I was on the beach with my parents and we found a duck floundering in the sand. A female Northern Shoveler, probably point-guard of the winter migration.
"It's a duck."
"Well, it's a Shoveler. Look at the long beak."
It tries to move away from us by rolling its belly forward and kicking with its legs. Something is broken.
We stand and stare for many moments before going to look at the water. Blackbirds hop all around us.
Then we walk back, towards the duck. In my mind a man is standing over it, torturing gleefully and staring defiantly into my eyes. I am filled with hatred for this imaginary person, stamping out the bird's vulnerable life, every little kid flushing anthills with a hose, every person who doesn't care. Suddenly I am beating this man, screaming.
The duck rests in the lap of a woman sitting on a log with her boyfriend. We walk up and stare. She lifts a wing and I motion at the underparts with one earpiece of my sunglasses. I don't know what this is meant to signify. Neither of them speak English. We smile at each other, not knowing what we mean by smiling. "Ah, yes, what is to be done?"
She pets it as we walk off down the shore.