Frederick T. Duck

Frederick T. Duck was at a loss.

Sundays in the park were his favorite days. Not only were there plenty of people to greet and watch, they were also usually very generous…with their food! He’d paddle over to the side of the lake, little orange feet busy under the surface of the water, and call over to the people on the shore.

“Well!” he’d quack. “That lettuce sure does look tasty. I wonder if, I could, perhaps, have a taste?”

Inevitably, they would toss him a scrap of lettuce, but as soon as it would hit the surface of the water, SPLASH! Twenty or more of the other ducks would be scrambling to get a piece of it! Frederick would be pushed aside, and wouldn’t get a piece for himself.

“Can’t we share?” he would plead with them. “I don’t understand why we can’t all have a piece!”

“There isn’t enough, Frederick,” quacked Pauline.

“Yeah,” Dave chimed in, ruffling his feathers. “If we all shared that one piece of lettuce, we’d hardly get any!”

No, sharing, though generally ideal, was not possible in this case, they all insisted.

Therefore, not only was Frederick T. Duck very sad on this particular Sunday, he wasn’t even trying to get lettuce from generous visitors.

He’d paddle his little orange feet, he’d quack every now and then, but he had all but given up on trying to get a piece of lettuce, knowing that only the biggest and strongest ducks ever got to it.

I’m too small, Frederick thought. I’ll never be able to push my way to the lettuce. All of the other ducks are bigger and stronger than me!  

Frederick was so lost in his thoughts that he bumped into a little log floating near the opposite shore. He blinked. He hadn’t realized he had paddled this far!

“Why so glum, sugar plum?”

The voice croaked from somewhere—deep and rough. Frederick looked behind him. No one was there.

“Down here, ducky dear.”

Frederick looked down at the log. Riding on it like a raft was a large, bumpy toad, gazing up at him with content, mellow eyes.

“Oh, I didn’t see you there,” said Frederick, paddling back just a bit. He’d never spoken to a toad before!

“No worries, Paddle Boy, I’m just drifting along, like you.” The toad raised his little leg in a wave motion, flowing with the movement.

“That’s nice,” Frederick said, beginning to turn to swim away. Were all toads this odd?

“Hold on there, Beaky Brother,” the toad called out. “You’ve got something on your mind. Something weighing you down, like a stone in those neat little feathers of yours.”

“Oh, it’s nothing—it’s just that…” and before he knew it, Frederick was sharing everything with this little toad—his trials to get the lettuce, and then the other ducks blocking his way to it.

“So you see, I’ll never get to have any lettuce at all!” Frederick finished sadly.

“I feel your pain, little man,” the toad said, patting his chest. Frederick frowned. If anyone was little, it was the toad, not him!

“Myself, I’m a fly kind of guy. Love those little buggers. Heh!” the toad laughed at his own joke. “But they’re not so easily fooled, you know,” he continued, tapping his head. “They know not to get too close to the water, so for a while I couldn’t reach them at all. And boy, was I hungry. But then I thought to myself, Pierre—name’s Pierre, by the way,” the toad said, extending his small foot. Frederick shook it softly. “Anyway—Pierre, I said, you have to eat. And to eat, you have to do something different. And then I thought…if the flies aren’t coming to me, then maybe I should go to the flies!”

Pierre paused dramatically, both arms outstretched. With wide eyes he looked at Frederick.

“Um…I’m not quite sure I’m following,” Frederick stammered.

“No problem, my fowl friend,” Pierre said. “I’m an underwater kind of guy. Like it better down there. But, in order to get the flies—” SNAP! His tongue whipped out at lightning speed, snapping up a fly Frederick had hardly even seen. Pierre swallowed, satisfied. “I had to come out of the water.” He patted his log fondly. “I had to come to the flies.”  

Frederick’s eyes widened in understanding. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “So you think I need to go to the lettuce!

“Drifting along is great, sometimes,” Pierre said, nodding, “but other times, you have to take things into your own hands! Or, wings,” he corrected, smiling. “Be brave enough to do something different!”

Frederick beamed. “You’re right, Pierre! I do need to do something different, something bold!” He looked back over to the opposite shore, where he could see the ducks swarming for lettuce. “Thank you so much, Pierre!”

“Righty-o, brother,” Pierre said, lifting one foot. He let himself slide back around the side of the log and disappeared into the water with a plop.

Frederick paddled faster than he’d ever paddled back across the lake, orange feet working furiously beneath the surface of the water. He was close now, close enough to see a young girl reaching into a bag and pull out a large chunk of lettuce.

He paddled and he paddled, closer and closer and closer until—FLOOSH! He burst out of the surface of the lake and onto the shore!

The other ducks quacked in confusion behind him, but Frederick didn’t care.

He eyed the little girl curiously, who looked back at him with a broad smile. Gently, she tossed the lettuce down at his feet, and he happily gobbled it up.

He had done it! Through bravery and boldness, he had achieved what he had wanted. As he finished the last of the lettuce, he heard a lone toad croak proudly in the distance.

A duck walking on a dock

Description automatically generated with medium confidence“Thank you, Pierre!” Frederick said to himself. “Thank you!”