Survivor Part 2


I couldn’t get the tractor started. Again. The mid-60’s relic always needed a jump, but I thought, through some miracle of corroded wire and rusted metal, somehow this time would be different.

But it rarely is, right?

When someone shows you who they are, over and over, you should probably believe them. Even if that someone is a small red tractor who’s internal integrity has been compromised.

I opened the hood to expose the motor, just as a fluttering caught my eye in the pond, where the mama duck and her sole little survivor were doing laps. I’d thought the mama had maybe abandoned the duckling when she flew off a few days ago, but apparently there’s a hiding place in the bordering rocks that the hawks, bobcats, and coyotes don’t know about.

I turned back to the tractor and the patchwork of used parts that have kept her in service since before I was born. I should probably retire her as a lawn ornament, where she can watch over the landscape she used to plow through, and sometimes get stuck in, depending on who was driving.

A tangle of cables later, I got her running.

Just needed a jump.

Photo by Mika Luoma on Unsplash



You pregnant yet?

I interrogated the female with the direct question, as I climbed through the fence to feed the horses this morning.

She didn’t answer.

Ducks don’t talk.

But I got an answer this afternoon, when I saw her guiding her young around the pond in the pasture.

Usually, at least a half dozen ducklings would be there this time of year.

I leaned against the fence rail, watching the single survivor follow her mother.

What happened?

Two drakes glided to the surface from the cobalt sky and squawked either threat or acknowledgement, most likely the former, because she hustled the duckling close to her wing and headed toward the edge of the pond, where she climbed up the bank and flew off.

Without the duckling.

Is this why only one survived, because the mother abandoned the rest?

Or were her eggs robbed by hawks, and she’s devised a hiding place at the edge of the pond for her survivor?

I don’t know.

Not yet, anyway.

I mean, this just happened a minute ago.

Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash

Training Wheels

Easter was confusing but tolerable when I was a kid. A rabbit would hide eggs in the backyard, and sometimes they’d hold surprises like a dollar bill or Hershey’s kiss in their plastic shells. Unless, of course, I found one of the hardboiled versions I’d dyed while sporting a well-intentioned bib at the dinette table.

The rewards were substantial enough that I didn’t bother to analyze the incongruities of the holiday. Why a rabbit? Why chicken eggs? Why plastic eggs? Why eggs at all? Why dye them? What did this have to do with some guy that apparently rose from the dead, which was a whole other tangle of incongruities?

I was 5. These questions were not important.

The afternoon before that Easter, I tried riding my bike with my eyes closed in the alley behind the house. My steed had training wheels, so I had nothing to lose. I’m not sure what I had to gain, either, but logic rarely got in the way of my ill-advised missions back then.

I hit the neighbor’s brick wall a few pedals later and crashed to the concrete. My best friend, who lived down the street and was also testing the true limits of wheeled transportation, ditched his skateboard and ran over to check on me. My arm looked strange from my vantage point, which was confirmed by his rapidly paling face, and didn’t seem to be a good sign.

So I started to cry.

He ran inside to get my mom, and ran right back out, telling me she said to stop crying.

By then the pain had caught up to the shock, and I was crying even harder. He ran back inside to get my mom, and again ran right back out to deliver the same message.

But I couldn’t stop crying.

The third attempt proved successful, and I was at Long Beach Memorial within 20 minutes, where a gruff surgeon older than time took my little limb in his massive hands, told me to look at the TV mounted in the upper corner of the room, and administered the biggest pain hit of my young life when he set the compound fracture.

The next morning, I wandered around the backyard, pulling back fern leaves in frustration with my one good arm, as I clumsily endeavored to retrieve each egg before the greenery returned to form.

That’s the last childhood Easter I remember.

And the last time I closed my eyes while riding my bike.

Those training wheels stayed on for a long time, though.