July 2004

It’s 5AM. RM is sleeping in sweet denial of her morning sickness. A great calamity is about to fall upon me.

I’m semi-dressed and desperate to get into the backyard to feed the ducks – Floppy and Flip-Flap – so that their loud persistent quacking for food doesn’t wake RM hours before she needs to get up and ready for work.

A fine rain is falling as I step outside. The ducks are so loud and even though they were received gratefully as presents from the in-laws when they were tiny, yellow and cute, I am now a prisoner to their fat, white fully-grown needs. They hold my backyard hostage with their constant slurping and splashing and machine-gun fire shitting but worst of all is the persistent quacking when they’re hungry. They are always hungry.

I dip my feet into an old pair of tread-less sneakers that I have dubbed ‘the duck shoes’, which I wear with my heels hanging over the ends, like they’re a pair of thongs, and then I break into a panicked shuffle, which reminds me of the time Jennifer Hawkins lost her skirt and went run-falling her way off the catwalk in high-heels and I’m trying to herd Floppy and Flip-Flap into their pen where their trough and pellets are but my frantic pace has sent them into a waddling frenzy and so they run away from me, avoiding the entrance to their pen, where the food is, as if it holds an axe-wielding farmer peppered in the blood and feathers of their headless, murdered brethren.

Each time I round them up and fail to encourage them in to the pen my frustrations grows and so I increase my efforts and shuffle even faster, grunting like a pig, and it’s on the fifth or possibly sixth lap of the rain-soaked backyard that I slip on the duckshit-laden surface and manage to wedge my foot under the paling of the fence to kick-off my life’s slow-mo Matrix moment.

As my body twists to a hard right my foot maintains its position in the opposite direction and a snapping sound comes with the sharpest of pains, just above my ankle. The echo of my scream wakes RM from her sleep at the same time that it seems to placate Floppy and Flip-Flap who shake their feathery bodies before waddling calmly into their pen.

After four days lying on the lounge room floor watching, among other things, The Bold And The Beautiful, with my leg completely plastered up – the spiral fracture requiring a plate with six screws to repair – barely able to move, dosed up on Panadene Forte for the pain, pissing into a two litre Coke bottle that RM empties when she gets home from work, crying my eyes out because of the hopelessness of the situation (and because Brooke has given birth to a healthy baby boy who she and Ridge have named Ridge Jr) I hear Floppy and Flip-Flap quacking again, just outside the lounge room window.

Their arrogance enrages me at the same time that it fills me with determination to rise above their tyranny. I will rescue myself from this duck inflicted misery, and erase the guilt I feel at being a burden to RM as she suffers through her first pregnancy.

duck-fearI commando crawl from the lounge to the study and manage to pull myself into the computer chair and, using my good leg to swivel around, move from room to room. After thirty minutes of extreme pain and effort I roll from the carpet onto the linoleum covered floor of the kitchen where I begin searching the cupboards, keen to prepare dinner to make it up to RM.

When I see a box of premixed Caramel Muffins there, and note with glee that it is only a month outside its expiry date, I get to work right away, banging into walls, crying intermittently at the deep roaring throb of my lower limb, stopping twice along the way to visit the Coke bottle, to have the muffins cooked within an hour.

The sweet smell of caramel is everywhere, right throughout the house, and noting that RM is due home at any moment, I place the tray on a tea-towel on my lap, and swivel into the lounge room to surprise her.

She enters the front door and smiles when she sees me there.

I am wearing only boxer shorts and muffins, sitting in the computer chair, arms open, jazz hands firing, ready for her warm thrill when all of a sudden she stops short, places a hand to her mouth and starts bucking forward, stumbling down the hallway towards the toilet, dry-retching, and it is only the sound of her vomiting that reminds me of the one thing guaranteed to awaken the true violence in her morning sickness – the smell of caramel.

The madness in the dance that follows is only heightened by my crippled movements as I swivel around to the tune of dry-retching and peg-leg my way to the back door, throwing the muffins as far as I can into the yard, and then scurrying like some human-crab mutant to turn on all the ceiling fans and open any window within my reach, before rushing back to assist RM.

But the chair won’t fit in our tiny bathroom and as I sit their uselessly, cooing, ‘Nearly there, let it all out,’ I look to the open back door to see the ducks there, and I’m scared; suddenly aware of their human-like ability to plan and deceive and manipulate.

They’re giving me the duck version of that’s what you get by extending their twiggy legs, fluffing their feathers, and looking down on me from the top of their long white necks with glassy-eyed assurance, as they feast upon my tray of caramel muffins, totally quiet. Without a quack.