Yet another visitor from the animal kingdom dropped by my place yesterday. This time as I looked out my window I was struck by the sight of a lovely duck on my windowsill. The pond in the park up the street from my building serves as the summer home to ducks most years. Repeatedly pecking at my window with its bill, this bird clearly wanted my attention.
I made my way over to the window and opening it my guest hastily introduced herself as Mallory.
“Mallory?” I said.
“Yes, Mallory Mallard to be precise.” I guess I should have seen that coming. But to be honest, I was more taken in by what was on Mallory’s back than by her name. It appeared to be a harness contraption on which were secured five miniature car child-seats. Buckled into each was a weeks-old duckling. Some nodding-off to sleep, others looking around curiously.
Noticing my rapt gaze, Mallory continued “And they are Malcolm Mallard, Malachy Mallard, the twins Malvin and Malvina Mallard, and Malina Mallard. Malik Mallard and Malka Mallard are with their father. Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to make this quick so I can get these guys back in the water and continue teaching them the ways of duck life,” she said.
I must still have been looking quite gobsmacked by the sight as, sensing my preoccupation with both her and the little ones, Mallory said “Wait a minute, let me guess. This is the first time you’ve talked with a duck isn’t it?”
I nodded in agreement.
“And you’re probably surprised that I’m not idiotically squawking my words like Donald or lisping exaggeratedly like Daffy or only saying one word, Aflac, over and over again. Let me tell you, if you smack my bill to the left or right, it won’t go round and round my head, so don’t get any silly ideas. Really, such stereotyping doesn’t become you.”
I had to agree that she had me with that one, so I pressed on and asked how I could help. She explained that since giving birth and starting the training process she and her brood have been photographed countless times by park visitors. “As we swan about the park pond there is a plethora of camera and smart phone wielding gawkers snapping away.”
“Excuse me,” I interrupted, “‘swan’ about?”
“I’m not the writer here,” she said. “Nor is English my first language, but would you prefer ‘duck’ about?”
She had me again.
“We’re not annoyed at all the paparazzi attention, but we would like to know what these photos are being used for, and whether we can come to an agreement on royalties and fees if they are being put to commercial use. It is also de rigueur to blur the faces of children in public photos. Is that being done?”
I told Mallory that I was aware of the photos, in fact one of the finest examples I had seen was in a post on my neighbour and fellow blogger’s page. I tried to assure her that no harm would come to the little ones, and that I was pretty certain no money was being made when I could resist no longer and told her to relax and “just let it roll off her back”. She didn’t seem to be amused, I didn’t know ducks could glare with such intensity.
Giving in to my curiosity I asked Mallory “You’re clearly very bright, articulate and intelligent. Why is it you have come to me for help? Surely you could get the information you need without my help”
“That’s a fair question,” she said.”Let me explain. Even if it is named for a bird sound, we can’t Tweet, any more than we can use Facebook or for that matter any computer-based communication system, even if it is the World Wide Web. We have feathery wings and webbed feet, they haven’t yet made the keyboard upon which those appendages are functional. Other birds, some you may have met, are able to use these devices because they have beaks instead of bills, and can hunt and peck. As for ducks, no dice.”
Knowing Mallory wanted to get back to the pond, I said I would look into her problem and get back to her as soon as I had some information. “Maybe you could get a Model Consent Form for us to use” she suggested. I told her I’d drop by the pond if a had any news, and if she wasn’t there I’d leave a message, write it ‘down’ if you will, I joked. There was that glare again as Mallory, shaking her head, took flight with the little ones.