit a cigarette. “Look here, friend," he said, "if that duck quacks, I ain’t goin' nowhere, and that’s a fact."

“Well,” Troutman replied, “I expect the duck'll have a thing or two to say about that.”

It wasn't long before the two men saw the duck in question waddling up from the pond. Troutman immediately dropped his cup of coffee and began backing up toward the house. The duck looked at Fletcher and then at Troutman, and then it fixed its gaze firmly back on Fletcher.

And then the duck began to quack.

The cows in a nearby pasture began stampeding. Troutman’s hogs tried to bury themselves in the mud. Troutman himself hurled open the cellar door, grabbed his screaming family and leapt inside. But Fletcher, true to his word, did not move – could not move, as if hypnotized by the duck's piercing brown eyes and glossy green head feathers and, above all, its rhythmic, scalp-tingling quacks.

The air grew deliriously hot, and the world seemed bathed in fiery orange light. And as the quacking reached its terrifying crescendo, it occurred to Fletcher that perhaps his curiosity had finally gotten the better of him.

And then his face melted off.

(Author Maurice Updike has twice won the Raymond Carver Prize in its lesser-known Aquatic Fowl category.)

2 comments:

Scrubby Nub and The Bothered Brigade said...

Changed the ending around a bit? Still genius work. I don't think micro-literature, generally speaking, has enough face melting.

Maurice Updike said...

Well, thank you very much!Sometimes I take a look at the finished product and decide the action needs to be a bit more drastic, especially with regard to malevolent ducks.