by Martin Shone
Sitting alongside the old man is a duckling. The old man and a duckling; him almost crossed legged, her looking a bit lost, sort of half sitting half ready to jump in the canal.
The old man is staring out across the fields with his hands on his knees oblivious to the duckling.
The duckling is looking up at the old man, is looking left and right; not that she knows what left and right is and she is looking at the water.
The old man wipes a tear from his cheek and smiles as a moorhen drifts on by. He gives a little snort of chuckle and stretches his legs rubbing his knees. He remembers the wedding like it was yesterday; sixty seven years just yesterday. It was sixty seven years just yesterday when she died. He never remarried. He remained faithful. He is a virgin of ninety three years. Sixty seven years just yesterday, on her birthday, on their wedding day ten minutes after the ring was placed on her finger, she died.
He has waited for this day to come, this day today. He can feel it in his bones, in his chest, in his knees; he can feel that today is a good day to kiss the bride once more.
The duckling looks lost in the silence of the ripples as a barge’s engine put-puts on by. She aches more than anything to ride those ripples but she’s lost her mother and her sisters and brothers. All she has is this old man rubbing his knees who doesn’t even know she’s there.
The old man smiles as he takes a breath and using his last bit of creaking will power he turns to kneel and stand thinking that this is the time to meet his bride.
An event like this can knock us mortals to the core, can brings tears of loneliness to well up, can make us feel strange, can make our hearts shudder a little and our souls to perhaps emit a smile of corded warmth to the event. And so it has to the old man.
That little lost almost silent quack stings the old man’s breath. He cries at that pitiful little creature’s plight. He sits down again and turns his face to the duckling. He reaches out his hand, palm up.
The duckling sees the strength in that hand, sees that with the smallest of moves she could be crushed, slapped away, thrown away … yet she also sees the wisdom that is in the ages of nature and so she steps onto his palm and looks up into his oaken face.
The old man lifts the duckling beak to nose and sees that today is not a good day to swim. He feels the loneliness of his life fade away as he looks into her eyes and sees that just yesterday she said yes as today this duckling said quack.
He stands with his wobbly knees and cradling the duckling, walks home, smiling, and from his soul there comes a warmth that will last … who knows for how long but now she is happy, she is not lost, she is not lonely, she did not die just yesterday sixty seven years ago, she is here in the palm of his hands.
This was originally written on my story site for Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday on March 1st, 2013 and the prompt was serendipity