Delia waddled through the bushes, webbed feet plop-plop-plopping on the damp ground, to where her babies nestled in the center of the thicket. With her bill she tapped downy heads, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven—all present and accounted for.
She hadn’t meant to nest here. The park with the pond where she and all the other ducks congregated every spring lay just across the street. A miscalculation in her flight plan and, oops, she’d had to ground herself in the landscaped edge of a parking lot. What a relief that seven delightful ducklings had emerged, not in the least bothered by their unusual nursery.
“Darling duckies,” she said. “You know I’ve told you this is not where you were supposed to be hatched; that I just wasn’t able to get to the park in time. Now that you’re all strong and looking so pretty, we’re going to finish the journey. Pay attention Dilly, Dagne, Dickie, Dabney, Darla, Destiny and Darby. Up and out.”
Seven ducklings milled about getting themselves in order, excitedly chattering about the wonders of the pond their mother had described.
“Oh, no, you don’t, Darby!” said Dilly as her littlest brother tried to sneak into the front of the line. She nipped at his tail feathers until he resumed the tag-end spot.
Delia quacked her approval while Dilly helped get all the baby ducks in a row.
“Okay, follow me,” Delia ordered. Out from under the shrubbery she led her little flock. Past the rows of cars in the parking lot and into the shadow of the three-story office building they marched. She felt very proud of her hatchlings as they twitched their brown and yellow tail feathers, quite aware that from most of the windows in the building people watched smiling.
Down the sidewalk Delia and her babies trooped. At the edge of the four-lane street they stopped. Seven duckling heads swiveled from left to right as cars whizzed by.
“Mama, how’re we going to get across?” Dilly asked.
“Just follow me,” Delia announced confidently.
Delia hopped down into the gutter. “Come on, children. You can do it,” she urged. Like a feathery deluge, Dilly, Dagne, Dickie, Dabney, Darla, and Destiny joined her.
Looking up they could see Darby’s webbed feet barely poking over the edge of the curb.
“What’s wrong, Darby?” Dilly teased. “Not so eager to be first now, are you?”
Delia flapped her wings to gain access to the curb. With her bill she pushed Darby, to the amusement of his siblings, over the edge into the gutter squawking all the way.
“Careful now,” Delia said. “But hurry. The light’s red at that intersection so no cars will come for a couple of minutes. We must cross these two lanes before the light turns green.”
The seven ducklings had never scurried so fast. They reached the median lane just as the first cars breezed past. A couple of horns honked; the ducklings peeped back as loud as they could.
“The light at that other intersection’s red for the cars coming the other way, Mama,” Dilly said, quick to size up the situation.
“Right,” Delia said. “Let’s go.”
Seven ducklings followed their mama across the remaining two lanes without incident.
Delia flapped her wings up and over the curb onto the grass. She turned to make sure the children had followed.
“Oops! I’ve made another miscalculation!” she said, feathers all a-ruffle.
The ducklings, hopping and jumping, and flapping as yet non-functioning wings, for all their effort, remained in the gutter.
Delia waddled back and forth at the curb’s edge, quacking encouragement to no avail. The curb was just too high for them to manage.
“Oh, what a bird brain I am!” Delia chastised herself. “If only I had left one day sooner I could’ve laid my eggs in the park along with everyone else. Then my babies would’ve been safe. Oh, dear, what am I going to do?”
“Mama, Mama!” seven little voices peeped.
The light had turned green for the traffic on this side of the street. Cars sped past, the breeze they caused almost blowing little Darby away.
Suddenly a car stopped and the passenger door flew open. A woman jumped out and ran to the stranded feathered family. She quickly scooped each baby up in her hands one-by-one and deposited them on the grass next to Delia.
Delia quacked her thanks and then led her babies through the entrance into the park.
(Author’s note: Inspired by a true-life incident.)
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