Francis lives and writes in Nashville.
One day I decided that what I really wanted was
a fedora, so I went out and bought one. When I got
back to my house my friend Paul was there and
after seeing my fedora he was immediately struck
with hat envy. “Well I guess we could go back to
the mall. It is right around the corner after all”, I said.
So we drove back to the mall. The moment we stepped
into the hat store, Paul immediately dove right in.
He must have tried on 40 different hats. “Hey,
check out the peacock feather in this one,” he said, just as
a man in a grey suit entered the store. He seemed a little
peculiar, which upon closer examination was probably
less due to the fact that he was wearing a grey suit,
and more to the fact that he was holding in his
right hand a dead duck. Now, ducks don’t really have
very long necks, so at first it looked a bit like he was
holding a small, though heavy, tote bag. But then I saw
the tiny head with its beak, and the paddles for feet
dangling from the bottom. This was most certainly
a dead duck. I turned around in search of Paul,
but he was lost in the hat collection, on to the top hats.
The man must have noticed me staring at him,
because he turned around somewhat concerned to remain
at least slightly inconspicuous. “Don’t worry about him.
He’s just takin’ a time out.” Some humor, I thought. The man
turned around again and in a whisper added, “He’s a
sleeper duck. He comes from the magical order of
Bococurro ducks. This is just how he sleeps. It’s what
he does.” I scratched my head in bewilderment. “Okay,
so he’s a magical duck. But seriously: who sleeps
hanging by their neck?” “I don’t know. He just likes to
hang loose, I guess. What do you care?” I backed
away and headed back over to where Paul was. Once
there, I nudged him, probably a little too hard, because
he kind of jumped. “What’s up?”, he asked. “You look like
you just saw a ghost.” “Well not really,” I said. I motioned
in the direction of the man, but he must have been in a
hurry, because he was nowhere to be seen. Paul
finally narrowed down his choice, and soon we were
on our way home, but I couldn’t seem to get the duck
out of my head. I even started believing I’d read a look
of sadness in its face. The only place I had ever seen
a duck hung by the neck was in a cartoon. Perhaps
it was Daffy Duck — how his neck would stretch forever
and constantly be subject to some kind of deformation.
One time I remember him being strangled and then
getting up, dusting himself off, announcing: “I’m leaving
showbiz. For good.”