I pace in front of the large picture windows hands clasped in front of me and what some of my older customers called my “pastor pose”.
It was cold outside, record-breaking cold is a matter of fact. By the end of this month this would be the coldest month in Buffalo New York’s history. The bank was warm though, and very busy today. It was the third of the month, Social Security check day, as attested by the row of old women sitting patiently by the window, waiting for the line at the tellers to go down. I peered out the window at the mounds of fluffy white snow that edge the sidewalk in the busy East side street when without warning I detected a soft thump as a plum of white snow puffed up outside the window from one of the snow banks.
I briefly close my eyes, trying to register what had just happened. It seemed like something fell out of the sky and landed in the snow bank. That seemed, on its face at least, crazy. There where no higher buildings around us and the bank had no second floor.
I looked questioningly left to right at the row of older ladies to see if one of them had seen anything. On the end of the row sat a heavyset dark skinned woman sitting primly upright, purse in her lap, all that was missing was a fan and she would be the caricature of every church women seen on movies about the south.
She met my eyes and plainly said “ummm hmmmm, you saw it, honey.”
I felt my left eyebrow raise involuntarily as I said, “something just fell out of the sky” it was more a statement than a question.
Very matter of factually, she said, “ummm Hmmm.”
As I look back at the snow bank I could detect movement underneath the surface, without turning my eyes to her I asked the woman, “what is it?”
Very plainly she replied, “probably a duck”.
I tore my gaze from the shifting snow pile, left eyebrow going even higher as I looked for a hint of humor in the old woman’s face, but saw only her same deadpan prim demeanor. Speechless I looked back at the snow bank just as the head of a duck emerged followed quickly by the wings, and then the rest of the duck. After climbing out of the snow the duck shook off its wings than its body turned around in a perfect 360 so it was facing us through the window than sat down just as primly as the old woman in the bank as if this was all perfectly normal and ducks fell out of the sky and landed in snow banks every day.
By now everyone in the bank is looking out the window. A few pulled out cell phones to take pictures of the duck. All seemed amazed and or amused at the winter visitor from the sky. A few of the young children had to be restrained by their parents. A pretty young girl, stylishly dressed and in her mid-20s looked at me and made a clucking sound before gazing out the window.
The duck appeared unimpressed with all save the older woman who had announced his presence. To her he seemed to gaze regally as she smiled while one long wrinkled finger gently tapped the glass window on our side.
I managed to stammered out, “why did that duck just fall out of the sky”?
The old women didn’t spare me a glance but said, “This winter, all the water is frozen, the ducks have nowhere to land so they fly around looking for water until they are exhausted and can’t fly anymore”
I said out loud, “…..and they just drop out of the sky”
At that she did spare me a withering glance.
I looked down at my watch and realized it was going on 2:30 PM, school would be out soon, and a whole bunch of kids would be offloaded from a yellow school bus just feet away from our feathered friend and things might go from funny to tragic.
Since she was the closest thing I had to a duck expert I asked church lady, “what are you supposed to do when this happens?”
Now. She looked directly at me and there was no mistaking the contempt in that Look “call the Humane Society.”
I sighed. It was the obvious answer. I pulled out my cell phone and looked up the number and called the local Humane Society. It was getting a little loud in the bank, children asking their parents if they could take the duck home and various other duck related conversations and this prompted me to put a finger in my free ear as the phone rang. An energetic voice answered and as I explained what was going on you could feel the concern for the ducks welfare coming through the phone.
In a clipped voice Humane Society lady asked, “where is the duck now”?
“Just outside the window”, I replied
Crisply she asked, “is the duck in distress”?
“ummm no, I don’t think so, the duck seems fine”
I could hear the woman on the other end ponder that, after a short pause she asked, “can you bring the duck to us?”
I barely stammered out a reluctant, “uh ummm,no, no ma’am, I can’t bring the duck to you, I ummm…..”
As my voice trailed off she cut me off curtly, “Please hold, Sir”
As the on hold music started playing in to my ear I heard giggling behind me so I took this opportunity to turn around and see what the bank customers were doing. The pretty younger girl in her 20s caught my eye and placed her hands on her hips, she made that clucking sound again with her tongue and said to me, “you better do something with it before those people in the Chinese restaurant see it”
This statement brought a few grins and smirks from a couple of customers and outright peals of laughter from others. I gave her a dry look and was about to say something when a thought occurred to me that wasn’t very appealing.
If the Humane Society came here they would be on bank property and I would have to write a report. That report would then have to go to control the command post for all the banks in the area.
Security guards for large companies work on different sites throughout any given area. When we do get together, which is not often, roughly once a month or once a quarter, it’s for mandatory training, usually red cross training or something else required by the state. Due to the solitary nature of our jobs on those rare occasions we do get together, we gossip incessantly. Nothing is more fun to gossip about than the pitfalls of our own fellow security guards.
I started to picture myself getting a nickname like, “Duck Guard” and “Officer Duck man” or some other other unappealing names.
As if sensing my discomfort the duck spared a look in my direction. It gave its body and wings a final shake and flew off. I quietly hung up my cell phone, silently praying they wouldn’t call back. I glanced at church lady to see how she was taking the loss of her friend, but she just gazed off in the direction the duck flew away, a small smile on her face.
Looking back at pretty girl I saw she hadn’t even noticed the departure of the duck. She was already typing away on her cell phone while the children in the bank had discovered the bowl of suckers I always kept for them on the counter and had lost interest as well.
I reached for my jacket to do in outside patrol hoping no ducks would fall out of the sky on me.
© 2011 Steven Burton All Rights Reserved
Author Steven Burton
Part Time Author, Chef, Old Soldier, Little league Football Coach and best buddy of Jack Kitty
A new book by Author Steven Burton, “Mid Life man in crisis” is coming soon!
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