The Three Mallards

Paul Robert Ceretto

Perry waits for the bus. It is a Monday, so today he has his writing lab. The wind, gentle and tepid, is pleasant for March. A half a moon is still visible in the early morn. It looks to Perry like his fishing bobber after a solid castinto Lake Beulah. The orb drifts half-seen in the blue water-like sky.

He hears turmoil from behind. Perry looks to sees [LEARN TO BE DIRECT WITH THE READER. AVOID “FILTERING”: IT APPEARED, SHE SAW, IT SEEMED, ETC.] three mallard ducks in the creek that runs adjacent to the apartment complex. Its waters, brown and murky, give him a thankful feeling about his home. He can tell that the two squabbling are males by their green cowls. The female paddles in a circle around them uninterested in their aggression.

    Perry watches The female float. He wonders if she has thoughts. Does  Is she rooting for one in particular?  [REMOVE ITALICS, WHICH SHOULD BE USED SPARINGLY. NOTE AGAIN HERE YOUR HABIT OF FILTERING. AND I’LL KEEP MAKING CHANGES AS WE GO ALONG; IT WILL MAKE YOUR WRITING MORE DIRECT AND ACCOMPLISHED]  He realizes that is what he is watching. watches. [AVOID PASSIVE CONSTRUCTIONS]  The two males are fighting  fight for the female. [DITTO]  It appears to be civil; more flap than fight. As she glides, she appears to have her bill is in the air like a bitch. Perry questions if his perception of her is accurate.  [ALWAYS ASK THE PURPOSE OF ANYTHING YOU PUT ON THE PAGE. THIS DOESN’T SEEM TO HAVE A DIRECT STORY PURPOSE, AND STOPS THE NICE MOTION YOU HAVE IN THE SCENE. THIS IS FINE-TUNING, BUT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO MAKE THAT NEXT STEP UP IN YOUR WRITING.]

As he sees The bus coming comes toward him; the weather is getting warmer. [THIS IS OUT OF PLACE, A NON SEQUITUR. IT STOPS THE STORY] The bus door closes behind him. He can still hear The ducks quack as the bus rumbles off.  into the Monday morning.

Perry walks to the bus stop on Tuesday. When he arrives, he looks and sees the three mallards. It appears to Perry the dispute over the female is settled; one of the males is sitting sits and guarding the female. They are a couple now. The other male is standing stands unattached but part of the small flock. Perry, a bachelor, feels a kinship to the single duck.

The bachelor duck looks lonely; Perry questions himself. He watches the solo duck and remembers a time when he was a third wheel. The thought disrupts Perry’s Zen like a car accident. However, peace returns as the single bird walks and frolics in the water. Every time the married duck moves to play, the female scolds him back. Perry laughs at The married duck’s fast head movement in what looks to be seems jealousy.  [AGAIN, WORK TO BE DIRECT, AVOID FILTERING THROUGH CHARACTER, AND BE SUCCINCT, EDITING OUT UNNECESSARY WORDS.]

Perry wonders how much of their behavior is biological predisposition, and how much is the will of the ducks. The lone duck does not seem like the loser anymore. Perry looks at the married duck, and says, “Who has won, and who has lost?” Perry thinks back again and sees that much is the same for ducks and men.  [REDUNDANT. THE READER UNDERSTANDS BY THIS POINT.]

Perry gets on the bus and tells the driver, Pam about what he saw. She laughs. Perry sits knowing the single duck fared better, he sits knowing he fares better, and he smiles because he is happy to a free mallard.



Excellent work. A beautiful idea, touching in so many ways, and the revelation to Paul from his viewing the ducks expresses the theme and meaning of the story very well.

What you should take away from this. You are a good writer. Write, write, write. Study craft to make your writing clean. Learn to avoid “He saw . . .” “She seemed . . .” et cetera. When you’re constructing paragraphs in fiction be sure the imagery is clear, that action is logical and flows, and tighten up your prose with strong words and avoid passive constructions. This comes with practice and time. Look on SILF to the essays on Momentum and Information and Story Structure.

You have tremendous potential. Keep telling stories. Your sense for meaning will serve you well as you develop. Work to improve the craft of fiction. Study scene construction so the reader is engaged and entertained (you are well on your way to achieving this.)

Thanks for submitting. And all the best in your writing. WHC

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