Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Shhh. (02/18/10)
TITLE: Misery Loves Company
By Loren T. Lowery
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“Good gracious,” he mumbled, holding his head. “All that racket, it’s enough to make a head swim.” His tummy gave a quiet burp, a reminder of the dandelion roots he had indulged in last night.
Moving over to his Victrola, he put on one of his favorite Molezart records to see if the soothing music wouldn’t help muffle the din coming from the pond. To his dismay, he discovered that the record had become worn, and its intermittent scratches were in perfect tempo to the quacking outside. Scratch. Quack. Scratch. Quack…
Just then his phone rang. Because the phone lines were silk threads installed and maintained by local grass spiders, they weren’t always dependable, especially in the morning when dew weighed heavily upon the sticky strands.
In such cases, when the lines bowed and hit the ground, it caused a static hiss on the connection making it difficult to hear who was on the other end. So, this morning, with Molezart and the ducks in the background, all Dakota heard was Hiss. Crackle. Scratch. Quack…”
Dakota’s tummy offered up another quiet burp. “Hallo? Who is this?” he asked into the staticky phone. Hiss. Crackle. Scratch. Quack… was the only response. “Good grief,” he muttered hanging up.
He then turned off his Victrola. His burrow seemed to throb with the incessant quacking of the ducks. He put on his sunglasses and stepped outside.
Shiloh, an especially sociable Mallard, swam up to him. “Good morning, Dakota,” she quacked.
“Must you?” Dakota said.
“Must I what?”
“Quack all the time, that’s what.” His words came out a little harsher than he intended, but he couldn’t very well call them back, nor was he in any real mood to do so anyway.
“Goodness, but that is what ducks do, you know. Quack.”
“Well then, why can’t you go and do it somewhere else. Some of us need a little peace and quiet.”
“My, my, aren’t we in a foul mood today.” She quacked a grin. “No pun intended, foul, fowl, you know.”
“That’s not funny and you needn’t have quacked to say it.”
“Sorry,” she quacked, probably a little louder than necessary.
“Please.” He put his paws over his ears causing his sunglasses to slip down his nose to expose his bleary eyes.
She eyed him suspiciously, her voice turning haughty. “My mother warned me about dandelion roots…”
Perturbed and not wanting to listen, Dakota turned and moved back into his burrow.
The phone rang again, mixing with the noise outside. Ring. Quack. Ring. Quack… It was a better connection this time, especially without the Molezart scratch. Hiss. Crackle. Quack. Hiss. Crackle. Quack…”
“Hallo?” he said. A gaggle of giggling quacks greeted his ears before the line disconnected. “That is not funny, “he said into the phone.
Then, he got an idea. He ran back to the edge of the pond and called out to Shiloh. “I’ve got the most wonderful idea. I’m going to host a pond party and you and all of your friends are invited.
“Oh my yes, we do love parties. Is there anything we can bring?”
“Not at all. I have a secret recipe I’ve been wanting to share. Just have everyone here at supper and enjoy.”
Not wasting a moment, Dakota tunneled his way to a meadow east of the pond that stood in a full yellow glory of dandelion blooms.
A few hours later, Dakota had a large pot of dandelion stew bubbling away on the stove.
Just before supper, after the balloons and streamers had all been placed, and the “secret recipe” cooled in stoneware bowls, he had a twinge of conscience. But it was only for a moment as he remembered Shiloh’s haughty look and the sound of the anonymous giggling gaggle of quacks over the phone.
The party was a squawking success, lasting well into the night. “Everyone loves your secret recipe,” Shiloh hiccuped to Dakota. “You must share it with me.”
And he would, the next morning; but only after first rolling his Victrola to the pond's bank and playing his favorite John Phillips Sousa marches to wake the sleeping padding of ducks.
“Quiet!” someone, sounding a lot like Shiloh, shouted.
Dakota smiled, shutting the door to his burrow, welcoming the peace inside.
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