(with thanks to Rosalie Catchpole who told me this story on a bus trip)
Mallory wasn't an ordinary duck. Yes, he looked like a mallard with his distinctive shiny green head and white collar, but he didn't swim among the reeds looking for food. No, he had his own swimming pool and he ate from a dish by the back door of the cottage. True, he was put in a cage at night for his own safety but he was always let out early in the morning.
In the spring Mallory had hatched out of an egg just like any other duck, but that egg was in an incubator in a kindergarten classroom. It was the only duck egg in a clutch of white hens' eggs.
The twins, Michael and Michelle, fell in love with him when he hatched and sat big and clumsy while a half dozen fluffy yellow chicks stumbled peeping all around. Mom and Dad said that they couldn't bring the duck home, however, because they both were away working all day.
When the twins' grandparents heard about Mallory, they gave in to the childrens' begging and presented themselves to the kindergarten teacher who gladly gave the duckling into their keeping, especially after the poultry farmer came to collect the chicks and had turned up his nose at the mallard.
The children could hardly wait until the school holidays arrived and they could leave the city to spend time with Mallory and their grandparents in the cottage by a small creek. They discovered that the duckling had grown and was fully fledged and beautiful. He had already become part of the family. Even old Toby, the black lab, let him eat from his dish after a few nips from Mallory's clacking bill. But Grandma was his favourite. Mallory followed her everywhere he could, complaining with loud quacks if she shut the back screen door on him or shooed him away with a broom.
The twins laughed when they saw Mallory trying to eat Grandma's toes when she was relaxing in a lawn chair. “ Does he think her red toenails are strawberries?” asked Michelle, giggling. Mallory had been fed freshly-picked wild strawberries from her hand the day before.
It was Michael's job to make sure the plastic swimming pool the twins had enjoyed the summer before was filled with water from the creek every day. If it was a day old, Mallory would not go for a swim but would walk away complaining loudly and looking “hard done by”.
All summer, Mallory and the twins played together and the duck was even allowed inside when a thunderstorm roared and darkened the sky. While the rain poured outside, Mallory amused himself by trying to peck the red dots off a sofa cushion.
When grade one beckoned with all its new adventures, the twins were reluctant to leave Mallory but were promised they could come to play with him on the weekends. When Hallowe'en had passed by, Grandma and Grandpa had to close up the cottage but planned to take Mallory along with Toby back to their city home. They did wonder if the duck would be happy living in a cage in their garage.
It turned out that nobody needed to be concerned because Mallory took matters into his own “hands”, so to speak. One early misty November morning, he joined a flock of his cousins who had lived in the creek all spring and summer and they all took flight quacking good-bye to anybody who was up early enough to hear them.
Obviously, although Mallory was different he was just an ordinary duck after all. The twins were happy that their special friend had lots of other friends as well and were sure that he would come back. They planned to have the swimming pool ready and some strawberries waiting, as well as Grandma, to welcome Mallory to the cottage next spring.