Today, I’ve got an excerpt of “It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks”, Paul Tremblay’s quietly apocalyptic story from THE NEW BLACK anthology. You can also read my recent Q&A with Paul HERE. Enjoy!
IT’S AGAINST THE LAW TO FEED THE DUCKS
Ninety plus degrees, hours of relentless getaway traffic on the interstate, then the bumps and curves of rural route 25 as late afternoon melts into early evening, and it’s the fourth time Danny asks the question.
“Daddy, are you lost again?”
Tom says, “I know where we’re going, buddy. Trust me. We’re almost there.”
Dotted lines and bleached pavement give way to a dirt path that roughly invades the woods. Danny watches his infant sister Beth sleep, all tucked into herself and looking like a new punctuation mark. Danny strains against his twisted shoulder harness. He needs to go pee but he holds it, remembering how Daddy didn’t say any mad words but sighed and breathed all heavy the last time he asked to stop for a pee break.
Danny says, “Mommy, pretend you didn’t know I was going to be five in September.”
Ellen holds a finger to her chin and looks at the car’s ceiling for answers. “Are you going to be ten years old tomorrow?”
“No. I will be five in September.”
“Oh, wow. I didn’t know that, honey.”
Tom and Ellen slip into a quick and just-the-facts discussion about what to do for dinner and whether or not they think Beth will sleep through the night. Danny learns more about his parents through these conversations, the ones they don’t think he’s listening to.
It’s dark enough for headlights. Danny counts the blue bug-zappers as their car chugs along the dirt road. He gets to four.
“Daddy, what kind of animals live in these woods?”
“The usual. Raccoons, squirrels, birds.”
“No, tell me dangerous animals.”
“Coyotes, maybe bears.”
Their car somehow finds the rented cottage and its gravel driveway between two rows of giant trees. Beth wakes screaming. Danny stays in the car while his parents unpack. He’s afraid of the bears. They don’t celebrate getting to the cottage like they were supposed to.