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by Darrin Doyle

This boy is not hilarious. Not endearing, no. He’s taunting a duck. At the edge of the pond. He’s not yet school-aged, this boy, and already he craves the thrill of domination. He throws a stick. Another. His aim is lacking though his passion is admirable. His persistence. “Boo, duck! Boo!” he calls, aiming to hurt the duck’s feelings, wanting to be a force in a world that has granted him so little control. The clouds are full and ready to cry and the color of the shit spotting the grass. Twenty feet away, on a bench, Mom tends to her phone and baby. The duck, undaunted, scarfs bread chunks.

This duck is greedy, no question. Gobbling too much too fast. Perhaps the situation is partly his fault. But no. Every creature deserves the chance to eat unmolested, especially such an indecent meal as bread atop feces. The boy is shouting now, outrageously: “You should be in the water!” He flings a pebble like a missile, hoping to pierce the duck’s breast. It bounces playfully on the ground. The duck has no arms. The boy has no wings. This is one reason for their tension.

The mother glances up at her son and mistakes his terror for innocent play. Most mothers make this mistake. Most mothers do not see the sons and daughters they have.

This mother will not now — nor ever — acknowledge this boy’s future: his bones will stretch; his aim will improve; he will dodge sadness on most days; at night he will dream of clear blue heavens and the letter V high overhead, majestically and quietly flapping toward death.

Darrin Doyle is the author of a story collection (The Dark Will End the Dark, Tortoise Books) and two novels (The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo, St. Martin’s Press; Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story, LSU Press). His fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines: most recently Summerset Review, Squawk Back, Passages North, Word Riot, and Superstition Review. He is on Twitter @DoyleDarrin and he has a Facebook fan page at Author Darrin Doyle. His website is www.darrindoyle.com.