The decoy is a treasure. Its carved wooden shape, light as air. On the base is a hand painted scarlet letter. I recognize the script. For this reason, I pause. Some objects are worth the keep.
Father was a duck hunter, a truth we spent years debating ’round the Sunday table. I disagreed with his choice to hunt game. He defended the fact. Wild duck was one case.
“I’ve put food on the table.”
In silent protest, I’d refuse a forkful of roast duck.
“Excuse me from the table.”
As a child, he’d wake me at the just the right time. Before dawn, we’d ride to the slough, his Pointer a guard, on the back seat. The dog wears rubber boots, custom ordered from a hunting supply catalogue. Father protects the dog’s paws from damp ground.
At the slough, I am directed to a clearing on the bank. There is a view of the water. A thermos of cocoa warms my hands. Tucked within a paper bag: cheese sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.
“Be still,” he says. “Stay visible.”
When one is still in thought and body, one hears every whisper and notices every nuance. For instance, land and objects change in light. Bulrush reeds turn sage, to olive, to black.
To pass time, I weave tall grass into crowns, search for shapes and faces within clouds. I listen as wind rustles through the rush. When the ducks fly over the marsh, I plug my ears and rock.
At day’s end, father gathers the wooden decoys, tossing them into a gunny sack. In a separate one, he stacks the still warm bodies of duck.
I think ducks beautiful, their bodies smooth as velvet, feathers tiered and shimmering in light. Even dead, their faces remain calm.
As we drive home, a certain gravitas sets down between us. Music from the radio hangs in the balance. Country roads turn to city streets. In silence I find words for Sunday.
If Father were here today, I’d speak the same unwavering truth. Ann Patchett wrote it best, ” you have to be willing to accept not what you wanted to have happen, but what happens… By the time you get out of the marsh, you will have written a novel so devoid of ducks it will shock you.”
He’d nod toward the decoy on the sideboard. We’d agree to disagree. He’d hug me tighter, knowing we are more alike than different.
The decoy rests on the sideboard, freshened up, beneath two coats of ‘French Linen.’ ~ Annie Sloan
A beautiful quote from author Ann Patchett~
“…fiction writing is like duck hunting. You go to the right place at the right time with the right dog. You get into the water before dawn, wearing a little protective gear, then you stand behind some reeds and wait for the story to present itself…You choose the place and the day. You pick the gun and the dog. You have the desire to blow the duck apart for reasons that are entirely your own. But you have to be willing to accept not what you wanted to have happen, but what happens… By the time you get out of the marsh, you will have written a novel so devoid of ducks it will shock you.”
― Ann Patchett