I live in a building called Optima Views, and I jokingly call the residents Optimists. Optima is supposed to be a green building, and on the fourth floor deck we have lawn and mature trees along with a swimming pool and fountain. The pool is big enough for toddlers to frolic in and the fountain is outsize, but hasn’t worked for several years. I would normally be upset about that fact, except that it has put an end to our duck problem.
The first year we moved in, a mother duck had made her nest somewhere in the bushes on our deck. It is the ideal place, safe from predators and traffic, human and vehicular. However duck intelligence being what it is, she didn’t foresee that after she had paraded the ducklings through the grass and into the fountain, they would be to small to be able to hop out, not yet having the wing capacity to fly. That was the season of baby duck death.
The following summer when she arrived, I vowed to do everything in my power not to be confronted with that sad spectacle ever again. And so when I realized that the ducklings were in the fountain, I never having lived outside the city in my adult life, called the fire department. The kindly fireman on the other end of the telephone line must have been used to dealing with all kinds of crazies, and so he patiently told me that really there was nothing that the fire department could do for me or the ducks, but maybe if I got into the fountain, and tried to catch them in a cooking pot I could save them. I knew that would never work since my pots are very heavy so I put on my bathing suit and grabbed a mesh colander.
I walked down to the fourth floor, promptly waded into the fountain, scaring off the mother duck, or so I thought. Actually she flew up to the trees where she would make lightning quick strikes at my head for the duration of my ordeal.
I rushed after the ducklings intending to scoop them up, but they scattered and swam underwater quicker than tadpoles. The mother duck took her first try at decapitating me while a nosy neighbor came out on her balcony demanding to know what I was doing with those ducklings. When I told her and asked for help, she turned her back and went into her condo without saying a word.
In the end I did manage to save the ducklings, and my husband built a wooden ramp so that I would not have to humiliate myself publicly every day. The ramp worked until a confirmed duck lover built little steps out of concrete block which were not only much easier to use but significantly more attractive.
Each year we managed to raise about two or three ducks to adulthood, and it was always a pleasure to see them taking off in the fall down the the middle of Maple Street, their own private runway.
A couple of years ago we had a management group which hired a handy man as part of the full time staff. I will refer to him as Thor, since he was a strapping Scandinavian. I also should mention that the fountain had been leaking on cars in the garage below for some time.
As is my habit when I take a break from the computer, I looked out into the yard only to see Thor taking away the tiny step ladder while the sole remaining duckling was paddling around the fountain. I thought that perhaps he was cleaning it, but when I looked out an hour later, the duckling was still desperate to get out, the mother duck was agitated and running around the pond trying to coax him out, and the ladder was nowhere to be seen.
I marched downstairs, and catching sight of Thor, who must have been about six foot five, eleven inches taller than me, demanded to know what he had done with the ladder. Thor explained that the condominium board had ordered him to remove it since it was probably causing the leak. By now I was livid, and told him exactly what I thought of the compounded intelligence of the board, and the cause of the structural leakage. By the time I was finished with my tirade, Big Thor was white as a sheet. I marched upstairs, fuming. Just then my mother called.
‘ Mommy,’ I said, answering the phone, ‘ They’re killing the ducks,’ and promptly burst into tears. ‘ Who is killing ducks? ‘ she wanted to know. After I explained she said, ‘I vill call your seester right avay.’ My sister is famous for lodging complaints with the city for every infraction imaginable. Well, my sister called PETA, which put her in touch with a bird rescue organization in the area. Not long afterward, a tall German lady with a von in her name and a hawk in her car arrived in our lobby with a bird trap. However, even she declined to help when she saw how small the duckling was, stating it would not survive separated from its mother, and that there was no way she could capture a healthy, mature duck.
I was just going upstairs for the colander when Thor arrived with a wooden gangplank wrapped in terry cloth for the duckling, which immediately lept to safety. Mother and child were reunited, but not before I was chewed out by the board president for having frightened Thor.