A Ducky

Ping Pong

Katherine Phelps

Look, it's just a ducky -- one of those bathtub duckies that are meant to be so cute. But for some reason this one gave me the creeps. For one thing its eyes are totally expressionless. They have no pupils, no coloration, and they protrude from the sides of the ducky's head like warts or pimples. Instead of a jolly grin the bill on this toy forms a flat line of total unconcern. And when you put the thing in the water, does it gaily bob and float as a rubber ducky should? No, it topples over showing only its underside, as if it's the corpse of a rubber ducky. The crowning touch is that this abomination actually has an ass hole. My mother named it Ping after a character in a book. At least the cat liked it. Beauty used to sit on the edge of the tub and bat at the thing.

I suppose if my mother hadn't insisted that the thing keep me company whenever I bathed, this would not have happened. "Come on Maddy," she would say, "It's so darling." I never thought it was darling, and it became even less darling the morning it was deliberately turned into a monster. I'll tell you how it all happened.

Early Saturday morning my brother Joshua restlessly tossed in his bed. He had just lost a tooth and was anxiously awaiting the money he would find beneath his pillow in exchange for it. The toothfairy always left enough payola for us to buy a candy bar, which seems pretty nice of her, until you consider how many extra teeth you might lose from rotting them away with sugar. Oh no, I wasn't getting into that racket, so I saved my money for better bath tub toys.

Anyway, we normally sleep in late on Saturdays, but this morning I awoke hearing my brother's cry of "Gotcha!"

"Got what?" I asked, sleepily looking through the door of my room into my brother's.

"This," Joshua said, roughly waving what looked like a large cricket in one hand.

I sat up and slipped on my blue furry slippers. Woozily I wandered over to get a better look at my brother's catch. When I made it to his side I could see what appeared to be a tiny human frantically wriggling between his fingers. The thing looked like a cricket because it had a pair of green-gold, lacy wings.

"Let me go, you monster," the minute woman commanded, then bit my brother's thumb.

"Ouch," he said without losing his grip, but the creature did manage to extract her wand carrying arm.

"That's not very nice," I told my brother.

"What? Of me or of her?"

"Well I suppose it wasn't nice that she bit you. But how would you feel if somebody held you in their sticky fingers?"

"Yeah, but she hasn't given me my candy money yet."

"You haven't given her a chance."

My brother looked curiously at his quarry. The woman did seem upset, though her face was set so that it might appear annoyed all the time. She started banging his wrist with her wand. He winced. "I kinda wanted to keep her for show and tell."

"You can always draw a picture of her after she leaves," I consoled.

So Joshua let her go. Sadly, this was not enough for the creature. She raised her tiny fist with the wand in it as if she were about to punch my brother in the eye. "You evil creature," she growled, "How dare you sully my person. I shall smite you with what you fear."

With that comment my eyes slid to the left toward the bathroom where that darn ducky lives. She caught my glance and gave a chilling grin. The fairy lifted straight up, then shot forward toward the bathroom. We followed her not daring to imagine what she was about to do, though I had my horrified suspicions.

When we reached the bathroom I looked immediately to the ducky to see what she might have done to it. The fairy had done nothing, but again she took my clues, and laughed in a high peal of derision. In a breath she darted down to the ducky and flew off with it, pimply eyes and all. Flying hither and thither throughout the house, she finally made her way to the front door, and with a wave of her wand opened it.

We watched as she flew with the speed and maneuverability of a small UFO. High into the sky we could still see her as she carried the bright yellow bathtub toy. Then a petite firework appeared to explode into sparkles where the ducky had been and the toy began to fall. However, as gravity pulled it closer to the ground, the thing grew larger and larger, and began to move.

Deep within the town center we could hear a loud "BOOM" when the ducky finally landed. "QUACK QUACK!" resounded for miles around. I in my floral nightgown, and my brother in his neon green sleeper stood dumbfounded at the door step to our house. This was our doing. We knew this. We also knew that we needed to do something fast before we got into even more trouble than we already were.

I scuttled back to our bedrooms and grabbed our house coats. These we quickly wrapped around ourselves. We ran toward where we heard the loud sound of the duck going "RAEB-RAEB-RAEB" and people screaming at the sight of a twenty foot high bird. Our cat followed us, and I tried to shoo Beauty back to the house, but she insisted. So, I made sure that she at least stayed close.

At first the duck moved in a stiff, almost mechanical manner: its bill opening and snapping shut in a swift rigid motion, its eyes rolling around like ball bearings, its wings flapping with even precision, and its feet marching to a steady beat. However, these movements became smoother as it reached out and snatched off the tops of trees, munched them up, and swallowed. Soft downy feathers sprouted on its chest.

Saturday mornings are not that busy in our town, except for the swimming lessons which are held at the city pool during the summer months. The duck dropped onto Main Street, so it could see people taking kids in their swim suits to the tiny tots session. This duck saw me practicing my own swimming moves at home many times, and recognised the signs that water must be near by.

With quickening thunderous steps the duck made its way up the line of mortified parents and children scrabbling to get out of its way. At the pool entrance the duck hopped up onto the surrounding wall and with a triumphant "QUACK" jumped into the rectangular pond, forcing most of the water to go shooting up like a geyser, then cascading back down across the pavement washing away many beach chairs and their occupants.

Despite how soggy and chlorine rancid my blue fluffy slippers got from the effort, I sloshed through the front gate and up to where the ducky was now contentedly bobbing, no doubt pleased that it fit so tightly into the pool that it could not tip over. "Ping," I called out to the magical creature, "You are scaring people. We have to get you back to your proper size."

"Yeah, that's right," said Joshua standing in equally soggy footies after catching up with me.

The ducky did notice my efforts to communicate, but didn't seem to understand a word. Instead it gazed and gazed at me. I felt uncomfortable as to what this may mean. What was going through its once air filled head? It stretched its neck way up high and briskly twisted its head from side to side, almost as if it were trying to flick water out of its ears. When it brought its head back down, the duck then lifted its hind quarters and started waggling its tail feathers. I wasn't certain what this meant, but I knew that I didn't like it.

The creature once more gazed my direction, only with more significance. When I did not respond appropriately the duck started looking around for something. It looked at each of the corners of the pool complex, and when that did not satisfy it lifted itself from the pool and looked out at the various parts of town.

"Why don't you come with us, Ping. We can find someone to make you small again," I tried to encourage it to no avail.

The ducky's attention suddenly riveted itself onto some object. My brother and I followed the direction of its stare. Only a block from the pool stood the city hall, a beautiful silvery building that rose eight stories high. It was the tallest building in town. On top of this building was perched a large radio transmission dish used by the police. "RAEB-RAEB," it said, pleased with itself, then turned back to me.

Puffing its chest up and out the ducky lifted its newly uncoupled wings and flapped them hard with each feather extending separately. Poor Joshua was blown into the pool enclosure wall. I fell onto my bottom and slid back a few feet. The umbrellas held over various tables whipped up into the air and were buffeted into the gathering crowd outside.

In one swift movement the ducky reached down and grabbed me near the back of my neck by the housecoat. Before I knew it I was dangling in the air.

"Maddy, Maddy, come back!" cried my brother, but it was too late.

The ducky started making a low, slow run that built up momentum until the creature took off into the sky. I could see Beauty trying to follow me by leaping into Joshua's arms, but to no avail. I was airborne.

Terrified that I might fall out of my dressing gown, I held it tightly wrapped around my body. Chillingly, I could hear it beginning to tear. "Oh no, I really don't want to be street pizza," I whimpered to myself. Before things could get much worse I found myself deposited inside the radio transmission dish. The ducky then flew off.

Looking around I saw no way that I could safely climb down from the dish. Below people were again gathering to goggle at the spectacle. Soon Joshua was among them, as were my parents. "Oh great, we are really in for it now," I thought. The police arrived too. They came driving up, sirens blaring and lights flashing. I always wanted to get inside a police car and get those things kicking up a ruckus, and now more than ever.

When Ping returned he had whole bushes in his beak. These he distributed evenly throughout the inside of the dish. He waggled his tail a few times and looked my direction as winsomely as that grotesque thing could. When I only responded in a senseless gurgle, the ducky appeared to sigh, then began pulling down from its chest and placing it among the bushes.

Finally it dawned on me that the thing was trying to nest with me. But there was no way I was going to be laying an egg that would satisfy this creature. The very thought of it made my butt hurt. Lucky for me, I could hear the sound of a helicopter about to make a rescue.

Above me a black and white chopper came into view. "It's all right sweetie," called the voice of a police officer from the vehicle. I could see him leaning out the side with a megaphone. "We're here to save you."

"I'm here too Maddy," called out my father who was sitting next to the officer and appeared to have our cat wrapped around his neck. Beauty must have made a last minute leap into the chopper when my father was recruited to help liberate me.

The ducky looked none too happy sensing their proximity to its nest. Its neck shot forward as it tried to bite at the helicopter. Fortunately, the pilot was quick and was able to lift the machine up before anything could be damaged. For awhile duck and helicopter sparred in this manner.

Finally, a miracle occurred. At one point the heliocopter managed to get particularly close before Ping made a lunge at it. Our cat Beauty had a wicked gleam in her eyes. You know the sort: where the cat's pupils are a wide shining black, and its behind starts to twitch and wriggle. With a magnificent leap Beauty made it onto the head of the ducky, jostling the police officer's hand as she sped past so that his gun went off in the air. In a twinkling she dashed to the monster's neck and gave it a good solid bite, like she would for a mouse.

The ducky's eyes appeared to bulge in fear for a moment. A distinct hissing noise filled the air. The monster's head flopped to one side and deflated. Soon the rest of the body was going limp and flaccid. "QUACK, QUack, quack, qua...," the thing called out in its dying breaths. When at last nothing was left but a pile of rubber, that too began to shrink back to the small proportions of a proper rubber toy. Beauty gave the thing a self-satisfied shake, dropped it, and began licking her paw in a luxurious manner.

My father and the police eventually got me off the roof of city hall and back home. Everyone decided that it must have been the police who had taken down the monster, though I saw his bullet embed itself in the city hall air vent. Joshua and I were relieved that Mom and Dad were so overwhelmed by the strangeness of events that they never questioned us as to how they came about. We promised each other never to tell.

I have to admit that I was pretty steamed with that fairy. She punished me more than my brother, and out of all proportion to the actual crime. Nevertheless, I do know two things from my adventure: first, never tick off a toothfairy; and second,


The End