The Opposite of a Duck – Daily Story Project #28

Pulled from my files. Has my writing changed in 14 years? Comment if you can tell the difference.

It had been a long night, lots of work done, boxes packed and moved and labeled. Chester pulled his jacket a little closer, and pulled the collar up against his neck; although it was spring, the wind tonight lacked warmth. It was late, and Chester had had to walk home since his car was stolen two weeks ago. He walked the length of the long park that lay between the warehouse where he worked and his home sweet home, his humble abode, the four walls between which he called his “space”.

The grass, freshly mowed, looked greyish under the starlight, except where it was yellowed from the sodium-colored lamps along the pathway. Chester passed the playground, not looking up at the huddled shapes of teenagers brooding over some imagined slight. He walked swiftly past the smell of the public restrooms.

But he stopped by the pond. It was still and silent, deep and blue-black, unnaturally still considering the wind that sapped the heat from Chester tonight. The groves of trees stood watch over the water’s dark surface, swaying together, now apart, seeming like the kids Chester had seen on the field moments before. Chester shivvered, tired from his work and the late hour, and imagined that the lake went down forever, an endless shaft of water sunk through the Earth.

Chester had never learned to swim. He had a fascination with it, wondering what it would be like to frolic and glide through it, but his fear had kept him from it. It called to him, but he was afraid to answer it.

When he reached home, and his bed, he dreamt of fighting a huge winged snake.


After another two weeks of time-and-a-half, Chester’s boss allowed as how the workload had eased off enough for Chester to take some time off. Chester hadn’t taken a vacation in nearly two years, and wasn’t sure what to do. But he remembered that night two weeks before, standing before the pond, shaking with cold and also with fear, and he decided that he would try to improve himself by learning to swim. The water’s call to him was stronger than his fear of it. He hoped.

Down at the local YMCA, there was a sign-up sheet for swimming lessons. Chester approached the board, and realized that he had not brought a pen. He turned around, looking for an office or someone official looking to request one.

“Excuse me… you look lost. Can I help you?”

Chester turned and faced a slender beauty. Her hair was soft, wavy, and so dark it was almost blue. Her eyes were a startling shade of green, and they were set in a face that was almost elfin. She had a smile, and she held a clipboard. A pen was tucked behind her left ear.

“Oh, right, I was just going to… uh….” Chester waved vaguely at the sign-up board. “I want to swim. Or, to be able to swim. Swimming lessons.”

“Excellent! I can handle that for you. I’m the instructor! Well, one of them, anyway.” She pulled the pen from behind her ear and paused with it in the air over her clipboard. “Name?”

“My name is Chester. Chester Hogan. I do hope, that is, I’m looking for a beginner’s class.”

“Fair enough… I can sign you up for the class that begins on Tuesday evening, at 7 pm, or the Wednesday afternoon class at 1:30. Which would you prefer?”

“Tomorrow evening should be fine. Where do I pay?”

“That’s my class!” She scribbed on the sheet. “Oh, you can pay in the office.” She tore a sheet off her clipboard. “Just take this over there.” She pointed over to a door marked ‘OFFICE’. She smiled again, hugged the clipboard to her chest, and bounced on her feet. “See you there!”

Chester had to borrow a pen to sign the check.

That afternoon, he made a chicken salad sandwich and ate it in the park, looking out at the pond. A flock of ducks were swimming, diving, and taking off from its waters, and he envied the ease with which they played in it. Of course, on dry land, a duck seemed out of place, like a man wearing shoes that were too tight. Chester felt that a duck was his complete opposite. The thought saddened him.