The Eder twins are sledding. Mother told me to ignore them right back. They have their own language.
What I'm going to do is walk to school and see if it really is closed. Spangles of light bounce off the snow. Past the McGwinns, who eat onions like apples. It's so quiet. Last night on the radio they said this is the first blizzard in twenty years.
Even the blinds are closed at school. No more new girl until they open again. A wind begins to blow sideways and snow fills my footprints.
Something moves in the corner of my eye. It's a duck. He's trying to get up and can't.
I wrap him in my muffler. He flaps and flaps. With my mouth next to where an ear would be, I whisper, relax.
Mother's talking on the telephone to her boyfriend Eric when I come in. Eric is from Germany, where they made him go to the opera when he was younger than me. Germany used to be the enemy, but now it's the Koreans.
Mother says to Eric, "You won't believe what just walked in."
We put him in the bathtub because with every waddle, he wags his tail and poops.
Mother's sitting on the toilet lid, staring at him.
"Hm," she says. "Maybe it's nerves."
"Maybe he's scared," I say.
"Hm." She reaches into her pocket for her smokes. He's watching us.
"You know what Aunt Ruby and Uncle said on the subject of pets. Don't forget, they took us in when we came here with the clothes on our backs. No pets."
"Actually, they said no loud radio, too," I say, meaning she plays Jack Benny and Our Miss Brooks at the top of the volume knob.
"That's true. But it's their house and what I'm saying is we have to follow their rules. Not that I walk on eggshells or ever would." She lights the cigarette, blows one smoke ring, then another. "Besides, a radio show lasts a half hour. A pet is for life."
"Does it need water?" I ask. The duck has made himself as small as possible in the tub. He blinks.
"Hm. We could fill the tub. I know one thing he needs: food. Seeds, whatever he eats. I've got a brainstorm." She comes back with slices of white bread.
We drop pieces like snow in front of him.
He eats our bread.
Aunt Ruby comes upstairs to see the surprise in the bathroom. "Papa," she yells. "You've got to see this." Uncle is hard of hearing.
Uncle comes up. "What in the Sam Hill?"
Aunt Ruby gets down on her fat knees and strokes his head. "Pretty boy, pretty ducky," she says. She leans back. "I think this may be the female of the species. I had a parrot—. Rocky," she shouts. "Remember, Papa? Rocky?"
She lifts him out of the tub. His orange legs dangle like stems. "There you go, my fine ducky."
Uncle says, "She can puh-puh-puh—hypnotize animals."
Aunt Ruby says, "Not really. A soothing voice in a jangled world."
Uncle says, "What are you going to name him?"
Mother says, "Oh we're not going that far."
Aunt Ruby stays a half hour and no more pooping. Mother says, "It's a miracle."
I begin watching the clock at two after school starts again. My aunt makes him mash she found in a bird book. She never mentions the pet rule. Sometimes she comes upstairs and sits on the toilet, watching him. Mother follows him with a fireplace shovel when he's not in the tub. He sleeps in my muffler and leaves feathers in the hall and bathtub. Uncle reads everything on ducks in the Encyclopedia.
When the snow is almost gone, he lifts his wings and soars down the hall, and bangs into a wall. Mother says, "He's healed. Time to go home."
First thing I open my eyes I remember today's the day.
Mother says, "Take the number eight to Greenlake. You can't miss it. It's green and it's a lake. Ask the driver."
She's sipping coffee, trying to be more American. "Wear your slicker. Chin up. Chop-chop."
He holds his wings tight all the way on the bus. A man across the aisle says, "What next, mongeese?"
The lake is flat and shiny, less snow around its edges than on the banks leading down.
There are other ducks on the water, too many to count. He stretches his wings in the muffler, beating against my jacket. I start to run, the muffler unwinding. On the steps to the water, I unravel the rest of it and he's out, waddling and quacking, pulling his feet up, then bobbing along on the water.
The rain begins. When I look back, I can't tell him from the others.
Sometimes in dreams I pick up a pebble and it grows so big I can't hold it, it's bigger than the world, and I let it go, wondering was it magic, or did I just not see how big it really was all along.
Lois Taylor's stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in THE NATION, THE YALE REVIEW, CANADIAN FORUM, PRISM INTERNATIONAL, MID-AMERICAN REVIEW, GLIMMER TRAIN, STORYQUARTERY, COLORADO REVIEW, and many others. She is currently working on short stories and something a little longer. A novel? She wonders.