Make Way For the Duck Family
by Charles C. Cole
Setting: Where a city park meets the road.
Open: CARS honking off-stage. We are very close to traffic. MOTHER and DUCKLINGS are QUACKING. There is no precise translation. This is to remind us these are ducks, but we’ve all seem an impatient MOTHER with imperfect, tag-along children, and we have a good idea what they’re saying.
First duckling, JJ, is distracted and playing on her phone, not looking where she’s going.
Second duckling, ENID, is anxious: she has loose rain boots, an umbrella, and workshop goggles around her neck. She backs onto the stage, looking at something imposing, up at the “sky,” bumping into her sibling who bumps into MOTHER.
MOTHER glares, and the two sisters course-correct, if briefly.
They stop at the side of the street. ABNER, the proud crossing guard, wearing a vest-uniform and tool belt, steps on stage on “the other side” of the street. He stops them with a grim shaking of his head and traffic-cop hand gestures. He blows a whistle. Everyone begins to speak English.
ENID (Singing to calm herself): “Raindrops keep falling on my head, Just like the sky that’s falling. And we’ll soon be dead. Flattened by a SPLAT! Dinner for a cat. That’s—” (Glare from MOTHER quiets her.)
MOTHER (Into the phone): Right. Right. I know. Exactly! What does he know about being a mother? Nothing whatever, that’s what. And then, add the part of being a single mother who happens to be a duck in a city full of humans driving animal-killing Humvees! Am I right? Duck tours! Duck tours? Put me in charge and then you’ll see what a real duck tour is like!
MOTHER gestures impatiently for ABNER to come to her side and help them across. He shakes his head, refusing. As long as she’s on the phone, she’s not ready to cross.
MOTHER (Calling): What seems to be the hold-up? The traffic’s not going to stop itself, you know.
ABNER turns away and paces for 12 feet or so then paces back, ignoring her.
JJ (Looking up. Noticing ABNER): Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.
MOTHER (To the phone): I gotta call you back. What do you mean why? Because Old Man Abner’s on duty. Still. Why do you think? Again. And he’s coming this way. Again. Wish me luck. (Puts phone away.)
JJ: Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.
MOTHER: Yes, JJ.
JJ: Why did the duck cross the road?
MOTHER (Solemnly): To give your mother a hard time.
JJ: Funny, Mom, but wrong. Very, very wrong. Guess again.
ENID: Because she needed to flee for her life from the ravenous zombie dog, that nobody else seemed to notice, that’s been stalking her for two whole blocks!
JJ: You need therapy, Enid. that’s what you need. The answer is: Because the chicken had the day off! Get it? Mom, you get it?
ABNER crosses the street.
MOTHER (Darkly): No, but I think I’m about to. Let Mom do the talking. Keep the quacking down this once, please. I’ll get you ice cream later.
ENID (Shocked): Is that a bribe? Don’t do it, Mom. Ice cream today and a trip to Paris tomorrow.
JJ: Keep your beak shut.
ABNER (Deeply disappointed): Lucy.
ABNER (Trying awkwardly to be civil): Ducklings of your own? You’ve grown into quite a woman, I see.
MOTHER: And you’ve grown quite older, I see.
ABNER: You’re here to cross the street?
MOTHER: Is it that obvious? Well, that was the idea, ten minutes ago You think you can use your special superpowers to help little ol’ me and my mini-flock navigate the perils of Charles Street?
ABNER: That’s what I’m here for. “Everyone crosses safely and lives to quack another day.”
MOTHER: Ah, yes. Well, let’s do this.
JJ (Overly enthusiastic): Let’s Do This!! (She winds back and starts to cross, but ABNER, without looking, puts up his arm and plants his palm against JJ:’s face to stop her.) Or not.
ABNER: I was thinking we should go over the rules with your girls, for crossing the street safely.
MOTHER: They’ve heard it before. They probably have it memorized.
ENID: No we don’t!
ABNER: I’ll be brief, but thorough.
MOTHER (Ironic): You always are.
JJ: (Sarcastic): What if we have Enid sing the rules?
MOTHER: Enid has a beautiful voice, JJ.
JJ: Then why doesn’t she sing beautiful songs? (Singing, mimicking Enid) “Humvees keep driving over me.”
ENID: At least I can sing. You croak like a bullfrog.
JJ: I can sing, but I choose not to. Singing makes me think of roosters. And roosters make me think of getting up for school. I hate roosters.
JJ: I could sing like an opera star if I wanted.
ENID: Then do it. We’re all waiting.
JJ: Not now. Abner is talking. Right, Mom?
MOTHER: Mr. Callaway was a crossing guard when I was a girl. Show some respect, please.
ABNER: And we didn’t really see eye-to-eye even then, did we?
MOTHER (Trying to joke): I was shorter.
ABNER: You were distracted. Like your girls. And you almost got hit by a car.
ENID: Really, Mom? You?
JJ: Talk about breaking a few eggs. We would never have been laid! What happened?
MOTHER: Nothing happened. That’s why I’m here today. That’s why you’re here.
ENID: But something almost happened.
ABNER (Gravely): Almost.
MOTHER (Grateful but reluctant to show it): Mr. Callaway happened, so nothing happened. Right, Mr. Callaway?
MOTHER (Backing down): Point taken. Would you, kind sir, care to assist three young, mostly young, ducks across the busy road?
ABNER: It would be my pleasure. After all, that’s what I’m here for. May I?
JJ: You’re supposed to say, “Mother, may I?”
ENID: But she’s not his mother.
MOTHER: That’s enough, JJ:. Girls, we can continue playing on the other side of the road. Right now, I want you to pay attention to Mr. Callaway. Both of you. Take it away, Abner.
ABNER: We are going to look both ways. (Demonstrating) Okay? We are going to hold hands. (Reaching for JJ.)
JJ: I’m not holding your hand.
MOTHER: You will hold your sister’s hand. And you will protect each other and look out for each other. (Reaching for ABNER.)
ENID: Maybe we can fly over instead.
JJ: Ducklings can’t fly. Not yet. Your wings aren’t strong enough.
ENID: I can wait. This crossing-the-road stuff sounds serious.
MOTHER: It can be.
ABNER: We are going to walk, not run, until we get to the other side. Traffic will stop for us because they know it’s the right thing to do. And because it’s a tradition, but only right here. Not across from the football field. Not in the Mardon’s parking. Just right here. Ready?
JJ: Ready. Ready hours ago.
ENID: Almost ready. Mostly ready.
JJ (To ENID): Just sing your stupid song to distract yourself.
ENID (Meaningfully): If you sing it with me.
JJ: Then it will sound really stupid.
ABNER: Your mother and I will cross first. After I get her to the curb, I’ll will give the thumbs-up when I’m ready for you to follow. I’ll come back and meet you halfway. Ready?
MOTHER (Extending her hand to ABNER): You take your job way too seriously. You know that, don’t you?
ABNER: Yep. And it’s just the way I like it.
MOTHER and ABNER cross, slowly and with formality.
JJ (Holding Enid’s hand): “Raindrops keep falling on my head.”
ENID (The last line of the song): “And nothing’s worrying me.”
JJ: Yeah, right.
They laugh, which turns into QUACKING.
Copyright © 2018 by Charles C. Cole