We hadn't had any family pets since the chickens of the summer before. (Not actual pets, btw.) And, sadly, the pet we'd had before that was my sweet dog Harvey (who we had to let go to another home because he got out of our yard and ate some of Pearl's chickens). And I was, like, in third grade when the Harvey/chicken fiasco went down.
What I'm saying is, it had been A LONG TIME since we'd had a pet. And, in an effort to change that, I started making regular visits to the feed store in downtown Taylor. (Just cracked myself up with that, btw. There is no "downtown Taylor".)
I weighed my options. You know: horses, cows, chickens and ducks. (That's basically what they market towards in a feed store.) We didn't have the land for a horse or a cow, and I'd already found out that I didn't know how to tell the sex of a chicken (or four). So, really, a duckling was my best bet.
I made friends with the dude who worked the counter and asked him how to tell which ducks were boys and which were girls. Turns out, it's pretty easy with ducks. Something about the feathers... I don't remember.
All I knew was that I wanted a boy Mallard (because they're prettier when they grow up), so once the ducklings were old enough to sell (they'd hatched them right there in the store, under an incubator light!), I put on my winter coat (it was Spring) and rode my bike to the feed store. (Remind me sometime to tell you about my bike. I still get annoyed, thinking about that stupid thing. My parents told me I could have a new bike, and I could pick out whatever I wanted. ... As long as it was a men's bike in a gender-neutral color, so my brothers could ride it, too. Yeah, that sounds EXACTLY like what a pre-teen girl would pick for herself, doesn't it? Twenty-seven years later, and I still roll my eyes whenever I think about that gray men's style 10-speed. Grrr.)
Anyhoo, I rode my bike to the feed store and I walked out with the cutest little Mallard duckling and as much duck feed as I could buy with change from a $10. Because I didn't have a basket on the front of my bike (like most girls, who had proper bicycles with banana seats), my only option was to balance a grocery-sized brown paper bag FULL of feed on the handlebars as I rode home, with my new little duck friend in my coat pocket.
You read me right.
I was toting my new little duckling inside my coat pocket. (It was the sweetest coat ever. Had a big three color chevron stripe across the chest, and there were zippers on the pockets. Welcome to the late 80's, ladies and gentlemen. Those were good times.)
By the time I got home, I realized that maybe I shouldn't spring my duck on my parents right away. (The upside of a duck v. a chicken is that a duck's bill is flat and wide - no poking of any brothers in the eyeball. But still, I decided I'd keep him my little secret for a while.)
I walked in through the front door, made a beeline for my room, and started to make a my little duck a home in the top drawer of my dresser.
I said... I. Kept. Him. In. The. Top. Drawer. Of. My. Dresser.
I cleared out the drawer, and put some newspaper down. Then, I poured in some duck feed and got the little dude a water bowl, and closed the drawer with about 1/2 inch to spare (so he wouldn't suffocate) and went and joined the family for dinner.
For two weeks, I kept that duck hidden in my closet, in the top drawer my dresser. I'd come home from school, wear my jacket back to my bedroom, and take my little buddy out of his drawer and shove him into my right pocket. I'd zip him in (both to keep his fuzzy head hidden and to muffle the quacking) and I'd take him out to the side yard (where there were very few windows) and let him run around for half an hour or so. Then I zip him back up, and go back into the house and make a beeline to the hall bathroom, where I'd run him a sinkful of water and let him swim and splash for a while. After he'd had his play time, I'd take him back to my room. I'd let him walk around while I changed the newspaper and got him some new food and water, and then I'd put him away and go watch Gilligan's Island or something, like a normal kid.
Kirk knew about him (he'd followed me outside once, early on), but he knew that he was a secret, so he never talked to me about the duck unless we were totally alone.
On the last day I had him, Spencer followed us outside and got SO excited about our new pet that he went right in and told Mom.
Mom took the duck back to the feed store that very afternoon, and gave them some sob story about how her daughter had bought a duck without her permission (and/or knowledge) and she needed to return it. They took the duckling back, and even gave her a refund! (How nice are they?) But they wouldn't take the feed, so she brought it home and told me I'd need to get rid of the duck food, somehow. ... So I told her that I would, and promptly stuffed it onto the top shelf of my closet. Where it stayed until I graduated from high school and cleaned my room out because I was moving to St. George.
I guess it was just as well. I mean, the duck was getting too big to stuff into my coat pocket. He was also getting too big for the dresser drawer. (He couldn't really stand in there anymore.) And he was JUST ABOUT to have to upgrade to taking a daily swim in the bathtub, which would have been a hassle. (And I don't even want to think about how much poop I'd have had to deal with once he got officially grown up.) But he was super cute. And he was an awesome (secret) pet. Unlike the