It was a warm and radiant day at the Rype & Readi Downtown Farm Market, and most all the animal residents were enjoying the exquisite weather to the fullest extent possible.
‘Most’, it should be noted, save for the head of the chicken’s coven, Paprika, who was hiding in the Market’s barn praying that nobody would find her.
“Alright, alright…” Paprika clucked to herself as she peered through a hole in the barn’s door, glancing this way and that with frantic energy. “He’s not out there, he can’t know you’re in here, which means you’re safe for another day. Just need to last through the rest of the day and he’ll be out of my-!”
“He who, Paprika?”
“BUK-ACK!” the chicken flapped her wings frantically as she leapt straight up with a squawk of terror as someone suddenly spoke up behind her. Hastily placing the voice, Paprika promptly plastered a sheepish grin on her beak and spun around to greet the speaker with a cluck of forced kindness. “N-Nobody, Drake! Absolutely nobody! J-just speaking to myself! Eheheh…heh…”
The newly arrived mallard cocked a feathered brow at the fellow fowl for a second before shrugging with an earnest grin on his bill. “If you say so! Anyway, I’m glad I tracked you down! We kept missing each other so often I almost thought you were avoiding me, but of course, that’s ridiculous!”
“Eheh, yes, quite ridiculous…” Paprika chuckled weakly in agreement, glancing every which way but the mallard.
“Well, now that I have you!” Drake ruffled his feathers primly and puffed his chest out with pride. “I’d like to formally invite you and your coven to bear witness to my brother Ducky and I practicing our synchronized swimming routine! We’ve been in dire need of outside opinions, and only another feathered friend such as yourself can give us a proper review! You will come, won’t you?”
‘Say no, say no, say no!’ A little voice pleaded in the back of Paprika’s mind.
“Sure, we’ll be there!” Came out of her pleasantly smiling beak.
‘What am I, chicken nuggets!?’
“Splendid!” Drake clapped his wings eagerly. “I’ll go inform my brother now! We’ll all meet up at our tub out back in an hour! Toodles!” And with that the web-footed swimmer waddled off to spread the good news.
Paprika remained frozen in her smile for a few minutes before slumping with a defeated sigh.
“Well, this is a fine mess…” she groused to herself before shaking her head. “Well, nothing to it, I suppose. Might as well go and tell the girls what I’ve signed us up for.”
And so Paprika trotted off to find her coven, an easy enough task. The place she found them, though…
“What are you doing?” Paprika questioned, pinning the hens with a glare and prompting them to flinch away from the unhooked phone they were surrounding.
“Uh…” Henrietta tried to hedge hesitantly. “We’re… calling… the barber’s?” The three simultaneous face-wings that occurred around her spoke volumes for how much her sisters cared for the plan.
Eyeing the other chickens suspiciously, Paprika strode up to the phone, listened in for a moment… and then slammed her talon on the receiver with a cluck of reprimand. “Girls, I know you don’t want to watch them swim any more than I do, but we are not selling the Mallard Brothers to a Chinese restaurant!”
“Because it’s morally reprehensible, right?” Henrietta bowed her head in shame.
Paprika glanced to the side with a snort as she rubbed her feathers beneath her beak. “That, and it takes two hours for orange sauce to simmer so they’d never have it ready in time, and do not ask me how I know!” She concluded with a cowing glare.
The rest of the coven quickly glanced away in a flurry of clucks.
Paprika let out a weary huff before looking around at her sisters. “Now look: I know that none of us like synchronized swimming, but the Mallard Brothers are nice. So we are going to show up, we are going to watch them perform, and then we are going to be supportive. Understand?”
“Yes, Paprika…” the hens droned in defeat.
“Good,” the elder chicken nodded triumphantly. “And who knows? We might even like it.
Three hours later, Paprika’s fervently twitching eye attested otherwise as the Mallards finally took their bows.
“Thank you, thank you!” Drake quacked happily as he strode up to the hens, an eager grin on his bill. “That was quite the performance if I do say so myself, but I so require criticism! Your thoughts, dearest Paprika?”
“Uhh…” Paprika trailed off uncertainly, floundering for an answer that didn’t give away how mind-numbingly bored she’d been, or draw attention to the fact that her coven was only half asleep. “It was… very… sophisticated? And… wet?”
The smile slipped from Drake’s bill in an in instant. “You didn’t like it,” he summarized sadly.
Paprika weighed her options for a second… before ultimately shaking her head in defeat. “It’s… rather that none of us liked the premise. I’m sorry Drake, it’s not you, it’s just… my sisters and I don’t like synchronized swimming at all. We can’t give you a valid opinion either way. I’m terribly sorry.”
Drake pursed his bill for a second (an expression Paprika had to actively keep herself from laughing at), but in the end he gave her a sad smile. “That’s alright, Paprika, I understand. Different values and all. Just… tell me next time, ok?”
“Of course, Drake,” Paprika nodded gently.
“Still, while I have you, I have wanted to practice my karaoke! Are you free in an hour?”
Paprika froze up, twitching slightly. “…sure, Drake.”
The second the duck had waddled off, Henrietta poked her sister in the side. “Want me to see if I can book them on the next trolley that passes by?”
by Baxter Balick, Rype & Readi Contributing Writer, Flagler Sophomore College Student
Editor’s Note: It’s true that ducks take to the water naturally, and chickens… well, not so much.
Ducks don’t need a pond to be happy, but they definitely enjoy splashing and paddling around in a kiddie pool. In addition to having a place to bathe, ducks need a deep enough water source to keep their mucous membranes moist.