Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Story: DUCK by Bruce Mero

The morning sun broke the eastern horizon at exactly the moment Eddie pulled his Tempest onto the gravel shoulder of the road and turned off the motor. 


          “Well, this is the place,” he said. 


          I’d been dozing on and off for the last half hour while he drove and was not aware of where we were until then.  We’d spotted this place a couple of weeks ago and decided to return on the first day of the season to try our luck at duck hunting.


          “Let’s get the car unpacked and haul this stuff over to the edge of the pond and set it up,” said Eddie. 


          “Set what stuff up,” I replied?


          “That stuff,” he said, nodding toward the back seat.


          It had been dark when he picked me up and I had been only half-awake when I slumped into his car and closed my eyes.  I had not noticed that the back seat was piled full of gear that he thought we’d need to hunt ducks.  I’d brought a borrowed 16-gauge shotgun and a pocket full of shells to the hunt, thinking that was all I’d need.  Eddie had another idea, and he’d filled the back seat and stuffed the trunk of his car with enough gear to outfit a several week safari.


          We started by unpacking the trunk, or rather, I started.  Eddie had taken his crutches out of the back seat and leaned against the side of the car while I stacked his gear next to him. Eddie had been a paraplegic since being injured in a serious car accident while he was in high school.  He had broken his back in the accident and now wore heavy braces on his legs and was unable to stand or walk without his metal crutches.  We were very good friends and we both were comfortable joking about his disability. 


          “Who the hell is going to carry all of this stuff,” I asked? 


          “You are,” he replied, “why did you think I asked you to come along? I’ll help,” and he grabbed a backpack and slung it onto his shoulder. “I’ll carry the beer,” he volunteered, and started for the pond. 


          I took his two shotguns from the trunk and a canvas bag of shells, picked my shotgun out of the front seat and ran to catch-up with Eddie.  He moved quickly on this braces and crutches, metal parts clanking on one another as he plunged into the high grass.  I drew along side just as he came to a four-strand, barbed wire fence.  Undeterred, he hoisted a crutch and braced leg over the top wire while holding it down with his other crutch, bounced once and vaulted over, pivoting on the first crutch over the fence.  He fell on his back, rolled once and picked himself up. 


          “Shucks, now the beer will be all foam,” he said.


          And he moved off.  I managed to get through the fence with a bit more grace, adjusted the three shotguns I’d slung over my shoulders and caught up with him. 


          “You’re going to have to make a few more trips with our stuff,” he remarked nonchalantly, and rattled quickly across the pasture toward the pond. 


          About 50 feet from the next barbed wire fence, I heard heavy footsteps and branches breaking behind me and to my left.  I glanced over my shoulder and spotted a cow emerging from the brush a hundred feet to our right.  I realized that the cow was actually a bull when he shook his horns and bolted for us.  With a yelp, Eddie and I were instantly at a dead run.  I made it to the fence only a second or two ahead of my friend and cleared the wire.  With a great metallic clatter, Eddie vaulted over, catching the tail of his raincoat on the barbed wire in mid-flight and landing in a heap at the base of the fence.  He rolled once to get away from the fence, the raincoat ripping into pieces as he did, and stood up.  The back of his raincoat had stayed behind on the barbed wire and he had dropped the backpack of beer on the bull’s side of the fence.  The bull stopped short of the fence, snorted and feigned a charge at us.  Eddie charged back and grabbed the fence in his hands.  He was going back for the beer, but reconsidered when the bull charged the fence.  Eddie fell back.  The bull then noticed the backpack, lowered his head and gored it.  The backpack stuck on the bull’s horn and he raised his head and shook.  Foam spilled from the bag as the bull threw it down and stomped it with his front hoofs.  Beer cans could be heard popping with each crash of hoofs. 


          “Crap,” said Eddie.  He ripped off the remainder of his raincoat from both arms, threw the pieces over the fence at the bull and turned toward the pond.  “Come on,” he said, “you go back later and see if there are any good cans left.” 


          We settled on a dry spot next to the edge of the pond.  Eddie sat on the ground and I handed him the guns and shotgun shells.  I went back to the car to get more of his gear, prudently going around the outside of the pasture to avoid the bull who was snorting and charging the ripped raincoat piece still hanging on the fence.  The beer was a total loss, I figured and besides, there was no way I was going back into the pasture to see if there were any good cans left.


          At the car, I sorted the gear.  Some stuff I would carry to the pond, some I would leave in the car.  Only a cooler of sandwiches and a pair of hip waders made the cut.  I left behind a portable duck blind, an inflatable two-man raft with paddles, a canvas pup tent, four rolls of toilet paper, a huge roll of plastic sheeting, two folding chairs, a cooking kit, a first-aid kit, a tool box, two sleeping bags, air mattresses, an axe, a camouflage umbrella, two fishing poles, a tackle box, six more boxes of shotgun shells, a portable radio, eight duck and three goose decoys and a Boy Scout manual.  The bull was still kicking the beer bag around when I passed along the pasture fence. I was headed to the spot where I’d left Eddie when I heard him fire-off three shots. 


          I ran down to the pond and Eddie was excited. 


          “I got one, I think,” he said, pointing to a spot on the water between two dead trees. 


          “Got one what? I don’t see anything,” I responded, annoyed that he’d not waited for me to return before he’d started hunting. 


          “A duck,” he said. and pointed to the same spot.  “Put on the waders and go and get him for me,” said Eddie.


          “What do I look like, your retriever?” I replied.


          “How the hell else did you expect to get the ducks we shoot,” he snorted.  “I brought a raft and hip waders with us, you only brought the waders back from the car. Either you go back and get the raft or you go out there with the hip waders on and get my duck.”


          I took off my jacket and grabbed the boots.


          I’d never put my feet into waders before and these were many sizes too big for me.  I pulled the straps tight and the boots still flapped loose at my chest, great rubber wrinkles at my knees and ankles.   My first step into the mud was a new experience.  I immediately got both feet stuck in the mud and lurched forward into the pond.  I was unable to get up unassisted, so I rolled to my side and Eddie poked a crutch in my direction and pulled me onto firmer ground.  I was mud everywhere.  I spit out cold mud and wiped pond slime from my face with my sleave. 


          “Come on,” he said impatiently, “quit screwing around and go get my duck.”


          Slowly I gained confidence wading out into the chest-deep water.  I still couldn’t see where Eddie’s duck was, but he directed me to the spot between the dead trees he’d thought it had dropped. The mucky pond-bottom was full of roots and rocks and several times I lost my footing and nearly went down. 


          I was about seventy-five feet from shore when Eddie yelled  “Duck”.  


          “Where?” I yelled, thinking he was still directing me toward the missing duck.


          “Duck” he screamed again and he fired off three shots, two of which slammed into the dead tree at my right, a few yards above my head, showering me with wood slivers. 


          I wasn’t sure what he meant by “duck”, but when he pulled off three more rounds and the top of the tree to my left splashed into the water, I ducked…underwater.  It was an involuntary action; stupid in retrospect, but a survival response.  I squatted and my entire body went down as the hip-waders filled with water and sucked me under.  After a moment, I recovered, stood up and looked back at Eddie.


          “Creep, you scared them away,” he cried, thrusting his shotgun in the air.


          “Son-of-a-....., I’m going to kill you,” I yelled and headed toward him. The water-filled waders were impossible to maneuver.  I stepped on a slippery log, fell backwards and went under again. 


          It was precisely at that moment that I quit duck hunting forever.  I can’t even remember the rest of what happened that morning.  I know that by the time I managed to get myself out of the pond, Eddie was headed back to the car at a clanking, deliberate pace, carrying everything he could manage to carry.  He knew I was pissed.  I kept the hip waders on for the return trip and sloshed muddy pond water onto his car seat with every bump.  Eddie kept to himself on the way home.   He made a half-hearted attempt to interest me in another hunting adventure as he left me at my apartment, but he knew from my silence that the suggestion was going nowhere.  We’re still good pals, but we’ve not been hunting together since, and don’t talk about it much, either. 


  1. Your dad had way more patience then I would have. I'd of left directly after the bull skewered the beer!
    But then again, the story would not have been NEARLY as funny!!!
    LOVED it....
    Thanks for the Bruce's Sunday Storytime!

  2. Hahaha!! What a well written story! That would be it for me too LOL...


I LOVE comments. Come on. Leave me one. They make me smile!