Chapter 24

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

Neither the illness nor the friendly dog went away.

Quackling went to the Lost and Found. I lost something important. I need it to help me find it. My motivation, that is.

The bird’s small brain was as scrambled as a scrambled egg. She couldn’t concentrate properly; not even long enough to tell quack tales. Um, so…

That’s all folks. The end.

Chapter 23

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

The next day Quackling sat at the same branch waiting. She waited, and waited. Great the Dane offered mugs of tea and coffee whilst they waited. They did some ten-thousand-pieced jigsaw puzzles together. He held rolls of yarn as they knitted and yarned. He fiddled with strings on his fiddle and she sang along. They read stacks of books, whilst they waited some more. A day passed, a week passed. A month passed, and another. No one came and nothing happened. Finally, he had enough. Come on little quack, he tugged gently at her dangling legs, let’s go! Whoever you’re waiting for sure ain’t coming. Whatever you’re waiting for sure ain’t happening. And you know,

Hope deferred maketh the something sick!

Says who? Still, Quackling didn’t want to make anything sick so she let Great drag her along by the feet. On the way they passed some Black Day festivities. History goes that once upon a time all creatures of the night, sponsored by planet conservationists, gathered in protest of the annual Snow White Night. How colour-ist, inequality! Inequality! They hissed. Black Day was born  – a day to appreciate darkness. A day where all great lights are dimmed, where vampires sing blood-curdling love songs (I have died everyday waiting for you…), where werewolves waltz wickedly with witches, where the the three blind rats offer blind dating specials at their Dans Le Noir complete with a complimentary serve of ratatouille (just be careful you don’t end up kissing a dementor).

Maybe it was from going out too late. Or from wet feathers on her head? Disrupted electromagnetic fields? More than one apple a day? Not enough lemon water? Or kale? Hope deferred? Or maybe Great the Dane had a particularly infectious and exotic strain of avian-canine influenza. The very first symptom were the whooping sighs. Then Quackling’s mind became as hazy as a soggy, foggy, groggy day. Her vision was equally unclear – uh and how about these flashes and floaters? True to his word, the dog hardly ever left her side. Not to worry, he reassured, the inconvenience and lack of life is merely short lived.

But it got worse. The fairies who usually swept her off to dreamland kept nodding off themselves. How lazy! But whether they did their job or not, Quackling was weary every morning. She didn’t want to move, not even to preen her feathers to make them more beautifuller. Even brushing and flossing her serrated toothless bills was too big of a task to even contemplate about. Oh, if only the fairies would just let her be! Living careless and free in dreamland forever… in Hypnos’ land of green greens, sparkles, bloated blue and (definitely masculine) puffy pink fighters. If Hypnos didn’t want to keep her, maybe the hooded brother with an oversized robe could help. Maybe she just needed to ask him really really nicely?

That’s all folks. The end.

Chapter 22

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

The big black dog looked up at Quackling perching on a branch. He was perplexed why she peered so intently into the distance. Hello, he waved, my first name is Great and my last name is Dane. You look sad and unhappy little quack, what’s up? The sky, she replied sarcastically. He was persistent – I mean, what are you up to all the way up there? Waiting. Waiting for who? Waiting for Todog. To dog? He asked, puzzled. You mean the dog? What dog? Waiting for… wait, wait, is it Godot or Todog? Are you waiting for me?

No, but come on up anyway. And I am unhappy, she added, I think I will be unhappy ever after! No one likes hanging out with me because I’m so annoyingly unhappy. And the more unhappy I am the more snide remarks I make. Quackling sighed. Well, he said, slumping into the branch and looking all depressed, you’re in good company. I’m sad and unhappy too. He sucked a lungful of air in until he reached vital capacity, then held his breath until Quackling was about to slap him to fix his apnoea… and finally let out a great big sigh that blew all the leaves away like a big noisy blower vac.

This is the story of Great the Dane. Once upon a time he had a master, a big man, called the Giant of Despair. The big man and his big black dog lived in a big, nasty and stinking castle. Giant had many-a-dogs but Great the Dane was his favourite. He was great at his work, diligent, and never failed to go above and beyond – he practically salivated over any extra work to be done. He loved being the top dog, and closed his eyes in pure bliss as the master gave him extra pats and scratches at the end of each day. Oh, the cornucopia of meat scraps reserved just for him! To the envy of all the other dogs.

But Giant was a moody man, and his favour changed as quickly as the face of a petulant child. One day some prisoners down in the dungeons managed to escape. Giant was grim and surly and blamed Great the Dane. But you see, it wasn’t really the dog’s fault because the prisoners had the keys to open any lock in Doubting Castle. From then on Giant gave all the pats and scraps to every dog except Great the Dane, even though he always did the best tricks. For awhile he still followed the master’s heels, looking up with great big doleful eyes. But Giant would walk straight past, not even looking him in the eye. Hurt, Great the Dane gave up doing tricks. Then he was promptly kicked out because he no longer earned his keep.

Oh, it’s not fair! The big dog whined and whimpered pitifully. There there, Quackling patted him on the shoulders, a big spider once told me that life isn’t fair. He sniffed back tears and after awhile, turned to Quackling. So, little quack, what’s your story?

Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start, when you read you begin with…

ZYX? Quackling sort of started in reverse chronological order. She told him about the not-so-best-friend-forever fat cat who eloped with a scruffy ibis, about her identity crisis (was she still a quack, or what?), Humming the noisy listener, oh! the cursed feathers, her tears over the glass slippers she adored, and a bunch of other stories about characters from long, long ago. The stories made a string of knots in her stomach and throat, but made her laugh too, just a little. Hmm, no one ever seems to last more than one or two chapters, she lamented. Forget about creatures of the past, said Great the Dane. Let it go! Let it go! Tell you what, I’m no fickle feline and will be your new BFF. I’ll be there for you all the time, and especially when you’re sad! He promised, wagging his tail earnestly. She looked into his eyes hopefully – really truly? You mean that? Oh yes, he laughed generously, you won’t even be able to get rid of me even if you tried!

Their D&M had been going on for some time. Before they knew it the sun had once again dropped off the edge of the world. The colourful skies were blue-and-black. Now in the dark all Quackling could see of the big black dog was his crooked white teeth flashing under the moonlight.

That’s all folks. The end.

Chapter 21

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

Sure enough when the hot summer sun came around, the fat cat no longer wanted Quackling’s warm fluffy feathers. Fine. Nevertheless, they napped beside each other on the cool wooden floor of Quackling’s freshly renovated nest. That was, until Mo left her friend for one of those squawky neighbours whom Quackling hated so much. 

His name was Ivis the ibis. Like Ivy but not quite; like Elvis with an I. At first Mo didn’t like his scruffy and off-white feathers. Neither was she impressed with his explanation that the long black beak was quite harmless – no, not for pecking, but only for digging deep into rubbish bins. He however, was very much impressed by her mantra that fowls are friends, not food. He also pointed out that she was every bit as scruffy as he was, with her unkept fur tangled together with dirt and grass from rolling in the yard. Oh, how is that she doesn’t see what I see, he sung passionately. We are simply puuuurrrfect for each other!

One pleasant summer night, he took her out to the leafy corner-store. They say green potions are the magical solution to all ailments. They say, it even has the raw power to overcome the pain of unrequited love. Just one piece of ginger, two stalks of celeries, three sticks of carrots, and a handful of spinach and kale leaves later, the fat cat burst out in a stanza of love –

“You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”

Ivis wasted no time and immediately took out a plastic ring, which was scavenged from the depth of a bin. Or was it from the slippery snout of a pig? Never mind the details now – love is blind anyhow. The last anyone heard, the two were happily sailing off under the moonlight, so bright, tonight (that’s right) on a beautiful kale-green boat.

Quackling swung herself up a tree branch, all mopey and disappointed that her fickle feline friend left her all by her lonesome self for a fairer fowl. Soon, a great big black canine walked by. Mind if I join you? He asked.

That’s all folks. The end.

Chapter 20

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

This is a story of Quackling and two cats. Quackling’s wanderings came to a halt again at the crazily crowded woods. Her new neighbours were these huge pesky feathered creatures with long black beaks, plump white bodies and skinny black legs. They did not look like they could walk, let alone fly. Yet fly they did. In fact, they lived high up in the trees. Every morning they would gather on the branches until the branches were about to break. They squawked noisily and dropped droppings onto any unfortunate creatures who happened to pass under them.

Now about the cats – she met a fat cat whose first name was Mo and whose last name was also Mo. At least the name was easy to remember. Quackling, being a quack, was very wary of the cat with sharp claws and even sharper teeth. Nasty. But this one proved herself to be harmless. All she ever did was sleep. So she slept, got up for a feed, slept some more, lazily licked her paw, and slept again. Mo loved company and climbed onto Quackling’s lap for a cuddle. But Quackling shoved her off because she was big and heavy. Meowwww? The cat blinked at her pitifully. While Quackling was distracted, the cat helped herself back onto Quackling’s lap. This time she was fast asleep before she could be shooed away so Quackling gave up. Besides, it was cold and the cat was warm like a hot water bottle in winter. So Mo and Quackling became friends. Well not friends in the real sense because cats are fickle felines, but they were useful to each other for a time.

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair (the seasons are erratic in far far away)…

The days became colder and colder, and some days, the outdoor nest was completely inadequate. Even if was sunny as summer, neither the cat nor the quackling could get warm enough. No matter how tightly they curled themselves into little round furry balls, no matter how much they shivered or squirmed restlessly, no matter how many layers of thick feathers they layered on themselves. Fortunately, Mo knew of a cat called Cat with a properly insulated home. Cat-the-other-cat had a sturdy wooden cabin nearby, rumoured to be so sturdy that even the infamous big bad wolf himself failed to blow down. Not even after all his huffing and puffing.

On a particularly cold winters day they visited Cat in her cabin with bright candles and cosy seats around a warm fireplace. It was like a different world in there. While Mo in her typical lazy way stretched out with a purr of contentment and curled herself back up on the toasty cushion for an extended snooze, Quacking was trying to work out something about this Cat. This cat felt more human than feline, and infinitely more complex and wise than the other cat. Was she an artist? Cat sat quietly and observantly behind a big wooden easel inside her wooden cabin in the woods. What are you painting? Quacking asked. Ever creature has a tree, every tree a story, and the tree of origin is the key to unlocking many mysteries, she replied enigmatically. Uhh… what tree? Quackling was puzzled. Come back every week and we’ll paint your tree together, deal?

That’s all folks. The end.