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A Sitting Duck

Mackenzie's Ekphrastic Challenge

By Leslie WritesPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - January 2024
A Sitting Duck
Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

This story was written for Mackenzie Davis' Ekphrastic Challenge.

I’ve got a shotgun tucked into my canoe. It’s not my gun. I hate guns. I borrowed this one from my uncle. He’ll get it back after I blow my brains out.

My oar slices into the still water. Left. Right. Left. The canoe glides quietly forward. With a few strokes, I manage to get far enough away from the house that the sound won’t wake them up. Distant gunshots are common in these woods. It’s hunting ground.

Now that I’ve set my mind to it, I’m actually pretty calm. It’s quiet out here. Just the water lapping the sides of the canoe. The sky is a pleasant shade of early morning blue.

I position the butt of the gun between my feet. Then I bend over slightly so the end of the barrel fits right under my chin. It’s cold. I rest my thumb on the trigger and - “QUACK!”

What the fuck was that?

“QUACK!” Louder this time.

I lift my head and take my thumb off the trigger to see where the sound is coming from. I expect to see a duck, but all I see is a tangled mess of reeds, fallen branches, and plastic trash on the riverbank.

I row closer and the quacks get more desperate. I drag my canoe out of the water to have a better look around. Very unusual to see a duck this time of year.

I’ll satisfy my curiosity first, then I’ll kill myself.

Parting the reeds with both hands, I spot a lump wiggling around inside a plastic bag. I find the opening and peel it back to reveal a little brown ducking. At least I think it’s brown. He’s covered in muck like one of those Dawn dish detergent ads where they use it to clean wildlife after an oil spill. He’s quacking his little ass off now and staring at me.

I’m not sure what he’s trying to communicate or why he doesn’t just waddle away. Then I notice one of his feet pinned under a tree branch. I attempt to pick it up, but most of the branch is buried deep in the mud and there are several other heavier branches on top. It’s such a tangled mess, it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. We’ve had a few nasty storms lately, resulting in a lot of fallen branches.

Poor thing.

I reach for the shotgun. If an animal is wounded, you’re supposed to put them down. It’s the merciful thing to do. I aim.

A sitting duck.

Then I’m not sure why, but my heart starts beating fast. The calm is gone. I feel a sudden urgency to put down the gun and move the branches.

That’s right. Fuck these branches and fuck that plastic bag!

I go at it like a madman, but they won’t budge. I need leverage. I grab the gun, make sure the safety is engaged, then use the barrel to pry the branches loose. The duckling struggles free and waddles through my legs. When I turn around, he is sitting there waiting, staring at me.

“You can go now.”

The quacking has stopped, but he doesn’t move. I look around for more ducks, his family or whatever. He’s all alone.

I scoop him up gently in both hands and put him in the front pocket of my sweatshirt, so I can row the canoe. When I get back to the house, I put the gun back where I found it. I tip toe into the kitchen, grab the dish soap off the sink and a salad bowl from the cupboard.

Then I head to the backyard, fill the bowl with suds and water from the hose. I take the duckling out of my pocket. I worry that he hasn’t quacked since the river. Thankfully, his eyes are open. I place him in the bowl. He flaps and shakes off the suds and excess water.

“It’s not Dawn soap, but I think It’ll do.”

After his bath, I risk bringing him back inside. I cradle him in a dish towel. He looks up at me with his big black shiny Disney Pixar eyes. I grab my phone and take a pic just to prove to myself that he’s real.

Photo assigned to the author as part of this challenge.

This photograph that was the inspiration for this piece was taken by Vocal author, Rachel Fendrich.

Thank you Rachel and thank you, Mackenzie!


About the Creator

Leslie Writes

Another struggling millennial. Writing is my creative outlet and stress reliever.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

Add your insights

Comments (29)

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  • Angie the Archivist 📚🪶4 months ago

    Well done getting third place in Mackenzie’s challenge ✅… adorable story for a matching photo ❤️

  • Beautiful story of hopelessness turned topsy-turvy by a quack.

  • I absolutely love love LOVE this story. As someone who has been through similar situations, I love the twist that you put on a supposedly unrelated picture. <3

  • Lana V Lynx4 months ago

    I love me a story with love and hope!

  • Chloe Gilholy4 months ago

    Congrats on the short story. I loved how you linked the picture of the duck in the end.

  • Shamreena4 months ago

    Well written dear and congratulations 😊💌

  • Billy lewis4 months ago

    Incredible!! ❤️

  • Kageno Hoshino4 months ago

    This is gorgeous story

  • This is so beautiful & deserving of Top Story! Gorgeous photo too! "When I turn around, he is sitting there waiting, staring at me. “You can go now.” The quacking has stopped, but he doesn’t move. I look around for more ducks, his family or whatever. He’s all alone." So beautiful and uplifting! Thanks.

  • Novel Allen4 months ago

    Absolutely gorgeous story. There are days like that momma said. How a duck saved the day. Kudos TS.

  • Tiffany Gordon 4 months ago

    This was supercute! Congrats on your TOP STORY Leslie!

  • Omgggg, thank you so much for not shooting the duck. I would have died crying 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 My heart is still beating so fast because I got so scared, lol. MC can go kill themselves after this. As long as the duck is okay, I'm happy hehehehehe. Congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • I was hooked! Right from the first paragraph. You know how to say things without explicitly saying them. Great work!

  • Mackenzie Davis4 months ago

    You absolutely caught me up in this narrative, Leslie. This is brilliant, illustrative writing. Just, amazing amazing job! You didn't disappoint with regard to the photograph... I was very interested to see what you'd do with such a beautiful little baby. The bluntness of the MC's language really immersed me. Every part of your descriptions felt so real. Really, fantastic job! I'm not at all surprised this got TS; congratulations!!

  • Donna Renee4 months ago

    Congrats on the TS! Read earlier and forgot to comment ❤️❤️ love how you used the photo at the end and built the story up to it.

  • Kendall Defoe 4 months ago

    Heartbreaking...and cute!

  • That picture of the duckling - OMFG!!! So cute!

  • Hannah Moore4 months ago

    This is so well written, defy, precise but effortless, and a gorgeous story to boot.

  • Dana Crandell4 months ago

    What a rich, positive story you created from this cute image! Great job, Lesile and congratulations on Top Story!

  • Cathy holmes4 months ago

    Congrats on the TS

  • Test4 months ago

    Terrific work! Keep it going—congratulations!

  • JBaz4 months ago

    What a fantastic story, up lifting. A perfect Monday morning read. Congratulations

  • This is my new favorite story. So well done Leslie!!

  • Cathy holmes4 months ago

    That little duck was a message. Wonderful story. Well done.

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