Oswald’s Life – Short Story


Oswald died. It was four hours after Oswald’s sibling died. My son pronounced him dead about 6:30pm, but with disbelief I had to turn the duckling several times to make sure he was not just asleep. I had nursed him on my chest and we slept for two hours earlier. He seemed fine, eating a little and drinking water. He stood up and walked. But, he could not settle into the nest where the other duckling had died hours earlier. I change the bedding and kept his little fluffy body with me.

He had been named Oswald by Nathan (my older son). Nathan decided that the five-day-old duckling who lost 11 siblings and parents the night before should be called Oswald. The name carried strength and depicted something or someone showing tenacity for life. I agreed immediately to Oswald.

“The duckling is very brave and strong”, Nathan said.

Oswald was one of our duck Penelope’s first babies. She had 12. We decided to leave the ducks alone when she introduced the babies to our family last week. ‘Let them grow up wild’ was what we all agreed on because Penelope was house-bred. She taught them to eat, swim and play each day last week. The pond was busy.

Earlier Sunday, and not used to quietness from the water, I went out to investigate. I found the once happy flock dispersed in a mud of desecrated fine feathers, duck poop and small white floating dead bodies. My heart was in my mouth as I walked about, trying to find them all. Penelope and her Stalker husband had gone. One mutilated corpse was on the child’s table we left for the ducklings to dry out from the pool. It became clear that something bad happened on Saturday night. At that time, five ducklings went missing and since the parents had fled from whatever it was, the remaining ducklings died from the cold. While searching I heard some soft cries and found Oswald and his brother pinned into the side of the pool, both shivering in the water they used to swim in. I called Nathan for help and we  took the ducklings to the house and made a soft box and tried to feed them. Only Oswald ate. Then the two snuggled up and slept. The smaller of the two ducks was very weak. In less than two hours it died.

After the other duckling died, Oswald jumped out of the box and refused to sleep. We took turns nursing him until I fell asleep with the duckling on the couch. It was dark when I fed him again and placed him in a warm bed. He fell asleep straight away. At 6:30pm, Chris checked the box and told me the duckling died. Given the way the duckling had shown courage and bravery, it was not easy to accept that Oswald’s life would have ended the same way as his eleven siblings.

 

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