Duck and cover
It’s traditional to trash your mother-in-law, but mine has always treated me extremely well. Sharon is generous and with-it and we get on just fine.
In general, she loves animals. She has had numerous cats and a few dogs, and they tend to live like royalty. However, once in a while an animal will fall from favor (usually from being mean to other animals); when that happens, Woe betide thee, Nag*.
When my wife & I first got married, her folks lived in a place with a small pond, and the pond had ducks. All was well until one of the males started picking on the rest of the herd, or flock, or whatever.
I don’t know if it was duck mating season or if he was just the duck version of Mike Tyson, but he would harass and intimidate all the other ducks, and he soon became duck non grata with Sharon.
One weekend when we were visiting, she asked me if I could shoot just that one duck -- and restore peace to the little pond, I guess. Being male and not about to pass up an opportunity to shoot something on behalf of a pretty woman, I said of course I could.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have a shotgun – all they had was my father-in-law’s Ruger .22 carbine. (And a Winchester lever-action 30-30, which would have been good for, say, buffalo, but a bit much for ducks.)
Anyway, a rifle is not the optimum tool for shooting ducks from a pitching rowboat. At first I was still thinking I could pull off a head shot (it wasn’t a big pond), but very soon I was hoping for any kind of hit at all.
I had to be careful of what was downrange, because bullets can skip off water – I made sure if they did they’d end up in the hillside, not whining up the driveway into the house. I think this is why I was in the boat in the first place, instead of shooting from shore -- the bank on the side of the house was steep -- I could only shoot in one direction (away from the house), which meant using the boat.
Anyway, the bottom line was I wasn’t able to hit the dang duck. The boat was rocking, he was paddling to and fro, the others were quacking and milling about…
Eventually, I looked up at the house, and there was M-I-L, staring out the kitchen window with her arms folded and a disgusted look on her face. It was supposed to be a surgical strike, in & out – but here I was shooting up her little pond and freaking out the whole pride, or coven, or whatever it was.
My wife Hannah came down to the pond to say that “Mom’s all mad now, and you’re supposed to quit shooting the ducks.” Which I thought was kind of unfair as I’d been pretty careful about the other ducks – so careful, in fact, that I had yet to hit *anything* other than the water.
I figured it *was* time to give up, but just then Iron Duck Tyson came drifting toward me. I tried for one last shot, taking my time, waiting for the perfect moment… I was aware of M-I-L and Hannah watching me. I slowly squeezed off a shot… And watched in horror as a large brown female who had drifted in behind Iron Duck raised one wing slowly into the air and rolled over in the water.
I looked back at the house – Sharon gave one last look, and with her mouth set in a tight line, turned away from the window.
I retrieved the corpse of the female I had killed and disposed of it in the woods.
I unloaded the gun and put it back in the garage.
I slunk back into the house.
For the rest of the weekend, no one mentioned ducks.
*See Rikki Tikki Tavi, by Rudyard Kipling