As our car turns out of the driveway I see something on the fence that I think is litter. But as we accelerate away I see that it is a duck. The fence runs through a patch of wetland and the duck is caught on barbed wire, suspended above the water. I think I see it moving.
It’s still there when we return an hour later. I walk to the edge of the water to check for signs of life and it suddenly flaps wildly, struggling to break free. Then lies still again.
The woman at wildlife rescue doesn’t sound like she was expecting my call. I give her my name and number and location and she says she’ll try to get someone out. But she thinks that if I can’t reach the duck, they probably won’t be able to either. The call leaves me ill at ease.
Surprisingly, an hour later a van pulls up, the driver gets out and starts putting on his waders. He’s not from wildlife rescue but the council. There are men working on the road and they’ve alerted the appropriate people. The boys told me, he says.
He grips the duck firmly and gently eases the wire from her underbelly. She does not move. As he examines the wound a JCB stops behind me and the guy in the driver’s seat leans out.
Hey Phil, he says.
Alright mate, says the guy in waders.
How’s she looking, mate?
He’s here all the time, the driver says to me.
Yeah, says Phil, There were three of them one time.
He gestures along the fence.
The JCB drives on and Phil brings the duck back on to the bank.
Will you be able to do something for her? I ask.
I’ll call the rangers, he says.
But he’s keen to change the subject: How long you staying here?
Two weeks. Just till Friday.
Be careful of snakes in there.
He strokes the duck’s head absentmindedly. She’s calm now, or maybe terrified.
Well… thanks for coming, I say. It’s good she’s down from there.
Yeah, he says. I’ll call the rangers and see what they want to do. If I can take her to the vet or…
We let the sentence hang, unfinished in the air.
We bat flies from our faces and stare off in opposite directions. I notice for the first time how hot it is today.
Eventually, I thank him again and he heads back to his van.
As I walk towards the house I redial the wildlife rescue.
Hi, I called before about a duck in the wetlands, I –
Yes, she says, I’ve been calling people, I’ve called three people so I’m just waiting for someone to –
Oh no, I cut in, I just wanted to tell you that a man from the council came. He’s got the duck off the fence.
Oh fantastic! she says as though she’s not the same person I spoke to before. Thanks so much for calling. She emphasises the so.
Um, no problem, I stammer.
That’s fantastic, she says again. I’ve been so worried about that poor little duck.
She doesn’t ask if the duck is ok. And I don’t tell her.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 17th December 2017 as part of Internet Care Package.
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