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If I Were A Duck
By Charles Parker
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Charles Parker
All rights reserved.
It was fall. The trees were almost naked; the leaves, one here, one there, seemed to be hanging on for dear life. The sun was shining with that comfortable warmth only the sun can give. It was a perfect fall day, the kind of fall day when a sweater feels so good. I had just come in from the pond when bursting through the front door all the grandchildren appeared. They clamored, "Oh boy!" "Hey, Gramps!" "Hi, Gramps." After everyone took a turn in the cookie jar and then got comfy, my eldest grandson said, "Grandpa, please tell us a story!"
Well, it was the best day for sitting around, gathered under a blanket, to listen to a good story. "Okay," I said. "You're lucky! I'm in the mood for storytelling! It just so happens that I have a story I've been holding on to for a very long time. This is a story I have had to wait to tell. It will be difficult for you to believe what you are about to hear, but this actually happened to Grandpa!"
The grandchildren began pleading, "Tell us, Grandpa, tell us!"
We used the blanket to wrap ourselves in warmth and gathered on the big couch.
"Well," I said, "okay, here goes ..."
It was a day just like this. I put off the raking I was supposed to do and headed far up north to the one trail I knew so well. When I parked the car and got out, I noticed that there was no wind at all. It was strange for that time of year way up in the woods. It was a little cool, so I put on an old hiking sweater I had in the car.
It was one of my favorite sweaters, with a big collar that smelled of the dozen or so campfires beside which I had warmed myself while daydreaming about things I'd like to do, places I would like to go, and people I want to meet. Sometimes when the hiking season is over, I would go down into the cellar and put my nose in that sweater and think of the mountains I love.
I began to walk when I felt something odd. There were no sounds of birds chirping or any movement from the branches blowing in the wind, not even chipmunks scurrying through the crumbled dry leaves. It was quiet, very quiet, and very strange. Now the trail itself seemed different, like I had never been here before. I felt like an explorer, finding a place that no one had ever seen or had ever traveled. Time seemed to stand still, even though I had been walking for a long time. As if in a trance, I just walked and walked. I suddenly noticed the trees were getting bigger and bigger! I stopped to look up. "Wow," I thought to myself. "I don't remember these trees ever being this tall!" When I stopped and looked around, I noticed a pond through the trees. I never saw a pond here, a place I had visited many times before. Things were getting stranger and a bit scarier every minute. Then out of nowhere, the wind began to blow, and a chill went down my back, although not a chill from being cold.
The wind that sent that chill down my back stopped as quickly as it had begun. I walked up to the water, found a large rock in front a huge pine tree, sat down, leaned back, and looked around. As if to tell me to look up, a single leaf drifted down ever so slowly. As it settled to the ground, it made a noise. That's how quiet it was. The pond was calm, not a ripple, and blue, so blue it made me close my eyes and squint! I blinked a couple of times, and there in front of me, as if by magic, were the most beautiful ducks paddling around. Ducks always intrigued me. When they were in the water moving about, there seemed to be no movement, as if they were being pulled by an underwater string.
There were ducks and fish jumping out of the water. On the opposite side, there were deer drinking from the pond. Even some beavers were playing a game. Birds of every color were everywhere. Above the trees, two eagles soared up and down, as if held by an invisible hand. What a place! It hypnotized me. It felt like I had been sitting there my whole life. Two clouds drifted by, and I almost thought they were playing too. This was truly a wonderful place. I had never felt so calm and comfortable in my life.
Finally, I realized I had been in the woods for a long time. It was getting late. I thought that I had better get going before it got too dark. I stood up, stretched, and then I heard a sound. It seemed like the first sound I had heard all day, even with all the activity all around me. With the wind moving through the branches high in the trees, I listened more intently. Whoooeee, whoooeee, I heard. Then, as if from far away, I heard, "Charlie, Charlie."
"No," I thought, "it must be my imagination." There was no one in the woods at that time of the day. I started to head out of the woods on my way back home, or so I thought. I turned and started to walk and before my eyes was a tree. Not just any tree. This was a big tree, I mean gargantuan! No matter where my eyes went, there was the tree! And there in the tall green grass was an acorn as big as a basketball!
Then I heard it again, "Charliee, Charliee." Who had such a faraway voice? Why was that voice calling my name? The voice continued, so I began to circle the tree. "What a laugh!" I thought First I started to walk, then run around the tree trunk! Then there he was—an old man leaning against the tree. I needed to think, so I sat down on a log and put my elbows on my knees, my head in my hands, and pondered that strange and mysterious tree holding up that old man. Or was the old man holding up that big tree?
"Charliee, Charliee," I heard it again. It was funny that my first thought of him was that he was an old man, for he wasn't old at all. He had sparkling blue eyes that were clear and shiny. They seemed to have a light of their own. The crinkled corners of his eyes made him look friendly—and smart. I didn't feel afraid of him at all. In fact, I felt good. The man in the woods waved me over. He had an old green felt hat that looked like he had been born wearing it. His shirt was the woodsmen red and black checkered wool, and he wore wide suspenders with lots of colored stripes.
"I'm the old man of the woods. Don't ask how old, for I have been around a long time. Follow me." He turned and started to walk around the tree, and so I followed. We walked around the tree. Suddenly, the old man stopped, turned to the tree, waved his hand, and bam! A big door opened, and a bright light glowed out into the forest. He waved for me to follow. As I walked into the tree, the door shut behind me without even a sound. Wow!
Well, you would not believe what I saw next. A huge room! Walls all shiny and smooth. I began to wonder, "Who could make walls like this inside of a tree? Could it be the old man?" I stood there in awe. In the middle of the room was a wooden staircase as wide as a truck, and it wound up in a slight curve. Up and up went the staircase until it disappeared. It too was shiny; this time it had diamonds and rubies imbedded into the wood. Every spindle was carved with the most ornate patterns one could ever have seen. Somebody was surely a good worker. Looking closely at the carvings, I saw that each one told a story. I wanted to see everything at once, and it seemed as though I did. Time was standing still. I hadn't noticed but my new friend had left the room, so I began to walk around. Hundreds of clocks were everywhere, ticking and tocking, cuckoo here, cuckoo there—all kinds of clocks, grandfather clocks so big the pendulums were six feet long! The clocks were on the walls, on the floors, on the shelves, every style imaginable. The carvings and intricate painting details made them look expensive and worth a lot of money. The sound of the clocks, whirring, chiming, clicking, chirping all at once, was like a beautiful orchestra.
I looked closely at the carvings, and I saw that they all told a different story. I was trying to see everything at once, and it seemed as though I did. Of course, I was looking at this place for a long time, but time was standing still. I hadn't noticed, but my new friend had left the room, so I began to walk around. Hundreds of clocks were everywhere, ticking and tocking, cuckooing and chirping. There were all kinds of clocks: some big, some small, and grandfather clocks so big that their pendulums were six feet long. The clocks were on the walls, on the floors, and on the shelves, made in every shape imaginable. The carvings and paintings on the clocks had to be worth a large amount of money. The sound of the clocks whirring, chiming, clicking, and chirping all at once was like a beautiful orchestra.
The floor was covered with a large carpet, decorated with the stars and planets of the universe. It was all woven into the carpet with lively colors, and it was all so perfect; at least, it certainly looked perfect to me.
Then I walked over to a window. Windows were all around this wonderful room. They were trimmed in stained glass, and they were so big, just like everything else in that place. From the window, I could see everything: the pond and the animals, the birds, the deer. "That's funny," I thought, for there were no windows on the outside of this mystery tree house.
The woodsman finally returned to the room, and he was carrying a large round platter of food. He set it down on an enormous oak table. "Sit down and join me for dinner," he said. Cheese, apples, bread, fruits, and nuts covered the platter. A large bucket of hot chocolate and two silver mugs were there right beside the platter of food. As we sat and ate, my new friend began to talk. His voice was soft and reassuring, but I could sense in his voice that there were many secrets and a great deal of knowledge.
"Well, Charlie, I'll get to the point," he said. I felt a tingle in my stomach, and I must have looked worried. "Relax, my friend. I hope that what I have to tell you will make you feel good. I have been watching you for a long time. Oh, you didn't know it, but I have kept my eye on you, and I've liked what I've seen. That's why you are here."
The woodsman continued, "Because you have been my kind of guy, I am going to give you one wish. This wish will last for seven days. You must promise that you will be back at the pond in seven days, no matter what —good or bad. You must be back in seven days by twelve noon. Now you are asking yourself, 'What is this wish?' Well, here it is: You may wish to be any bird or animal that you like. I ask that if you accept this wish, you will tell no one of this journey until your eldest grandson is five years old. You may choose to leave here, of course, without accepting the wish, and no one will be the wiser. I will understand."
I thought to myself, "I'm not even married. How does he know I'll have a grandson? However, this man seems to know plenty, so just listen." He stopped talking. I looked him in the eye and asked, "Any animal?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Hmm," I thought. "This could be a great adventure and quite exciting!" I asked him, "How long do I have to think about this?"
"One hour," he said, and with that, he left me alone in that mystery place, with more mystery to come.
"Well," I asked myself, "what do I do now? This is a big chance for adventure." But there were many questions left to ask. What animal or bird would I want to be? What would happen if I were not back in seven days? What would become of me? I had to ask him.
As I sat there thinking, chipmunks and squirrels were walking all over the place, and a big, soft, chubby rabbit with great big ears sat down in front of me; he looked up at me as if to ask, "What are you going to do, Charlie?"
I looked down at that rabbit and asked, "What would you do if you were me?"
The rabbit tilted his head to one side, as if to say, "I don't know," and then lumbered off under the table. What a place! Suddenly, I felt funny and sensed that there was someone behind me. I felt a warm breeze pass by my face. "What the heck?" I said to myself, then slowly I turned in my chair. Holy cow!
Standing behind me was the biggest bear I had ever seen! He must have been fifteen feet tall and wider than an elephant! Standing there and smiling, he stuck out his paw as if to shake my hand. I put my hand out and he took it, and it disappeared into his gigantic paw. Gently, very gently, he shook my hand up and down. I was ready to call out to the woodsman, "Could you come and help me?" But the bear let go, sat down, and began to take a nap. He rolled into a chair and looked awfully comfortable. I wondered what he would do if I got up and walked around. I had to get up and think about the wish.
Slowly I stood up. The bear grumbled and rolled over onto his other side. I, then, walked toward the window and looked outside. I stood alone in front of the window, gazing out at the pond. From the sky, two graceful forms glided down to the water. With no effort, they settled down without making a ripple. They were ducks. I knew right then that I would accept the wish and be a duck for seven days. My mind floated ahead to the places I could go and the things I could do.
There was a slight tap on my shoulder, and I saw the old man standing beside me with a big smile. "Well," I said, "I've decided to accept your offer, but I would like to ask you one thing. If, by chance, I cannot get back to the pond in seven days, what will happen to me?"
He said, "You must get back at all costs." I knew by the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes that there was no choice.
I had to get back. "Okay," I said, "I accept."
He replied, "Good. What would you like to be for seven days?"
I stood there with a thousand things flashing through my mind. I was afraid that I wouldn't get back, but I was so much more excited about the adventure. With a deep breath, I said, "A duck."
He smiled, as if to agree with my choice. He said, "Then a duck you shall be, and a handsome duck. Follow me." I followed him across the carpet, and it seemed like it took forever to get to the door. Without stopping, or touching the door, it opened wide. The sun came in the room and warmed me; it made me glad I had decided to become a duck. Outside, the water was as blue as the woodsman's eyes. The sky was so clear. I could see forever.
Birds were flying all over like they were celebrating something special. When we reached the edge of the water, the woodsman turned and looked me in the eyes, like he had done before. That look sent chills up my spine. I just stood there, not knowing what to do. He smiled, put his big hand on my shoulder, and spoke these words: "Remember, you must be back in seven days. Have a good time, learn all you can learn, and come back safe." Bam! Everything seemed to light up. The woodsman's eyes sparkled, and all fell silent. I didn't know where I was. Suddenly, there I was, waddling on the ground like a duck! Animals seemed to come from all over, jumping up and down. It was great! I, Charlie the duck, waddled into the water.
The adventure had begun. The water was cool and refreshing. I had to try out my new wings.
The adventure had begun. The water was cool and refreshing. I had to try out my new flippers, but all I could do was waddle around in circles. Being a duck takes a little practice. I thought, "Well, I'll swim first and fly later." Now I was being pulled by that invisible string, just the way I had always thought ducks looked in the water! There was no movement, but the ducks I had seen always moved with no movement. "This is neat!" The woodsman stood on the shore, watching.
He yelled, "Charlie, anytime now the adventure can begin!"
I lifted up my wings and waved back. "Thanks." A talking duck?! I'd better be careful whom I talk to! Then I looked up, and the woodsman was gone. I began to feel lonely, but not for long.
I paddled a while, getting a feel of my flippers. The animals all lined up around the edge of the pond were all smiling wildly. They started yelling, "Go for it! Go for it, Charlie!"
I said to myself, "Well, here goes. I'm about to fly." I began paddling my webbed feet fast; at the same time, I flapped my wings. I was out of the water, but not for long! Crash! Bam! Bang! I was flipping and somersaulting until I stopped with a thud. I shook the water out of my ears and looked around. The animals watching and cheering me on were laughing but in a friendly way. I smiled and waved, trying to act as if it were nothing, but in truth I was embarrassed. Two fish, a beautiful rainbow trout named Teresa and a largemouth bass named Melissa, swam over and shared some advice. Melissa the largemouth bass said, "Charlie, try thinking like a duck."
Excerpted from If I Were A Duck by Charles Parker. Copyright © 2014 Charles Parker. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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