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The Day My Rubber Duck Sank
It was the day my rubber duck sank. I was 7 years old, and the family had gone to Hampton Beach, in New Hampshire. That rubber duck was all I had, and at 7 years old, that wasn’t much. The day had started in Wolcott, Vermont. My mom had brought me outside, her hand clamped on, my small legs unable to keep pace with her. The sky was unusually cloudy, but at the time, my 7 year old brain hadn’t cared. The grass was wet with left over morning dew.
My mother led me to our Suburban van. The only thing I registered then was that we were going for a ride. My mom strode over, me in tow, to the van. She pried open the ancient door. The van was older than my mom, so when the door swung open, hidden rust particles streamed down onto the dirt driveway. She turned to me, and smiled her motherly smile, full of love and compassion.
“Come on, my big boy. Time to go,” she chirped. She bent down and wrapped her long arms around my stomach. Her arms were protective as she hefted me up onto her hip. She pecked me on the cheek and stuffed me into my car seat. The belt always gave her a hard time, so at seven I wasn’t surprised to hear her swear at it.
“Sorry, Alvan. You don’t pay attention to mommy dear,” she said, worriedly. She had a weird way of always apologizing at little things she considered a bad influence. She finally managed to get the belt to latch. She gave me another peck on the cheek, backed up, and shut the door. I was in silence for a few minutes because my mom and older brother brought our packed bags. At the time, I didn’t get the reason behind bringing so many clothes with us. Wasn’t today like any other day? We are just going to the daycare, right?
My mom opened the trunk. She was out of view so I couldn’t see what she was doing, but I felt the clunk as both bags were thrown into the back. My father rushed out of the house, his glasses reaching the tip of his nose. His salt and pepper hair cut short and disarrayed. He threw his bag into the trunk and mumbled something under his breath. The trunk slammed and I could see them again. My father was obviously upset about something; he kept checking his watch and pushing his hair further back, making it even messier. My mom looked at him, love ever present in her eyes, she smiled and said something unintelligible. She kissed his forehead and began to fix his hair.
What even more surprises me is that his eyes always filled with an unrecognizable emotion when she kissed him. He smiled, the smile reaching both ears. He leaned in and kissed her hard on the mouth. This lasted for several seconds before they stood apart from each other, smiling. They turned and saw me looking, and immediately the worried look entered my father’s eyes. He said something to my mom and brother and then they all hopped in.
I don’t remember much of the drive, only bits and pieces when I was awake. Small tidbits of my mom and dad’s conversations. The sound of my brother’s game always persistent, along the highway. At one interval of consciousness, I groaned and looked over at my brother. Then towards my mom and dad.
“Where are we?” I had asked with sleep caked words. My head had hurt, pounding and my eyes were sensitive to the daylight.
“Alvie! You’re awake! How’s my little darling?” my mom asked, every little bit of motherly instinct kicked into over drive at the sound of my groan.
I stretched and looked around before answering. My seven year old mind was confused at the scenery, not understanding the reasons behind being in the car.
“Yeah, Mommy. I’m ok. Where are we? Are we going to daycare?” I asked, confusion making me begin to feel uncomfortable in my seat.
“No honey, we are going to the beach! Doesn’t that sound fun?” she asked, worried I would throw a tantrum or start crying.
“Yes…...” I mumbled, trailing off because my body decided sleep was needed again. The next thing I remember was waking up, the car stopped. My mom and my brother were the only ones still in the car. I looked towards the window, my head straining to see out of it. I needn’t have looked far, because towering over our car was a large building. I panicked.
“Mommy! Where are we?” I asked, panic taking control of my small body. I began to thrash in my seat.
“Honey, Honey, its ok. We are near that beach I told you about. We are going to go swimming today, ok?” her worried voice filled the car, her voice trying to reach my ears over the thrashing. I stopped and looked out my brother’s window. The water was huge, all my mind could think of at the time was, that’s the biggest water I’ve ever seen!
“Oh…where’s Daddy?” I asked the panic receding back to the depths of my mind.
“He’s just checking in, honey. In that big building, that’s where we are going to stay for the next week,” she explained, her hands pointing out the window, to the building I’d seen. It continued up till it seemed that it was hidden in the clouds. As I looked back down towards the doors of the building, I saw my dad rushing across the street to our car.
“All set, we can go in now,” he said with a grin. The mere mention being able to go in, not only brought relief to my mom’s face but a surge of excitement. She jumped out, along with my brother. She rushed around the car to my door, opened the door, and pulled me out of my car seat. I was already struggling to get loose, so that I could explore this new place.
“Can I go in the big water?” I asked, at the time my childish question brought giggles from not only my parents but other civilians walking the street.
“Later, Alvie. Mommy and Daddy want to rest for a bit, ok?” she asked, a wide grin spread across her face. The weariness was visible in her eyes, as well as my dads.
“Ok….but when we do can I bring Ducky?” I asked, the mere remembrance of my duck brought on panic. My little mind screamed, where’s my Ducky!? I need Ducky!
“Yes, hunny, that’ll be fine,” she said with a sigh. She didn’t approve of my attachment to the rubber duck, feeling I needed to grow up and enjoy other things. Delight surged through my body. The panic long forgotten to my 7 year old attention span.
The time had finally come. We stepped out of the doors of the huge building. Skipping only as far as my mothers hand would go. Ducky held tight in my hand. The duck was worn with age, being my childhood toy since I was born. There teeth marks from when I was teething, holes where it been rubbed clean by my mom one to many times, the yellow was more like white with a hint of yellow, all the paint worn from use.
As we came onto the sand, I reeled forward, pulling far ahead of my mom. She rushed after me calling my name. I ignored her persistence, finding my chance to explore. I took off to the waters edge, and jumped in. I dropped Ducky, sure that being just like the bathtub, it’d stay by my side. I splashed and screamed with joy in the shallow water, unknowing of the slight currant pulling the duck away from me. I turned to grab my Ducky, and just before it happened I saw the duck floating, seemingly in place. Then the current rushed towards the duck, lifting higher and higher, faster and faster.
I screamed. Panic filled every fiber of my body as I watched the wave get closer and closer to my duck, time seemed to slow down. My body was paralyzed with panic and shock. Memories of times well spent; bath time, trips to Elmore pond, even in puddles in the front yard. Tears began to flow as the inevitable crawled slower, forward, like the ever prowling jaguar of the water. Finally the wave reached my duck, pulling it under, and the anguish I felt as I waited and waited for him to bob back up. To no avail, the duck never resurfaced.
I lay there, limp. The water grew still, as if God had commanded the water to stay still, as if it knew the anguish that would release itself from deep within. The last thing I remember of that day was the swishing of the water as it became moving again, and the blood curdling sound that escaped my oddly dry mouth as warm hands pulled me from the shallow and dark ocean.