Chapter 25

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

The wind blew and the leaves rustled. Change was in the air and Quackling moved on to a new phase in her queer, queer influenza. For all intents and purposes, as far as anyone could tell, she was normal. Hyper-normal, in fact.

She slept early and woke with abnormal burst of energy. She talked animatedly and socialised, made her nest clean and squeaky enough to attract tons of rats (rats are clean, okay?!), fished for food without complaint, then roasted them with delicious herbs and spices, quacked some songs, and was even training her water legs to move faster on dry ground.

She felt the best that she’s felt in years – you know why? Because she felt nothing. That’s right, hurray! No more sadness, no more love. She thought nothing. No unhappy pasts or unhappily ever afters. There was just the present, and her incredible self-satisfaction at being incredibly self-sufficient. Nothing, no one, could affect her anymore. She was careful to be kind and friendly to everyone. But friends sucked and she sure didn’t need any to be highly functional. And as long as she was functional, who cares what was going on in her heart? Then the wind blew and the leaves rustled.

That’s all folks. The end.

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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.