I had already bailed on my in-laws earlier in the week when I realized I couldn’t get enough duck-sitter coverage to let me leave town for one night.  As if that weren’t guilt-trippy enough, I also made a girlfriend date to see the latest Tim Burton campalooza, a movie art-directed within an inch of its life but emotionally anchored by those big dark Depp eyes.  But enough of Johnny…*sigh*.  The fact is even this shortish excursion would entail leaving my ducks outside in their covered pen for more than an hour or two.  Since they all looked pretty Grown-Up Duck now, I figured it was time to get me used to the idea of them going out.  (I mean them used to staying outside without me.)  After all, I would definitely need to leave them with a sitter at some near date so I also needed to get me, them, us—comfortable with the notion.

My friend and I grabbed sushi first, found a parking spot, waited through commercials, then more commercials, then some trailers and then, finally, just as my mind wanders back to the ducks, the feature film unspools.  I can’t get into it.  My mind skitters across such questions as what if they knocked over the water bowl?  And the back-up water bowl? What if Gladys fell in the water bowl?  And couldn’t get up?  What if it got incredibly hot and they knocked over both water bowls and a giant wind came out of nowhere and tore the shade umbrella off the pen and then they were exposed and thirsty and….

Opening shots of the film: Ocean.  Lots and lots of ocean.  All that water and not a drop to drink.  Panic sets in.  I wonder if I can possibly sneak out without my friend noticing, race home, give the ducks a third water bowl and make it back before the end credits.  Thankfully, I manage to suppress this lunacy and attempt to immerse myself in the compelling drama and exciting narrative that surely must describe “Dark Shadows”.

“Hey, that wasn’t so bad after all!” I enthuse as I get us out of the theatre as quickly as possible, trying to act cool about my duck anxiety disorder.  As we exit the massive complex, I am startled to discover that not only is it not super-hot out, the pavement is wet, the sky all dotted with painterly clouds.  Divine intervention?!  Not only did the ducks obviously not run out of water, they got to experience their first (but hardly their last) rain shower.  I ran my friend home and then skedaddled back to check on my babies.  They were fine.  (Of course! I can hear my husband say.)   I took a moment to greet the cats then, just as I prepared to get the girls into the garage, it started up again.  This time, with thunder.  Oops…back inside.

Checked the weather on-line to see if I could get a bead on how long the T & L might last.  Front page—Severe Thunderstorm In Progress.  Hmm, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  Just then, of course, the rain started to come down harder.  Didn’t have time for the semi-elaborate process of coaxing the ducks into the carriers, which would involve at least two separate trips, but I wanted to do one thing.  I hustled outside and, as I heard the rumbles in the distance*, I threw a plastic drop cloth over 1/3 of the pen so the ducks would at least have more shelter if they wanted it.  I retreated inside to wait out the deluge but kept checking through the dining room window and opening the door once in a while to give them an encouraging shout-out.  They quacked back.  Sometimes it looked like Puff was quacking a lot.  Then I realized she was opening her mouth to try to catch raindrops.  Good luck with that one, Puff!

I monitored the flashes and claps…the website said it should end around 6, another 45 minutes.  That seemed too long, at least, for me!  Listened to the thunder…how many minutes apart, how many miles away?  I’d been in L.A. too long, couldn’t remember those skills from my Girl Scout days.  The rain pounded, the thunder rattled the metal roof outside my office.  I kept going back and forth watching the girls–for what, I have no idea.  They’re ducks, jeez Louise.  I can’t even swim.**  Which one of us is gonna need to be rescued???

They’d been using their drinking bowl for wading but the strength of the downpour soon nixed that.  Thank goodness.  Even I remembered the rule:  First crack of thunder, everybody outta the pool!  For some reason, though, they weren’t using the plastic sheeting for shelter.  Buff and Gladys crouched under the 2 x 4 supports like shoppers caught without umbrellas on an open sidewalk.  They were everywhere in the pen except the shelter!

As the rain slowed down, I grabbed a hat and attempted to leave the house but a flash of lightning quickly put paid to that.  Waited another fifteen minutes then tried again since now the sky featured one of those biblical God lights, rays pouring forth from a great gray cloud.  (No, Charlton Heston did not make an appearance.)  But as I headed to the gate once more, two cat carriers (and their metal cage doors) swinging along, a crack of Hollywood-worthy thunder sent me scurrying into the garage.  Okey dokey.  I think I’ll just wait a bitty bit longer…. Another ten minutes, and this time as I tiptoed through the puddles, there came the real sun, the last drops and, ridiculously, the ducks were finally under the makeshift tarp.

Well, better late than never.


*CAUTION: This is Humor Writing.  Do Not Attempt to Go Outside in a Thunderstorm at Your Own Home.

**Clearly, I did not earn any merit badges for water sports.

Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes