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2013 Writing Prompt is: "The funniest thing happened in Auburn"

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A Tale of a Duck’s Tail or a

Duck a la Orange


I was 12 years old, dressed in a costume like Donald Duck, and ready for the Children’s Parade. As we rounded the corner from the old City Hall to go down Main Street, I suddenly heard a popping noise. I realized that my costume was about to fall apart from the waist down! I quickly grabbed as much material as possible before the pillow tail-end fell from my waist to my feet. The street, on both sides, was deep with onlookers cheering and waving. I did the same albeit with one hand. Suddenly I had another problem. It began to rain.


A summer shower poured down on both my cardboard duckbill and my swim fin duck feet. This would not have been so bad except— for a life-like color—my mother used orange crepe paper that began to melt in front of my very eyes. My web feet were following the same example. The bill dropped orange spots all over the front of the white bed sheet. I looked as if I had duck measles. But more was to come.


The crepe paper that covered my swim fin feet also began to self destruct but with only one hand I couldn’t bend down to take the paper off and hold my bottom on at the same time. The pillow that shaped the tail end was also getting wet—and increasingly heavy. As the paper on the fins continued to get soggier, it peeled off in little chunks that splattered my costume and littered the street. I discovered later that my real feet had turned orange too. Things were not going well at all until it got worse.


I struggled to keep everything together until the parade ended and I could call mom to pick me up. “Nope,” she said, “Just keep holding the costume up and walk home.” This was devastating news. Didn’t she realize I was soaking wet and covered with orange spots, that my bill had melted leaving me with orange lips and cheeks? I felt totally alone and embarrassed as I took the back way home.


No modern mother would leave her child to fen for himself under this duress but life was different in those days. I felt abandoned, betrayed and demoralized. I was angry, upset and on the verge of tears but I held them back. After all, I would be a man someday. Self control, self reliance, and “grit” was needed here, not tears. “Into each life a little rain must fall,” dad would say. How right he was.


Despite the disasters that day, I had two great things going for me. I had a totally sympathetic little sister who still saw her big brother as a hero, even if he was orange all over. And I had $12 in prize money. No small sum in those days. The three of us went out for ice cream and suddenly the day was much brighter.


Michael F. Hansen



P.O. Box 2311

Auburn, WA 98071-2311