Reginald watched the ground rushing beneath him. The asphalt in particular looked funny from this angle and so close. He turned to the duck next to him, best he could strung up as he was.
“Any clue where we’re going?”
“None. But it can’t be good, can it?”
“Well we’re tied up, not flying, heading away from water against our will…”
“So we should figure out how to get out of this.”
“Good luck with that…”
“I’m Scott. Right, well good luck with that, Reginald.”
“Maybe it seems ridiculous, but if we work together…”
“Reginald, c’mon, have you ever seen ducks agreeing to anything? Or working together on something other than flying in formation? And even that isn’t much of a conscious group decision, is it?”
“Well yes Scott, you’re sure making a solid case for how uncooperative ducks are with each other.”
“Sorry, I don’t mean to be a jerk. I agree with you but I can’t stomach pie-in-the-sky nonsense, no matter how dire things are right now.”
Reginald looked the other way and the duck on his other side was actually sleeping. He didn’t understand how. He contorted his neck in different directions to try and get views of the other ducks, occasionally calling out, “Anyone have ideas for getting us out of this?”
Eventually, “Yes! Well no, no great ideas, but yes, We should!”
“What’s your name?”
“Aline! speak up, I can barely hear you!”
“You must be on the other side of the bike. My name’s Reginald. I’m trying to think through this.”
“Me too! Name’s Arnold! I’m over here on the side of the bike with Aline. Maybe if we shift our weight to one side and tip the bike.”
Scott finally joined in again, “Well, if you did that you might crush and kill some innocent ducks. But now we’re getting somewhere. Problem is we’ll probably be handled one by one and our feet will remain tied. If just one of us could get free…”
“I would like to contribute! Can you all see me?” a duck on Reginald’s side chimed in and began extending his neck, lifting the upper part of his body, squirming and trying to catch the eyes of the other ducks, “My name is Antoni, please notice I am a beautiful duck! Look! I am really beautiful!”
Reginald didn’t have words, but another duck near him did, “Well yes, that is a good looking duck, look at Antoni!”
A duck on the other side of the bike, “Could you describe the beautiful duck, we can’t really see!”
Scott got angry, “What the fuck nonsense is this?” Reginald seconded him.
They could hear Aline on the other side, “Reginald? What are you saying about being beautiful?” and Arnold contributing, “I don’t think that’s Reginald saying that stuff.”
“That’s right! It’s not me, it’s some nut.”
“You say such mean things about such a beautiful duck!” Antoni said in defense of himself.
“Yeah, Reginald, what’s your problem?” said a small female duck, close enough to snap at him and scaring Reginald into an unwilling deference.
“I’m just trying to say that there are more pressing issues…”
Scott rolled his eyes, “No, don’t go so easy on them, this is garbage, these idiots need to shut up and get on board.”
“You’re terrible! Antoni is great!”
“Oh stop, you flatter so!”
“But how are we getting out of here?”
“I told you this would happen.”
“Well his plumage is fantastic, but his beak is a bit, I dunno, aristocratic”
“Scott, Reginald, the contingent on this side of the bike can’t really hear you over all the other noise!”
“No, wait, I’M the most beautiful!”
“Did they say they ‘can’ or ‘can’t’ hear us?”
“Maybe we should have a vote to figure out which duck is really the most beautiful duck.”
“I think these bike fumes are making me dizzy.”
“Do you guys ever shut up, I was trying to sleep?”
“This is useless,” Reginald said with the sort of exasperation that pleads for a miracle.
“Could have told you that. I did,” was all he got from Scott.
Reginald started speaking but stopped several times. He worked out probable dialogs in his head, but none of them went anywhere. The bike bounded along the road. Reginald closed his eyes, let his head hang, tried to phase out the random but incessant bleating regarding Antoni’s beauty, or the lack there of. If he blocked it all out and moved his head at just the right angle, the air flowed over his beak and around his head in just a way to remind him of flying. The relation in the magnetic field was all wrong, his wings twitched at the constraint, but he found a peaceful mantra in, “I’m just flying, I’m flying, I’m just flying…”
The motor on the bike cut out, snapping softer but more varied sounds into its abandoned space, bringing Reginald out of his trance. He looked around at the buildings they were now among. Such an odd space, like a hellish gray ravine. He saw, through a window in one of the buildings, several ducks set up in two too orderly lines, hanging from their feet in a manner similar to Reginald and his current comrades. They looked funnier though in their immobility, funny in their color, and like he was beaking for shrimp through the gunk at the bottom of a shallow river Reginald came to the realization that these ducks, skinned and burnt, were his future. Reginald and Scott both summed it up at once, “Fucked.”
Reginald’s mind moved fast, him and Scott started throwing out ideas, but it all sounded so similar.
“He’ll have to untie us at some point”
“And that’ll be our chance”
“But it’ll probably be just one of us at a time and our feet might remain bound”
“We went over all of this already”
“Aline, Arnold, can you hear us”
Antoni, of course, still hadn’t shut up.
Reginald had a hard time keeping himself from laughing through his statements. He felt the laughter bubbling up in the space between every word, laughter at the repetition of everything, at its futility, at its necessity, laughter at his own laughter and especially at the unshakably sharp image forming in his mind of Antoni and himself, both featherless and cooked crispy and writhing by their feet in the shop window, now a chorus, “I’m beautiful! I’m beautiful! Look at me!”
Mills submitted the photo and says: “From Siem Reap, Cambodia. In case, like me, you didn’t notice it at first, the ducks are alive.”