It’s tough to know when it is spring in California. The weather is consistently 75 degrees with warm days (80-90) happening in January. It rains for only two weeks every year, sometimes gets windy, but other than an occasion fog bank, the weather is always the same. The vegetable fields have four yearly growing seasons; Farmers Markets are every week, all year. We only wear Uggs after being in the ocean (or your feet sweat offensively). Schools purchase mountains of ice to simulate snow for beach bum kids to playing for an hour until it melts for Christmas.
But at my Store, I have a sure sign of spring in two wild Mallard Ducks. For the past 8 years, they show up as my springtime revelation. They come for an hour everyday, flying in from marshes unknown. They announce their arrival by waddling in the store and quacking “ciao.” This event supersedes all work, clients, or appointments, for I must stop and smell the ducks. I love these ducks.
They let me pet them (the girl more than the boy) and eat right from my hand. They stand in the door and quack until I produce food, so after their first visit, I always have a loaf of bread standing by. I have been feeding them the gourmet Italian bread from the bakery across the street since their first visit. I tried duck food purchased at Farm Supply, but they turned up their beaks and refused to eat it.
They splash, drink and play in the water bowl I have out for them. But they also shit all over the front of the store. A stopover requires at least four wash downs with the hose, to keep my customers from tracking it in the store. Duck poo is a slimmy version of seagull feces. It’s watery and messy and they drop copious amounts around and in the store. My husband hates this and has tried to discourage me claiming “A non-professional” environment. Fuck him and his suits, I love the ducks. He almost fired an assistant once for feeding them crackers from her desk. I put duck slime in his sandwich.
One year the girl duck came alone and then after a week brought two scraggly looking boy ducks that she wouldn’t let eat. She ended up with Bachelor #1 and 6 ducklings. They do stop traffic as they waddle across the street (and always in the cross walk). It is the joy of a diminutive city, to stop and enjoy the Ducks.
This year, I squealed with delight at their return, but only had pita bread fresh and homemade by a mastermind lady from Jordan. They didn’t like it, so I ran to the bakery to get a loaf of bread. The owner of the bakery was in the middle of the street talking to my car detailer (It is a small town and we spend a lot of time in the middle of the road gossiping) as I exited the bakery with the white bag in hand. They both knew it was for the Ducks and asked excitedly if they were back. Just then, the girl duck flew to meet me in the middle of the street, quacking an octave higher. I yelled at her to get outta of the street and ran towards the store so she would follow; she did, as did the boy. The Baker and Washer laughed at my trained duck act and came over to scatter crumbs for them.
In a couple of weeks, she will have hatchlings that follow her thru the bank parking lot (next door) to my store to bathe in my water and eat crumbs. All the business owners will watch the streets, slowing traffic so they will not get hit. They are the characterization of cute. All conversations surround the ducks. We talk about the adorable curlyq’s of the boys’ feathers and the weird lump on the girls’ front throat. We grow very fond of them and worry when they are an hour late. Then they all fly away and we miss every part of them except the duck slime on the ground.
As everyone who comes in the store wants to know:
Yes, they are the same ducks
Mallards live up to 30 years and mate for life
No, I haven’t named them
Yes, my husband hates them
No, I don’t care!