Writing Prompt: A man (or woman) falls hopelessly in love with a duck, but his/her family refuses to accept their romance. //
David stared down at the table. It had long since started to show some signs of wear. The cloth was frayed at the edges, the loose strands gently brushing against his knees as his legs trembled up and down. Wide cracks split from the sides hanging over the table, opening like thin canyons running through the Earth. The table itself wobbled slightly with each tap of his heel against the wooden floor. He placed his palms down on the top of the cloth, its touch sending images of Shabbat dinners through his mind. His mother stood in the corner of the room, gently stirring a wooden spoon in a large, silver pot.
“Bubala, stop shaking your legs. You’re going to knock the house down,” she said. “Who is gonna pay for the repairs?”
“Sorry, ma,” David said. He relaxed his feet and placed his palms flat against the cloth. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled. His fingers were now softly tapping against the table.
“Can I talk to you for a minute, ma?”
“Can it wait? Your father is getting hungry and you know how he gets when he isn’t fed,” she replied.
“It’ll only take a few minutes, you don’t need to constantly stir the sauce. You can let it simmer.”
“Look at you, my little chef. Okay,” she said, placing the wooden spoon on the small glass plate next to the stove. She turned toward him, stopping to stand over the garbage and brush the crumbs off her apron. Her hair was done up and curled like the mother in an 80’s sitcom, a style he hadn’t seen on her since his Bar Mitzvah. She seemed to be wearing a fancier dress today, in what David assumed was anticipation of the Passover seder they would have later that night. “Alright, what’s all this kvetching about,” she said, pulling from the table the same chair she always used.
David stared back down at the cloth, finger running against the ridges bumping up along its surface. “I met a girl,” he said.
“Bubala, that’s great news! Tell me about her. Is she Jewish? What’s her name? Where does she go to school? Did you meet her on Birthright? That’s where Phyllis’ daughter met her husband, you know.”
“Her name is Rachel,” David replied.
“Oh boy, a nice Jewish name. I’m so proud of you Bubala. I always assured the Greenbaums you weren’t one of those homosexuals after you refused to date Rivka. She’s such a sweet girl, let me get you her number,” she said, turning toward her purse.
“She’s like 400 pounds, ma. I’m not interested in her. I’m already dating someone, anyway, I just told you that.”
“All right, all right. So tell me about this Rachel. Is she Reform or Orthodox?”
“It’s, well, kind of hard to say. Look, ma, I invited her over for Passover tonight. She’s outside by the door. I was hoping you could meet her.”
“What? She’s outside in this weather? I am going to smack you on the tuches for leaving that pretty girl out there! Go invite her in right now.”
“It’s like seventy degrees outside,” David said. He stood up and walked toward the door, then stopped and glanced back at his mother. “Please be open-minded,” he said, knowing full well that wasn’t going to happen. He placed his palm on the handle and spun the knob, pulling the door open with a gentle creak. A small green and brown duck sat perched on the “Welcome” mat. David bent down and picked up the duck, gently brushing back its feathers as he raised it up. He turned and walked back into the house, closing the door with his foot as he walked. His mother stared at him.
“Bubala, you forgot the girl,” she said.
“Ma, I want you to meet Rachel.” David placed the duck down on the table. It softly quacked in his mother’s direction, then shook its wings as if about to take off.
“This is your girlfriend?” she said, eyes staring intently at the Mallard. “She looks like a duck.”
“Ma, please don’t racist. Yes, she’s a duck, but she’s just like every other girl.” Rachel ruffled her feathers and then flattened them back down.
“Hunny, this is a duck. Let me feel your forehead, come here.”
David leaned back in his seat, away from his mother’s out-stretched hand, and placed his palm softly on Rachel’s back. She left out a slight honk.
“Look, ma, I don’t expect you to understand, but this is my girlfriend. We’ve been dating pretty seriously for six months now. We have been living together for about one of those months. We split the rent 50/50.
“This is mishegas, that doesn’t make any sense. How does a duck pay rent?”
“Ma, please, we’re not in the 1960’s anymore. You can’t say things like that.” Rachel stood up and stared at his mother, as if about to speak. David placed his hand back on her. “Can you not accept our love? Weren’t you and dad pretty radical in your relationship?”
“He was orthodox and I was conservative. You are a human and she is a duck. That is not the same thing.”
“So our love can’t be real, right? I can’t love Rachel because she’s not built the same as you and I? That’s pretty closed-minded, ma, you’re really not making a good impression.”
“Does she even speak English?”
“You know she can’t, ma, she’s a duck. Why are you doing this to her?”
“I just don’t understand, bubala. You can’t date Rivka, but you can date a duck?”
Rachel stood up and walked to the edge of the table, then let out a soft quack. She flapped her wings once and jumped toward the kitchen window, smacking into it with a loud bang.
“Look what you’ve done!” David shouted, running over to Rachel’s side. “You’ve upset her!” He bent down and picked her up, stroking her feathers softly. Rachel twisted her neck toward him and honked. “Why do you have to make this so hard? Our love is real.”
“Where did you even meet this, uh, shiksha?”
“In a park,” David said, placing Rachel back on the table. “I was eating my sandwich and, well, she actually approached me. Just sat down next to me and began quacking until I gave her a bite of my sandwich. It was very forward, but it was honestly love at first sight. I asked her out then and there.”
“How did you ask her out?” his mother asked, squinting slightly.
“I brought her to dinner at my place,” he said.
“They let you bring a duck into your apartment?”
“It isn’t the 1960’s, ma, ducks are allowed to do what they want.”
Rachel fluttered her wings and quacked, then began pecking at the table.
“I honestly loved her the minute I saw her,” David said. “The way her feathers matched the bench, how she walked with that slight hop. And I’ve never spoken to anyone more polite in my life.”
“How do you even speak to her?”
“We have an unspoken connection. It’s very magical.”
“Then how do you know she was polite?”
“Ma, just listen to me. I love this girl. I am going to marry this girl. She loves me, too, and treats me the way I deserve.” Rachel began chewing at her wing.
“She’s a duck thou—“
“Just stop it, ma, just stop. Yes, she’s a duck, but she’s smart, and kind, and friendly, and funny, and pretty, and she loves me for who I am. She even said she’d convert to Judaism when we get married.”
“She’d convert?” his mother asked, staring at the duck. Rebecca let out a soft quack and sat down, feet hidden beneath her body like a cat sunbathing.
“Yeah, ma, she’ll convert, and our kids—your grand-kids—will be raised Jewish.”
“Jewish grand-kids? Oh, bubala, this is wonderful news. I can’t wait to tell your father.”
David smiled and gently pat Rachel’s feathers. She shifted slightly and quacked. He smiled and nodded acknowledging the unspoken agreement not to mention the pregnancy until both of his parents accepted them.