By James Puppolo
Children were joyously screaming and shouting as they ran all around the park on this Saturday, in October, of the town of Folsom, California. It was Matthias Prado’s belated birthday party and many family and friends had been invited to celebrate with lots of music and BBQed food, cake and drinks. Everyone had brought a gift and people were laughing and enjoying this calm cool windy day. The kids playing on the playground up and down the slides and across the wooden bridge and chasing after the peacocks that reside there. The teenagers had taken up fishing at the pond and playing basketball at the court.
Everyone had sung the happy birthday song and Matthias had just finished opening all his gifts. Most had eaten their fill of hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, chicken, and ribs. Matthias had received a toy gun, golden baseball bat, a ball, and glove, books, and Legos among some of the mentionable’s. “Say, Matthias, why don’t we throw the ball around that you just got?” His father, Juan Carlos boastfully asked, he had brought his own glove anticipating his sons’ new gift. Matthias turned around saying. “Okay, sure.” The two then walked over near the pond in an area not being used to play catch.
“Lana, why don’t you go play with the other kids?” Her mother Jen impatiently advised, wanting some time to clean up the mess. Lana looked at her mother in the face and put on a smile. “Okay, mom.” She childishly said. Lana then pranced over to the playground and decided on going down the big red slide. She climbed the latter and reached the top. A breeze had picked up and so she looked the other way into the crystal white skies. That’s when she saw a flock of ducks flying by, quacking as they went. “Quack, quack, quack!”
Lana then took her turn and shot down the slide. She could feel the wind and velocity on her face and arms as she flew down. She reached the bottom in seconds, her feet hitting the ground and making a thud, her knees bending and then she got up, proud and feeling accomplished. But then, all of a sudden. “Smack!” Something hit Lana from behind. Lana went flying a couple feet and landed on the ground. Her back hurt where she had been kicked and so did her hands, when they made impact on the woodchip playground floor. Lana looked behind her and noticed it was Ernesto, her older cousin. He smiled, making his usual toothy grin and laughed. “Ha ah ha ha haa. You’re not strong enough Lana, I’m always going to beat you.” He arrogantly said. He then got bored and distracted by what playground equipment next he wanted to play on and so ran off, forgetting about what had just transpired and moving on.
Lana looked down at her hands that had little cuts on them and blood from when they had hit the ground. She cried a little, not understanding what had happened or why Ernesto was being so mean. She picked herself up and dusted herself off. No one seemed to have seen the incident. Lana thought to herself. Why do I have to be strong? Why can’t Ernesto be nice to me?
Lana then went to tell on Ernesto and so ran to her father. Juan Carlos saw her running over and when she got to him, he hugged her. “What is wrong Lana?” He stutterly asked, he could tell something was troubling his daughter. “Ernesto hurt me again.” She tearfully told, Lana was crushed as this was not the first time. “Okay, Lana. Everything is going to be alright, I’ll talk to his mother when me and Matthias are done.” You have to be stronger, Lana.” He comfortingly said, while stroking her beautiful dark brown hair.
Lana had heard that before. She felt sadness takeover in her face and her eyes watered up. “Lana, why don’t you play around the pond near Matthias and I for now and away from Ernesto.” Juan Carlos kindly advised. “Alright.” She replied while drying her eyes. Feeling better, Lana then ran over to the pond and watch the boy’s fish. They weren’t having any luck. She then decided to walk around the pond and explore.
Lana spotted many things as she strolled around the pond, jumping and dancing as she went. She saw fish leaping out of the water, she saw dragonflies buzzing about, she saw frogs that would hop into the pond when she got too near, and she saw a turkey that had come over for a drink. Lana had forgotten about the abuse by now and was happy once more. She laughed to herself as she wandered around the pond. “Hee he hee.”
But that’s when Lana spotted something out of the ordinary. There was a solitary nest by the water among some tall grass. Lana’s curiosity got the better of her and she went to investigate. “Cheep, cheep, cheep!!” Lana heard as she got closer. “Cheep, cheep, cheep!!” Lana heard with every new step as she disrupted the area. That’s when Lana was close enough to see. There was a baby duckling all alone in a nest. It looked weak and sad with its yellow feathers dirty, matted, and messy. It tried to stand up but fell back down. Lana leaned over and caressed it on its head, straightening out its feathers. The duckling letting out a single cheep. “Cheep!”
Lana was shocked and upset at the sight. Why was the duckling all alone, she wondered? “Daddy, daddy, daddy!!!” Lana shouted loud. “Come over here!!”. She hollered. Matthias was the first to run over, his father right behind him. “It’s a baby duck.” Lana informed with her hands on her hips once the two were close enough to peer into the nest. “Oh, don’t touch it Lana or the mother will never take care of it again.” Juan Carlos warned. “I already did.” Lana confessed. “Is it going to die?” Matthias intriguingly questioned. “We will have to see.” His father regrettably said.
That’s when Jen came over and was also surprised by the find. “Lana, you found a baby duckling? Where are all the other ducks?” Jen asked bewildered and looking around. “I don’t think it is going to survive.” She sadly warned. “Why don’t we call animal control and they can save this baby duck.” She knowingly stated. Jen then got out her phone and proceeded to make the call.
“I want that duck.” Lana spoke. “It’s mine, I found it, I want to save it.” She emotionally argued. Now several other party goers had surrounded the area and were examining the duckling, most commenting that it wouldn’t make it and that it wasn’t strong enough to survive the winter all alone.
Lana’s mother then made the call to animal control, but a message came over the phone saying they would be closed until Monday. Jen telling everyone the upsetting news. “Can we keep him?” Lana fearfully asked. “I don’t want him to die.” She begged. Jen and Juan Carlos looked at each other. “Please.” Lana pleaded. “Okay, Lana. We can take the duckling home until Monday but then we will call and tell animal control what happened, and they will take the duck from there.” Jen said as she caved.
Lana was happy enough from the news. “Yay!!!” She cried. I’ll take care of him the best I can, I promise.” She announced with pride, solely pounding on her chest at her heart with her right hand in a fist.
Later, once Lana was home, the duckling received a much-needed bubble bath. After, her mother helped her setup a banana box bed for the duckling. It consisted of newspaper, a blanket, stuffed animal, a lamp, and a bowl of water. “I’ll name you … uhh … I can’t think of a name rate now.” Lana admitted with perplexity. “Well Lana, your duck is so small and weak and not strong at all. You keep thinking of a name and I’ll go find something for him to eat.” Jen discouragingly told. Then a name came to Lana in her head. “Brayan, I will name you Brayan.” Lana reassuringly told the duckling, while stroking the duck’s feathers on its head and neck. “Cheep, Cheep!!” Brayan spoke. “Oh, you like your name?” Lana said with happiness, then rubbing his belly to the duck’s delight.
Then in came Jen with an opened can of tuna. “I think your duck will like this to eat.” Jen optimistically told. “I’ll try feeding it to Brayan.” Lana hopefully said. “Brayan? But that duck is so small and skinny. Brayan is a name of someone of strength.” Jen skeptically admitted. “We will show you we can be strong.” Lana passionately pledged.
Lana then held the tuna in one hand and fed Brayan little pieces. At first Brayan was a little scared and confused. He first waddled over and smelled the tuna. “Sniff, sniff.” Then he bit a little piece and chewed it in his mouth. “Nom nom nom.” Brayan then fluttered his wings and rubbed his head on Lana’s hand and arm. Lana petted him with her other hand. “Cheep, cheep.” Brayan spoke. He then thrust his beak into Lana’s hand and dug in, eating all the tuna in a second. It tickled Lana as he ate. Lana put more food into her hand and sure enough the duck ate all of it, every time. This went on until the can was empty. Once all gone, Brayan went and had some water. “Cheep, cheep.” He joyously said every several seconds while downing lots of water.
“Lana, dinners ready.” Jen shouted from the kitchen, Matthias and Juan Carlos were already eating. “I’ll be back later.” Lana assured and patted the duckling on the head and ran to go eat. Brayan finished drinking and went to lay down and sleep on the blanket. It would continue like this for the remaining weekend.
Lana cared for the duck until Monday came, when Jen contacted animal control. They found out that because they had been caring for the duckling that its mother would not accept it back, that it would probably never survive in the wild. And would probably never learn to fly, so would be vulnerable to predators. They said they would care for the duckling and try and find it a home but there were no guarantees. Lana was very scared Brayan would be put to sleep, so she begged and cried to her mother and father to keep the duck. Ultimately, Juan Carlos and Jen broke down and decided to allow Lana to keep the duckling as a pet, as long as she was well behaved and did well in school. Which was just the news Lana wanted to hear.
And so, Brayan got a new home that Monday. Jen looked up on the internet what to feed a duckling and so there was plenty of healthy food for the duck to eat. Lana grew a custom to eating meals with Brayan and sharing what she ate. Brayan loved to eat seeds, corn, fruit and veggies, chicken, scrambled eggs, and of course, loved to still eat a whole can of tuna, whenever he could get some.
Brayan grew bigger and bigger and got very strong. He grew eight times his size and his feathers changed color. Brayan’s head became all green with a yellow beak, his upper body a mixture of brown and black, while his lower body a whitish gray and his feet pure orange. He now had a mighty quack instead of a cheep and would go everywhere with Lana around the house and yard, protecting her as best he could. He would sleep at the end of Lana’s bed at night and wait for Lana to get home from school each day. He and Lana were best friends and Brayan never forgot what Lana had done for him. Brayan saw Lana has his mother, protector, and best friend.
So, as a year had gone by, it was now time for Matthias to have another birthday party. It had been decided for this year’s party to be held at the Prado home. Jen had spent some money and time fixing the house up before everyone arrived but was still doing so. Juan Carlos had gone to order and pick up the pizzas and other food. The home was decorated with banners and balloons. To eat there was to be several pizzas, appetizers of chicken wings and french fries, and a big vanilla and chocolate ice cream birthday cake with lots of delicious frosting.
So, on this grandest of days, Lana had woken up early and played with Brayan in the backyard. They had caught bugs for Brayan to eat as a snack. As guests started to arrive Lana was called into the house. “Lana, please put Brayan into your bedroom as he will disrupt the party.” Jen sternfully ordered. “Okay, I will.” Lana obediently said. Lana then led Brayan into her room and put up their pet gate so Brayan wouldn’t get out.
First, two of Matthias’ friends from school showed up. They all went to play video games on the computer. Lana went to watch but later heard the doorbell ring. “Lana, can you get the door, I’m busy setting up?” Jen stressfully asked. “Okay, mom!” Lana reluctantly yelled. Lana then gleefully ran to the door but was immediately startled and upset. It was Ernesto with his mother Mayra. “Hi Lana, you look so pretty in that nice pink dress.” Ernesto’s mother kindly told. Ernesto was grinning but didn’t say a thing. Lana was forced to open the screen door and let them in.
“I’ll go help Jen. Ernesto, you play nice with Lana.” Mayra encouragingly said. She then walked off carrying gifts toward the kitchen, leaving behind a trail of heavy perfume. After she left, things changed rapidly quick. Ernesto’s grin turned into a teethy frown. “I heard you still have that weak duck.” Ernesto bellowed. “I have something that I want to show him.” He said while pulling out a pocket knife, flipping out the blade with a flick of his finger. “Aahhh!” Lana let out a gasp. “No one is allowed to see him, my mom said.” Lana seriously informed with a tremble. Ernesto pushed Lana with his left hand and walked by her toward her bedroom. Lana then ran ahead of him and put up her arms, blocking the path. “I’m not letting you hurt him.” Lana hollered. “I’m going to kill that duckling, you can’t stop me, I’m serious.” Ernesto said with anger and rage.
That’s when Ernesto pushed Lana forward to the gated door where Brayan was standing. “Quack.” Brayan spoke. “No, please, don’t hurt my friend!” Lana pleaded. “I’m going to kill him. You’re not strong enough to stop me.” Ernesto said then knocking Lana onto the ground with a big push. As Lana fell, she screamed her ducks name. “Brayan!!!” She looked up, after banging her head on the floor, frightened she was to see her pet duck about to be hurt. But as she looked up, she saw something fly overhead. Brayan had leapt into the air and was flying over her. Lana had never seen Brayan fly before. It was awe inspiring and amazing, leaving Lana in tears.
As Lana sat up, she saw Brayan flying about and pecking and scratching Ernesto in the face. “Aahhha! Help me! Get him off!!” Ernesto shrieked. He had dropped the knife and was now trying to protect himself from being mauled, flailing his hands about his face. Then Ernesto was able to grab hold of one of Brayan’s wings. Lana, seeing Ernesto hold Brayan terrified her and so she gathered strength and stood up. She then with all her might punched Ernesto in the mouth, chipping one of his teeth, causing him to let go of Brayan. She then pushed him harder then she had ever been able to before, using all her strength. Ernesto went flying through the air and landed butt down on a toy soldier that ripped a hole on the bottom of his pants. “Waa, wah wah!” Ernesto cried out in pain, so loud, everyone in the house could hear.
Jen and Mayra came running in to find out what was going on. They found Ernesto crying on the ground with blood on his lip and he was rubbing his bottom trying to figure out what had happened. Lana was hugging Brayan who had his wings stretched out and was quacking real loud. “Quack, quack!!!”
“Lana what did you do?” Jen angrily asked. “Why is your duck out?” She suspiciously questioned. “It was Ernesto, he had a knife and said he would kill my duck.” Mayra then bent down, picking up the knife. “Ernesto, is this your knife?” Mayra upsettingly asked. “Where did you get a thing like this?” She demanded. “They hurt me.” Ernesto whined, putting his fingers to his lips and checking where he had been cut. “I’m taking you home rate now. You are going to be in timeout for a whole month.” Mayra scoldingly told her son.
Mayra then grabbed Ernesto by the shoulder, forcing him to stand up. “I’m sorry Jen but we have to go.” She apologized, smacking Ernesto over the back of the head and then forcing him out the front door of the house and to their car. Lana then started to laugh really loud. “Ha ah ha haa ha!!!!” With Brayan laughing along to. “Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack!!!!”
“Well Lana, I didn’t think you were strong enough to handle Ernesto all by yourself.” Jen jokingly said to her daughter. “I wasn’t, but Brayan and I together are.” Lana said with a big smile while hugging her duck. “Well Lana, why don’t you and Brayan both come into the kitchen for something special to eat.” Jen rewardingly spoke. “You mean it mommy? So, Brayan can stay out and play today? Lana said in amazement. “Sure, he’s a hero, isn’t he?” Jen lovingly said. “Yay!!” Lana exclaimed.
“Come on Brayan, let’s go.” Lana jubilantly spoke. The two then left the hall and went to enjoy a winner’s meal with Lana telling her hero, Brayan. “I will always love you, no matter what.”
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