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The Revenge of the Ugly Duckling

ugly duckling swan

Image by Birgit from Pixabay 

If you know the story, you’ll know that Spring waltzed in, and those around me woke up to the fact that I was now a ‘beautiful’ swan….transformed from an ‘ugly duckling’, in their very misguided books.

But I was always a swan.

And so what if I had actually been a big ass duckling. So what?

Sigh.

Hiss.

Like I said, it was Spring. The hopeful season. The season of newness and growth. Buds bursting and sunshine lightening the air. Yes, I was a ‘beautiful’ swan now, a gliding cliché of serenity and grace. But I had a belly full of bile, and underneath I was kicking with a torrent of resentment. Can you blame me?

I practically choked on every admiring glance that came my way, from every player from my past. Yes, I’d made a point of tracking them all down: the stork who’d muttered over my egg; my turn-tail mother; my absent father; the wild geese; the wild stone throwing children. You get the idea…there were many, many haters.

But on the day in question…

Sigh.

Hiss.

Something broke. Something snapped in my revenge storm, as I tried to execute my usual plan. I made my usual kind of entrance, flying in, landing hard, skidding across the lake, legs braced. I was making the splash I wanted, streaking right up to my eldest brother, a smug little drake named Steve. I arched my wings back, I straightened my long neck to the sky, I displayed my magnificence.

I hissed. “Hey Ssssssteve. Guesssss who. Remember me?”

“Uck?” He pretty much swallowed his own quack. “Uck, uccckkkk!” He pretty much swallowed his own beak.

“That’s right. It’ssss me. Your little bro-ster. Giussssepe.”

Steve’s little eyes shone blankly.

“You knew me as Marco.” I clacked him around the back of his head with the tip of my wing. Steve curse-quacked and started paddling towards the mudflats. I leaned out and pulled him back by his short little neck, easy as if he were reed.

“You gonna kill me?” he said. “I got a wife. I got ducklings.”

Wow, he really was a little dunce. He’d just given me more leverage, not a sympathy bullet to my sad, empty chest. I had so many options now.

Sigh.

Hiss.

“What do you want?” he stuttered, straining against my wing.

The simple answer was revenge. The tricky part was that I was not enjoying this dish. Squaring up to Steve wasn’t easing my bile, or letting me breathe easy. My revenge plan of intimidation sucked. I wanted to show them all, like a white knight twirling his lance of righteousness. But in this moment, I felt like a lowdown bully, swimming in dirty water that my ‘brother’ Steve had likely shat in.

Sigh. Hiss. Sigh.

“Cat got your tongue?” Steve said, with an annoying waggle of his head.

I dunked him, just for a second, and then let him up. He quacked with outrage.

Then an idea clicked inside my tired little bird brain.

I settled my wings back into place, hissing low, “Take me to your children.”

Steve ruffled his feathers, and then swam off towards the bank, with no argument whatsoever. It was easy to keep up. Seconds later, we reached a reedy clump, and a pebbly shore, where a bundle of four little ducklings huddled together.

“Where’s their mother?” I asked

“Left me, didn’t she.” Steve said, shrugging his wings.

“You said you had a wife.”

“I did,” he said breezily.

I craned my head down towards the ducklings, and they all blinked up at me.

“You gonna kill them?”  I didn’t like the hopeful look that was beaming out of Steve’s eyes.

All the ducklings jumped up, screaming and peeeeeep-peeeeeping, and running in ineffective little circles.

Wow, none of this was my Plan A. Or my Plan B. I scrambled for a Plan C.

“Yer making my ears bleed you little wussies!” Steve yelled at the ducklings.

I clacked Steve around the back of the head again. And then felt a shame slap in my own brain, for striking him in front of his children.

The ducklings all threw themselves away from Steve and I, into the water.

“Go on! Drown them,” Steve said, gesturing with a wing. Then he moseyed into the water himself, and swam away from the ducklings. Fast. This drake was not bluffing. They peeep-peeeped, their little golden beaks opening and closing, swimming in circles.

“Ok children, ok children, ok children,” I said, stretching my wings out slowly and patting at the air around me, as gently as I could.

None of them were following their father. Two out of the four paddled a little closer to me.

“You a swan?” one of them lisped.

I nodded my head slowly, so as not to spook them. “I used to be a duckling though.”

All four paddled closer.

My stomach eased. My heart swelled.

Maybe revenge is being the father that you would have wanted…? To the children of your brother… who’s not even your brother? I know!

Love-a-duck. Love-a-duckling.

Week 18

This week I read Hans Christian Andersen’s short story, The Ugly Duckling.

And I wrote on from the point it ended.

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