Larry the Duck
One of my grandfathers was the sheriff of Tacoma. He was stern, awnry or cruel depending on who you talked to. Folks tried to kill him or at least scare him in a drive-by shooting at his home in the early sixties. My mother was the only person downstairs and to this day won’t sit with her back to a window. My grandpa was not scared or dead.
He died young. I was still a toddler. Somehow when I heard he had died I translated all the stories I wasn’t supposed to be listening to, into a clear image in my mind. To me he had died inside the heart of a mountain, like a dwarf or a giant. He was working so hard up there on that mountain and one afternoon he went into his crystal like cave room and laid down on his granite bed for a rest and never woke up. I was quite a bit older when I found out he had actually died on the sound in Tacoma; he had laid down beside a bottle not a pickaxe. Even now I remember him in the mountain far easier than I remember even the face of my mother at that dark time.
His death was devastating though he was not known for his kindness or attention to his children. In fact he was known for the opposite. Those details aren’t mine but I remember them all the same.
The only ones he ever expressed his love for were his ducks. They lived in the back yard of his inner city home. They were his pride and joy and chief among them was Larry. Grandpa doted upon them. He cooed and talked with them. They somehow understood each other.
Once upon a time the famous raccoons of Tacoma heard about the best-fed ducks in Tacoma. Those were the personal ducks of the King of the mountain!
I don’t know if Larry was the first duck the raccoons went for but whether he was or whether he wasn’t they went for Larry. It happened that my mom came by to visit the morning after Larry had been attacked. When she arrived my Grandpa rushed her into a small covered porch where Larry lay barely alive on a nest of blankets and pillows.
“You are a nurse or something aren’t you? Can you help Larry?” My mom had been a registered nurse for years. She is a very smart woman and had soared through nursing school to find a way to feed a small son and eventually me.
He was desperate, his eyes were bloodshot from crying, the already pronounced creases on his forehead were a hands length deeper, my mom took pity and her voice was soft. “I nurse people Dad, I don’t know the first thing about ducks.”
He looked hard at the wound on Larry’s neck. “Please, please you have to help Larry. Tell me what can I do.”
She sighed. “Alright go to the store and get some Betadine.” When he returned she showed him how to clean the wound and left him to tend to Larry.
A little while later she received a letter from Grandpa. Larry had made a miraculous recovery and he was sure it was due to my Mom’s brilliance, her medical knowledge, and her coolness under fire. He praised her and thanked her and said sweet things she had not and would not hear again, regardless of deserving them.
Larry was back in his lawn palace and my Grandpa was not going to have that kind of tragedy again. He had a plan. He bought a goose to signal when the raccoons would come. He would lay and wait. When the goose signaled he would go out back with his police issue firearm and shoot them.
At first the neighbors called the police about the gunshots but my Grandpas wife who was the night dispatcher would put their mind at ease. He was after all, a professional.