This morning. I'm watching YouTube. Early. I'm drinking coffee and eating my oatmeal with peanut butter and chocolate syrup and watching, on a whim, a School of Life video about polyamory when someone is bashing at my front door. What the fuck. It's 5:45am. I stand up, make a fist. That'll run 'em off if it's Isis or home invaders, I figure. It's dark out and rainy and I squint to see that it's neither. It's Monica from down the block. My kids' mom, my ex wife. She's crying hard.
Your world drops out from under you a few times in a life. I think about the kids. I think about the house fire from years back. I head towards the door and I don't want to hear it because I'm shaking now. She's a mess, bare feet, pajamas, sobbing, pointing down off my porch at the middle of the road.
There's a body there and right away I think it must be Willie, the new rescue dog she got two days ago. He's sweet and kind and he cannot die like this on a Friday morning at the beginning of a better life. I will give him CPR, I tell myself. I won't let that beautiful son of a bitch go. The kids love him too much. I will use the sides of my hand to ease the rainy blood out of the street and back up into his body and he will come around, I say before she even starts making sense with words I can understand.
But it all comes to pass in a moment or two and it isn't Willie. It's the ducks. Both of them. The mama and the daddy. Goddamnit. Goddamn this goddamn road to hell.
She'd been out in the wet grass of her dark yard waiting on Willie the Dog Who Never Pisses to piss when she'd heard it all go down. A car coming down the street, the swoosh of the damp brakes, the pause and the revving back up, disappearing down towards the bend at the church and gone. Daddy was in the middle under the streetlight, ripped apart on the yellow line. Mama was over on the curb, right where the kids would be walking to the bus in while. She was still alive when Monica found her. Gasping but going. Monica wants me to put her out of her misery and I know I have to. I want to but I'm sick about it.
I know these two.
Me and the kids have been watching them dig their hole for laying eggs over in the patch of shit lawn outside the vacant joint across the street. Monica chased them out of the road just yesterday morning, me telling her to forget it.
"They're just gonna be right back out there in ten minutes," I said. "They don't give a shit."
Last year they made the nest right there too. We watched them then like we've been watching them now. There's tons of better places around here to choose but they liked this spot. Right on the road. Right in the shadow of the old church and the old theater. Right out in the open. Privacy be damned. They wanted a roadside birth. I guess they had their reasons. We all have our things.
I go quick to grab my dirt shovel out of the garage and then we're out in the street. Out in the dark and the wet and what I'm looking at is like some scene out of some wild-eyed photographer's coffee table book. Mama is passed by the time I reach her. I touch her side with my fingers and half hope she'll fly up into my face and bite me. No though. What we have here is two ducks freshly killed lying in the streetlight glow. Fucking feathers everywhere. People come up the road heading to work/I can't see them/just tires hissing on rain/headlights/a brake tap to wonder what the fuck these two are doing out in the road in their night clothes. We look like meth heads trying to find something. Monica is walking on the cinders with a spaghetti pot, throwing water on the pools of blood. We are sleepy heads trying to get rid of something.
Back and forth, that's what I am. I'm up and down too. I'm overjoyed it isn't one of us and I'm gonna throw up because it's these two.
I use my shovel to scoop up Daddy into a Hefty bag. I remember watching him yesterday just standing there on the sidewalk as Mama's ass was pointed up out of the dirt, up at the sky. He was standing around while she did all the work, I thought. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt. That must be their arrangement, I figured. She digs the hole the way she wants it/ he stands guard against this messed up world.
I walk the six steps over to Mama and scoop her up as Monica stares down and cries.
"They just kept going," she says. "Who does that?!"
I don't know what to say.
I never do.
I look down in the bag and their bodies lying on one another against the clean white. Then I tie a knot in the thing and bury it in my trash cans.
It's trash day today. Trash trucks will be here by 9.
The kids show up later and they don't know because I can tell right away that she hasn't told them. I glance at the road as Monica walks away with Charlie and Willie and there's basically no sign of what we saw earlier. There's a few feathers but they're matted down and look like old gum now. The kids are in good spirits and i ask them about Willie and Henry wants Lucky Charms because he says he's still hungry even though he had something over at his Mom's.
I pour him a fat ass bowl of Lucky Charms.
I stare at their heads, my kids.
The ducks are in the trash cans a few feet away. One wall. Out there on the side where there ain't no Lucky Charms.
What is this?
How is any of this happening?
How do we all keep dodging so many fucking bullets, you know?
I shit you not: as I'm writing this sentence the trash truck is out front. It's a shit burial but I'm shook up and I had to get the kids on the bus and what can I do? They're gone now. Back to the Earth, I guess.
I walk away from writing this with an idea up in my head. I walk over to look at her hole: if there's eggs in there then I'll try and find another duck's nest and sneak them in there. This town has a lot of ducks, a lot of nests; make it happen, dude. Then these ducklings will get born and that will be something at least. I want to salvage that family somehow. They deserved better than that. I know they did. I saw it it their eyes just yesterday. They were scrappy. They made cars stop and go around.
There's a Twix wrapper in the hole.
I stare down at it for twenty, thirty seconds.
I pick it up and put it in my pocket. I turn around and walk back across the road towards my place. The rain is light but steady. This grey day is an hour broke.
I toss the Twix wrapper in the empty trash can, head back in the house, lock the door behind me.