Last week, my mom and I helped improvise a neighborhood production of "Make Way for Ducklings," adapted on the spot and featuring a troupe of local players. Here is how it went.
Act I, Scene 1
A quiet neighborhood on a spring afternoon.
I went out to meet Sergio, who was coming up the street in his mail truck, when I heard Judy, our neighbor at the end of the block, shout, "Look!" Waddling up the sidewalk was a mother duck and nine gray-and-yellow ducklings struggling and straggling behind her. We live among a network of little creeks, and there is a wetland next to my school, so we often see pairs of parent ducks, but I'd never seen a whole family before.
The mother duck zigzagged along and seemed to know right where she was going. She was cutting through the yard across the street when I realized she was about to steer her little family into territory occupied by the neighborhood cats, including Sooby, Molly, Chamois, and a stripy gray kitty whose name I don't know. Sure enough, at that moment Sooby streaked out of the wisteria.
Everyone began yelling at once, and the commotion must have thrown off Sooby's timing. He only got a chance to swat at a little duck before I caught up with him and handed him over to my dad. Mrs. Duck led the ducklings across the driveway, but she was not out of danger, and she was nowhere near her destination.
Act I, Scene 2
Over, under, around, and through.
Judy had to get back home, and Sergio had continued on his route, so it was up to me and my mom to escort the ducks to safety. We still had cats to watch for, and the closest creek was a quarter-mile away.
We tried to stay on either side of Mrs. Duck as she made her way through people's yards and crisscrossed back and forth across the street. She wove in and out of the birch trees at the Mitchells, and then made a beeline for Mrs. Bergman's azaleas.
By now, we'd caught up with Sergio. The noise from his truck seemed to disturb Mrs. Duck, so he held back while everyone crossed to Darren and Devin's front yard.
Act II, Scene 1
An entrance to the underworld.
When Mrs. Duck reached the curb, she led her family right over the grate covering the storm drain, and we watched, horrified, as the little ones hip-hopped along behind her. Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks. She realized someone was missing before we did.
Down in the storm drain, one little duckling was peeping and cheeping in the greasy water, and my mom couldn't lift the heavy grate. Sergio helped move the grate, and then he handed Mom his glasses. He lay down in the street on his stomach, and by reaching down as far as he could, he was able to grab the little duck and pull it out. We hugged Sergio and gave him his glasses back. Then we ran to catch up with Mrs. Duck, who was heading for the Skeels' rock garden.
Act II, Scene 2
The intersection of a quiet street
and a very busy street.
At the edge of the rock garden, Mrs. Duck leaped down the two-foot drop to the sidewalk, and her nine little ducks tumbled right down after her, one (plop, drop) after another. She led them across the street and was about to head out of the neighborhood, which - in spite of the perils they had already overcome - was relatively safe compared with where they were going.
She waddled along toward Nick and Roxanne's house on the corner, and we kept an eye out for their cat, but a bigger concern was the main road the ducks had to cross next. There is a Duck Crossing sign where the road goes over the creek, a little way down from where you turn into our neighborhood. But where our Mrs. Duck wanted to cross was not marked and was near a curve.
We blocked her from going until there weren't any cars coming. Then Mom herded the ducks into a little bunch while I stepped out into the street with my arms raised to stop the cars in both directions. When we got them stopped, we hurried the ducks along as fast as we could, but Mrs. Duck began to double back.
A quick count showed that one was missing. My mom went back to the edge of the road and found a little guy tangled up in Nick's ivy. He was hopping up and down, trying to see where everyone had gone. Mom scooped him up and scooted him into the group, and off they went again.
ACT III, SCENE 1
A tangle of blackberries at the edge of a marsh.
When Mrs. Duck got her little family across the road, she waddled along the shoulder and then led them into a thicket of blackberries to their new home by the little creek that bubbles through the wetland.
Act III, Scene 2
Standing on the corner,
watching all the cars go by.
Once the ducks reached the creek, we waved the cars through. By now, there were about 15 cars stopped in each direction. All along the line, people clapped and honked and gave us the "thumbs up."
I felt really proud as I stood there, thinking of all the teamwork it took to help out one little wildlife family. I held my mom's hand, and we crossed the road and headed back up the hill.
*Rudy Shaffer is a fifth-grader in Portland, Ore. Her mother, Susan Blackaby, is a children's writer and editor, and her father, Jeff Shaffer, is a columnist on the Monitor's Opinion page every other Friday.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society