Groucho: Now here is a little peninsula … and over here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.
Chico: Why a duck?
Groucho: I’m fine, how are you? I said, this is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.
Chico: All right, why a duck? Why a duck? Why not a chicken?
Groucho: Well, I don’t know why a chicken. I’m a stranger here myself. I know that’s a viaduct. You try and cross over there on a chicken and you’ll find out why a duck.
Chico: It’s deep water, that’s why a duck.
Marx Brothers (from movie Cocoanuts)
Sitting looking out the large window through the soft rain across the valley thinking of the launch of The Elusive Language of Ducks coming up in a couple of weeks. Thinking of how it all started…
I wanted chooks not a duck. But a duckling arrived unannounced in my house, an orphan, its mother killed by a predator.
‘But you’ve always wanted chooks,’ said my daughter as she handed over the container with this two day old skittery fluffy thing scrabbling around its smelly straw. ‘Anyway, we can’t have it as Pedro would get it. And duck eggs are great for cooking. And … it’s perfect timing for Christmas dinner.’
Pedro is their enormous pantheresque cat that spends his life with his nose skimming the floor in the hunt for random food, or outside on the lookout for birds, mice, rats, or any juicy animal that will fit between his jaws of broken-glass teeth. I agreed to look after the duckling until it was ready for the world. I reluctantly became fascinated by the design of its feathering up, its sense of knowing about duck life even though it had no role models.
It had adopted me as its mother. Each night I’d write a few notes about its development. My own mother had recently died so I was feeling out of kilter with the world. This funny little dependent creature was able to make me laugh. It followed me everywhere and became anxious when I left it. As it grew, I in turn became attached to the duck, struggling always to understand what it meant by its wide variety of expressive sounds. Its language. I started thinking about the nature of attachment and love, and obsession. And addiction. Characters, like the duckling, arrived unannounced into my thoughts. Into my notes. What if, what if, what if …
So this is why a duck. How the novel, The Elusive Language of Ducks, evolved. The fraying strands of reality weaving into a fictional world that seemed to exist even before I tapped into it.