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“Duck” and “Quiet”

By John Paul Caponigro


Transported aerially the cockatrice’s egg arrived x-rayed. What was laid on a racehorse farm in Kentucky was brooded by a little river, nestled at the base of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, trickling its way to join the red Rio Grande, which divided the high desert plateaus of New Mexico from top to bottom. He hatched under neither a cool moon nor a blazing sun but a bizarre buzzing electric bulb, baked from the shell he never set right. While he was more fuzz than feathers, he seemed innocent enough as he trailed and trialed his siblings. Pure deception.

That summer, the precocial paddlings patterned on my white tennis shoes, perpetually untied until they had to be removed to walk. Soon six sisters were laid to rest by canine teeth. Two were left. One was laughing. The other flew off to flee his brotherly love. The last beast left was just too much to bear.

His crest constantly flared above a permanently inflamed face with watering yellow eyes. His Muscovy neck never stopped writhing, propelling his body into endless malfeasance. His dirty feathers shed no water, so he could not float, but he tried. His watery sputters could not be distinguished from his fiery breath diminished to an interminable rhythmic hiss. No one near could escape the sound.

With an eye for bigger things, he fell in love with a goose and pillaged flower beds destroying rather than delivering blooms before he went tilting at his imagined rival, a white auto. I followed the steps to this dance until I came to know it too well; park in the predetermined spot, anticipate the incoming flight collision, open the escape hatch, watch out below, count how many times I got bitten. Repeat.

I found ways to give him the gift of flight that he wished for but could not attain on his own without giving it first to others. Place toe below the breast and lift. Consider it a kick without the impact but delivering the desired effect. Distance. He’d soon pick a fight with the dogs and get his bloody comeuppance. Knowing he’d never back down, I took my time to separate them.

One spring morning, he bit me in the back while I was Tom Sawyering the picket fences that kept nothing in or out, more decoration through fenestration than defense. Enraged, I roared and chased him frenzied over the light enough for him but not for me lid of a grease trap, and found myself up to my arms in rusty tetanus. I had days in bed to plot revenge for the scars he had left me.

Come April Fool’s Day, early in the morning, I grabbed him and put him spitting in the pan that cooked the distant kin of his unrequited love. The stove, three feet from the freezer, contained their cooking grease I hoped would soon be his. His cursed tail feathers didn’t fit. I impulsively grabbed scissors. Then I paused for fear of losing life or limb or love. Whether venial or cardinal, for this sin, there’d be hell to pay to a higher authority than me, so instead, I pinched his beak and took him back to his pen. To shut him up, I turned the empty feed bin over his head. I gave him a taste of darkness and me some peace in quiet. Returning, passively aggressive, I left the dirty pan on the cold stove burner. When the only one that could love him woke, my mother witnessed my mess, and cooly inquired. “What is the meaning of this?” I shouted, “Duck!” and tossed her feathers.


There are some advantages to being deaf. For instance, if something puts a pot over your head and beats the metal with a wooden spoon, instead of scratching the ever living shit out of it, you think it’s kind of fun too. It likes the vibrations you make when it pats you with its tiny hands. If only it wouldn’t get strawberry jam on your nice white fur. Sticky. Perhaps it would like to smell your butt?

When the little monster runs in circles, waving its hands in the air, with its mouth wide open, you go undercover. Finally when you’ve had enough of it pawing blindly for you, you jump into the creature’s crib. Bars can be wonderful for keeping things in and out. Lick your whiskers with your tongue and wash your ears with your paws. Flick your tail back and forth. While awhile while you wait for it to sleep.

When it finally naps, you will sit in the window. People will pass across the street and down the beach. Birds will fly. Clouds will drift. Shadows will shift. The sun will set. The moon will rise. The stars will return. Waves will roll in and out. Your world will be much more peaceful when it’s quiet.

About The Author:

John Paul Caponigro is an internationally collected visual artist and published author. He leads unique adventures in the wildest places on earth to help participants creatively make deeper connections with nature and themselves. View his TEDx and Google talks at


Fiction, The River

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