by Mel Gilden
You don't have to be a writer to enjoy the entertaining incidents that sometimes drop out of the sky unexpectedly. Of course if you are a writer, such incidents can always be of use. How do you come up with this stuff, your friends might ask. No need to tell them that you don't come up with it — you just pay attention to the world around you.
Such an incident dropped onto me last year while driving to a local science fiction convention held at a hotel in Pasadena. The traffic was Saturday-morning light, so I was surprised when the cars in front of me slowed to a stop midblock for no reason that I could see at first.
But in a moment the reason became obvious and I smiled. Marching across the street, in the crosswalk no less, was a mama duck leading a line of ducklings. They seemed unconcerned about the traffic or anything else as they waddled from a big building on one side of the busy street to a park on the other.
I was charmed by this parade for a pair of reasons:
First, I was delighted that no car honked or seemed eager to run the ducks over. Second, the whole production reminded me of a famous book about this very thing that I had read and enjoyed as a small child: Make Way for Ducklings By Robert McCloskey.
The fact that ducks could still stop traffic gave me hope for the human race. Its members still seemed willing to enjoy nature — at least when it is thrust upon them. Some other sampling of humans might have been less willing, but I would rather believe that is not the case.
What were the ducks doing in the big building? Did they live in the park? I didn't know then, and I don't know now whether ducks crossed here all the time or if I was just lucky to be on hand for this one show. If it was just the one show, my experience was all the more precious.
I have not yet found a literary location for this charming episode from the secret life of ducks, and I may never find it. But that doesn't prevent me from loving the parade for its own sake.