Andy liked to watch the mallards with the green and brown heads float down the stream with their babies. He loved to go to the edge of the stream and talk to them. “Quack, quack,” he’d say, imitating their vocalizations. Sometimes they would answer back. Other times, he’d get no response because they were too busy trying to navigate downstream.
Often people fed the mallards stale bread. They thought that they were doing an excellent service for the birds, when in fact they were making the mallards more aggressive and dependent on humans.
I watched my son go the stream’s edge again. He picked up a piece of bread.
“Be careful, Andy. Don’t get too close to the birds.”
My son rarely listened to me. My in-laws thought he needed to see a psychologist, but he does well in school, and the teachers haven’t complained yet.
About ten birds, both adults, and babies came out of the water and slowly surrounded my son.
“Be careful, Andy, don’t get too close. They bite.”
Of course, he didn’t listen. It made me think of the time he tried to ride a big goose in South Carolina. The goose got angry, naturally, and started to chase him. He cried in the backseat of the car all the way back to Philadelphia.
“Remember the goose, “ I reminded him
Pretty soon the hungry mallards were out of control, pecking at each other, and fighting over the dried pieces of bread. One jumped up and nipped Andy on the finger. He didn’t even flinch and ignored the fact that he was bleeding. He kept laughing as the mallards jumped and swirled around him like he was at Play Land hopping in the ball pit with his friends.
I shouted and clapped my hands to scatter the birds. I wrapped up Andy's finger with a hanky and told him that we had to go to the hospital for a tetanus shot.
“A needle?” he asked.
I shook my head to indicate that’s what it was.
He started to cry.