Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Lock (03/06/06)
TITLE: Lord Love A Duck
By Jan Ackerson
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My husband and I were passengers on just such a ferry—the Chief Shingwauk, departing from the Canadian side of the locks—with our two little daughters, perhaps twenty years ago. Once we had boarded, the immense gates of the lock began to swing closed, isolating the tourist-filled boat which sat temporarily motionless in the middle of the river. As we watched the gates close, I noticed a lone duck paddling lazily in the water below.
The gates continued to creak together—slowly, slowly—and from my viewpoint it appeared that the duck would surely be crushed between the massive slabs of metal. They were enormous—as tall as a two-story building and perhaps a yard thick of solid iron. The duck was just calmly swimming, apparently oblivious to the gates, now only a few yards short of being locked shut.
I couldn’t take my eyes off that stupid bird. When I pointed it out to my husband, he just laughed tenderly at my anxiety. “Sweetie,” he said, “that duck can fly. When it realizes that the gates are closing in, it’ll just fly out of there.”
Feeling somewhat sheepish, I acknowledged that ducks can, indeed, fly. Nevertheless, I continued to watch, chewing my lower lip, as the two doors of the locks drew closer—closer—closer together. By this point, the girls had seen the duck, too, and had caught my anxiousness on his behalf. Rather than watching the operation of the lock, their eyes were drawn to the little speck bobbing in the water. He was simply making lazy circles, precisely where the gates would eventually meet.
I now suspect that ducks—or at least this particular duck—are fairly low on the continuum of animal intelligence. It wasn’t until the gates were perhaps two feet short of closing that he realized his predicament. But instead of flying to safety, he began to paddle madly in the direction of the lake, while the gates continued to creak and groan toward him.
By this time, several other passengers on the Chief Shingwauk had noticed Mr. Drake. Everyone was laughing at his frantic paddling and his waggling hind end. At the last possible moment, he made it through the gates of the lock and into the waters of Lake Superior. His narrow escape was punctuated by the applause of dozens of tourists.
How often I have paddled furiously in circles, and narrowly escaped a situation fraught with danger—simply because I have forgotten that I can fly!
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