It was an ordinary Sunday at the Dvořák household. Father Dvořák was reading the Sunday paper, the mother was cleaning up the dishes in the kitchen, grandpa was solving a crossword in the corner of the living room, and little Johnny and Mary were playing outside in the garden. It was April and all nature was in bloom. All was peaceful, as is fit for a Sunday afternoon, until one moment, the young barged into the living room.
“Look, look what we found!” Johnny exclaimed, Mary standing closely behind him. Grandpa Dvořák continued to mumble answers to his crossword (his hearing was quite poor), but father Dvořák gave the discovered object his full attention. It was an egg.
“Where did you find it?” he asked the children.
“There, at the back, near the pond and fountain,” Mary replied. Johnny was silently staring in fascination at the oval thing that he only saw in the fridge before.
“Whose egg is it?” Johnny asked. The father continued to study it, but could not come up with an answer – he was a city man as long as he could remember. But his father might know!
“Go ask grandpa, he grew up on a farm,” and the children ran across the room to the old man, who took the egg into his hands. He caressed it, placed it against his ear, knocked on it a little and then said all-knowingly:
“Duck.” The children began jumping up and down in excitement like kangaroos. They exclaimed:
“Duck! Daddy, daddy, can we keep it?” The father squared his shoulders.
“Ask your mother.” The children rushed into the kitchen, but returned sad.
“Better luck next time,” father Dvořák said and opened his paper again. Grandpa Dvořák, however, could not take the sight of low-spirited grandchildren. He indicated with his finger to come closer to him, and once they did he whispered:
“Younglings, let’s keep it! But it’ll be our secret, okay?” The children nodded in unison. “Good! Let’s go into the back garage and put together a cosy nest for it to hatch in.”
“And when will that be, grandpa?” asked Johnny, taking the old man’s hand, admiration twinkling in his eyes.
“By the size and warmth of it, very soon, Johnny, very soon.” And all three of them left.
And indeed, the egg hatched days later.
“Let’s name it Ducky!” cried Mary, and Johnny agreed, thinking it was the perfect name for the small brown creature, albeit not exactly original. Grandpa smiled.
“You know, when I was your age Johnny, I had my own pet duck. His name was Bernard.”
“What happened to him, grandpa?”
“Well, he grew big and we ate him for Sunday lunch.” The children gasped in horror. “But don’t worry children; as long as I’m around, this Ducky will be a pet, not food.” They smiled in relief and hugged him, but carefully enough not to squish the duck youngling.
Of course, eventually the parents found out about Ducky – the small ball of feathers began making journeys from the back garage into the house, and the scent of his excrement was not ignorable. Also, his merry quack when taking a dip in the small pool whence his egg was found was not the quietest. His love for swimming, diving and walking gave him a very well-built figure that played with mother Dvořáková’s imagination. She simply always felt the desire to cook a traditional Czech dish with him as the star ingredient. She dreamed of roasting it for 4 hours, turning the heat to the maximum for the final 30 minutes to create a crispy skin, and serving it with dumplings and sweet-sour red cabbage. She imagined the leftover fat spread on freshly baked bread, topped with salt and chopped spring onion. What bliss! She tried to convince the children and grandpa Dvořák, but they stood their ground even when their mouths watered; a single look into the Ducky’s beady eyes made them insist on his value as a family pet, not meal. This continued for a few months, with the mother, then also father Dvořák, trying to convince the Ducky team to give him up. And so little Ducky grew into a handsome, green-headed adult duck.
One day, Johnny and Mary came home from school to find a large thing coming out of Ducky. They screamed and ran to their mother and told her about it. With the tempting image of roasted duck with dumplings in her mind again, she smiled to herself and then went into the back garage together with the children to see what was happening to Ducky. Indeed, there was a long thing coming out of him. She shook her head and said:
“Children, Ducky is sick. That thing coming out of him is a leech – it eats his insides and given its length, it’s been eating his insides for a long time already.” The children looked at Ducky who had his eyes closed and then back at their mother, who looked them in the eyes as she said: “I am sorry.” They began to cry and as she embraced them, she continued to reassure them that killing Ducky is the best they could do for him.
The children were disgusted and shocked when they had roasted Ducky for Sunday lunch a few days after the leech incident. They barely touched it of course, but father and mother Dvořák were happy beyond words. Suddenly, grandpa entered the room.
“Roasted duck? Goodie!” He sat down and began feasting, the children staring at him in pure horror. Johnny began sobbing.
“What is wrong, my boy?” asked grandpa Dvořák. Mary put her hand on her brother’s shoulder and between her own sobs, she slowly responded, articulating each word:
“That-is-was-Ducky!” The children then stormed into their room, from which further crying could be heard. Grandpa looked back at the parents.
“He was… sick.” Mother responded passively.
“How ‘sick’? He was as healthy as my Bernard was in his young years!”
“There was a black thing coming out of him.” Grandpa thought for a while.
“Describe the thing?” Mother Dvořák grew nervous.
“Well, it was long, black-er and uh,-“
“Did it twist in circles, like a corkscrew?”
“Yes, yes.” The grandpa threw his fork and knife onto the table in anger.
“You fools! Ducky was not sick – he was a man duck when you saw him! Why, I thought you knew what duck penises look like, Hana! You grew up on a farm!”
“Indeed I did,” his daughter-in-law responded. “But admit it – the children are far too young to know about these things.”
And having no argument, grandpa nodded in defeat and left his son and daughter-in-law to finish Ducky off.