“What’s this all about?” Chuck said, falling backward into his chair at the kitchen table with a soft thud. “It’s not even 11:00pm yet, why did you throw everyone out?” Just a few minutes prior, he and the handful of friends he’d managed to make over the years had been at his house, celebrating his 18th birthday. Now it was silent, the living room still coated in confetti and partially full red Solo cups. They hadn’t even been allowed to stay for the cake.
Chuck stared up at his parents, watching as they slowly made their way over to the table, his mother’s golden blonde hair bouncing softly as she moved. Although his father was bald now, he’d also had similarly blonde hair years ago. Chuck, on the other hand, had been cursed with thick, oily, green hair. He dyed it brown every few weeks.
“Son,” his father said, “sit down. We need to talk to you.”
Chuck glanced down at the chair he was seated in.
“I’m sitting already,” he said. “I don’t think I can sit any further.” He slid down slightly.
“Right,” his father said, pulling out the chair opposite Chuck, the same one he used every night at dinner. It wasn’t that they’d ever formally set up a seating arrangement, but night after night, he, his father, and his mother always conformed to the same seats, never straying into another’s territory. Sure, his was significantly higher than everyone else’s, but they could probably still fit if they wanted to. “Your mother and I need to talk with you.”
“Yes,” said his mother, also pulling out her chair, “please sit down.”
“He’s siting already, dear,” his father said.
“Oh, great,” Chuck’s mother said. She shifted slightly, then placed her hands palm down on the table, her eyes locked on Chuck’s. “Thank you for coming on such short notice.” She smiled.
“You’re welcome?” Chuck said, shifting uncomfortably. He’d never spoken to his parents so formally before.
“Your father and I have been waiting to discuss something with you until the time was right. We both feel that now is the proper moment, as you are officially an independent adult. You don’t need us any longer.”
“Sure I do, Mom,” Chuck said, fluttering his arms slightly. “Don’t say that.”
“No, no,” his father interrupted. “She’s right, today you become an adult. You’re eighteen years old, an age in which you should be in control of your own destiny. It’s not fair for us to keep secrets from you any longer, or try to prevent you from being who you are.”
Chuck shifted slightly, tapping both of his feet asynchronously in a habitual waddle. He’d always felt that their relationship had been rather open, almost to a fault. They knew about his relationship struggles, how he was bullied at school for his physical defects, how he just wanted to be accepted. Likewise, he knew about how they both had full-time jobs and enjoyed *The Lord of the Rings* movies. They discussed everything nightly during dinner, each sitting in their respective seats. He’d thought they’d always been open with one another.
“What do you mean?” Chuck said. “What kind of secrets?”
“Well,” his mother said, “it’s just, you know.” She paused, turning toward Chuck’s father as if waiting for him to do something.
“What your mother means,” his father said, breaking the silence, “is that you were right. There is something different about you.”
“Huh?” Chuck said, again fluttering his arms and tapping his feet. Different? They’d always said he was wrong, that he was just like everyone else, only slightly more unique. That wasn’t a bad thing, they’d say. Unique was good, it made him who he was. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t think it’s helping anyone if I delay this,” his father said, then paused. “Chuck, my boy, we wanted to wait until we felt you were mature enough to handle this, but—well—you’re adopted, you see.”
Chuck sat up, his back quivering slightly. Adopted? That explained why he’d not inherited their hair color, or really any other traits. It also explained his height. He was tiny, at least a third of the size of his parents. They were both well over five foot five, while Chuck refused to even measure himself. He simply did not want to know.
“Honey,” his mother said, squinting sharply.
“What?” his father said.
“You know what,” she said.
“You do it.”
“Do what?” Chuck interrupted, studying their faces. He’d always looked so different from them, their skin significantly smoother, their faces less pointed, their feet less webbed.
“Fine,” his mother said, clearing her throat. “Chuck, dear, listen to me. We didn’t simply adopt you.”
Kidnapped, he knew it. They always struck him as the kidnapping type. They probably stole him from some kind of orphanage somewhere in Detroit. Or maybe in Mexico. He could have been a Mexican baby, which explained for his strange lisp. It was probably the result of an old accent.
“Was I kidnapped?” he said as he attempted to think back to his birth. He couldn’t recall any Mexican orphanages.
“No, honey, of course not,” his father said. “We didn’t kidnap you. Or at least that’s not the word I’d use.”
They probably meant stealing. He nodded knowingly. He was obviously stolen from some sort of child work plant, in which they’d caused him severe emotional distress, explaining for why he couldn’t remember any of it, and why his growth had been stunted so severely.
“Right,” his mother said. “I’d more call it ‘ducknapping.’”
“Oh, I like that,” his father said. “Ducknapping.”
“Excuse me?” Chuck said, fluttering his arms uncomfortably. “What does that mean?”
“Well, on the cover, it sounds like what happens when a duck takes a short rest. But that’s not at all what it means, son,” his father said.
“Certainly not,” his mother agreed. “It means we stole you from a group of ducks.”
“A gaggle,” his father corrected.
“No, that’s geese. I think it’s a murder.”
“Crows,” Chuck interrupted. “Murder of crows. A bunch of ducks is a flock.”
“See,” his mother said, smiling, “I knew he’d be mature enough to handle this. He’s always been so smart and capable.”
“What do you mean, anyway, by stealing me from a group of ducks?” he said, closing his eyes. He’d long had a recurring dream in which he were surrounded by a flock of ducks, all of them with hair a similar shade to his own. Had he been raised by ducks in his youth, like the wolf-man raised by wolves? Part of him hoped so; a human boy who grew up beside ducks: it was an intoxicating notion. He opened his eyes again.
“Well,” his father said, “about sixteen years ago, your mother and I were wandering around a park. We had some bread and were tossing it out to a small gaggle—I mean flock—of ducks. One thing lead to another and, through what we now realize was a miracle, we stumbled upon you.”
“What was I doing hanging out with ducks?” Chuck said. His parents barely let him hang out with the kids from his high school, he couldn’t even imagine being able to spend an evening with a group of wild animals.
“I believe you were eating bread,” his mother said.
Chuck nodded. He did enjoy bread. Every day, he’d beg his parents to toss him a few pieces, which he’d gleefully peck away at, fluttering his arms and waddling back and forth to gather each morsel.
“I see,” Chuck said. “That’s weird. My birth parents left me with a bunch of ducks?”
“A flock,” his father said. “And no, not really. Technically speaking, your birth parents were ducks.”
“I’m sorry?” Chuck said, institutionally ruffling the hair on his back. That was yet another difference between he and his parents: he’d been cursed with a thick coat of hair covering his entire body. The kids at school constantly reminded him of it, but he did his best to ignore them.
“Yes,” his mother said, “I’d agree with that technical definition.”
“My parents were ducks?”
“Correct,” his father said. “Mallards, I believe.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Chuck said, hopping up onto the table and waddling forward slightly. They always hated when he walked on the table, especially when he napped on the dinner plates.
“I guess what we’re saying is that you’re a duck, Chuck,” his father said.
Chuck stared at his parents, forced smiles spread across their faces, yet eyes clearly showing their distress. They were old, probably senile. They had no idea what they were saying.
“Cool,” Chuck said, flapping his arms and drifting over to the kitchen counter. They were losing their minds. “Do you mind if I go over to James’ house? He just got a PS4.”
“Of course, dear, it’s your birthday” his mother said, glancing over at his father. He nodded in approval. “Please just call and check in periodically.”
“Sure,” Chuck said, waddling over to the opened window.
“You’re fine with all of this, right?” his father asked. “And you know that your mother and I love you regardless of your species?”
“Of course,” Chuck said, smiling to himself. They were out of their minds.
“So mature,” his mother said. “I told you he’d be ready.”
Chuck stepped out the window and began flapping his arms, taking off and beginning the short flight to James’ house. He laughed to himself, the thought of being a duck absolutely insane. He’d need to figure out how to handle his parents senility, but he was sure that could wait until morning. There were PS4 games to be played; he hoped the fact that he didn’t have thumbs wouldn’t be as much of an issue as it was on the PS3.