In Blossom’s opinion, Skyler was selfish and a gossip and just displayed very bad manners. However, each springtime Skyler made her nest in the Hatchers’ back yard and hatched the cutest ducklings, so Blossom was willing to overlook the mallard’s other unfortunate qualities.
This year there were four ducklings. Blossom had heard from Riley, her best feline friend forever, who’d heard it first-paw from a hedgehog, that Skyler’s nest had originally held eight eggs. But because Skyler was always off gossiping with her girlfriends instead of taking care of her babies, four of the little ones had gone off with another mother.
This spring morning with the scent of crabapple blooms swirling sweetly, Blossom spotted the four ducklings wandering about in the Hatchers’ back yard unattended. She could hear Skyler’s loud rasping voice behind Mr. H’s toolshed where, no doubt, she was quacking another duck’s ear off. “Remember that duck we grew up with?” Skyler blabbed. “She climbed into the neighbor’s bird bath for a little swim. Came back and her family was gone!”
“No! Did a fox get them?” quacked the other mallard.
“Who knows? Not even a feather left behind!” said Skyler.
Blossom could only shake her head, watching Skyler’s unsupervised youngsters flocking toward her. One of the four ducklings was larger than the rest, his feathers a shade darker.
Flapping his stubby wings at Blossom, he peeped, “Can we call you Auntie Blossom?”
Blossom had never been an auntie to anyone, and because she felt honored to be asked, she said, “I guess so.” This new responsibility made Blossom sit tall. Auntie Blossom. She nodded her head. She’d make sure she took care of these cute little ducklings since their selfish babbling mom did not.
The ducklings followed Blossom all over the yard. The bigger one seemed to lead the rest. “Auntie Blossom, can we ride on your back?” he asked.
And because Blossom was a good auntie, she lay flat on the ground, like a Sphinx, while they all scrambled up onto her. Then she trotted across the lawn, careful not to bounce too much because her small charges might fall off and a good auntie didn’t let things like that happen. The spring air was as uplifting as catnip as Blossom the Auntie showed her nieces and nephews a good time.
“Yay!” the ducklings cried. “Run faster, Auntie Blossom!”
Shortly, Blossom saw Riley and Merle, the neighbor bulldog, out in their yards. Telling the ducklings to sit tight, she headed down to meet her friends.
“That’s sure nice of you to give piggyback rides to ducks,” said Riley.
Merle scrunched up his furry forehead. “Shouldn’t those ducklings be learning how to take care of themselves?”
Blossom batted her paw, flinging off Merle’s worries. “I’ll teach them. Auntie Blossom’s got it covered.”
The next morning when Blossom pranced out her door, she spotted the four ducklings waiting for her. Skyler was nowhere to be seen but could definitely be heard, her blaring vocals making their way around the toolshed. “And then I had to sit on the nest for what seemed forever while their dad was partying on another lake. Left me alone all night! I really picked the wrong guy.”
Blossom frolicked over to the ducklings. “Hi there, kiddos. Do you want to ride on Auntie Blossom’s back again?” She crouched down so they could hop on. But they didn’t move.
The big one spoke up. “We don’t want to ride on your back anymore,” he peeped. “We want to swim in the pond.”
“You need to teach us how to swim, Auntie Blossom,” said one of the smaller ones.
Blossom felt a nervous flick in her ears. “But Auntie Blossom doesn’t like the water, children,” she said.
“But it’s your job,” said the big one. “Now, get going.” With that, the four waddled off toward the excess rain water that had pooled at a dip in the Hatchers’ yard.
Blossom could hear Skyler behind the toolshed. “And then I hurt my back foraging for food. It’s not enough I have to sit on a stinking nest all night, but to find food for four! No five, I forgot to count me! I miss the good old days, just you and me and the girls. Such fun times.” Skyler and her gossiping hen friend quacked like crazy.
The four ducklings settled at the edge of the pond, waiting for Blossom. “You have to go in first Auntie Blossom and show us what to do.”
Blossom stared at the pond thinking how she’d enjoy this about as much as running through a sprinkler. She first put one foot into the water, then whipped it back out and shook it. But the four had inched closer, watching her so intently, she stuck it back in. Next went her other foot, and another, until all of her legs were knee deep in the pond. For the beautiful warm day it was, the water felt like it was loaded with ice cubes. She turned to the brood. “Come along now. Follow Auntie Blossom.”
They plunked in one by one, splashing, swimming circles, their little orange legs a blur beneath their fuzzy bodies. Well, poodle poop, thought Blossom. She got her toes wet for nothing. The ducklings already knew how to swim. Blossom waded to the water’s edge and galloped out. “Ok, enough swimming for today. Auntie has to go back in the house now.” She was feeling all shivery from the pond water.
“But we’re not done swimming,” said the big one.
“You have to stay here and watch us so we don’t drown,” said another.
“Why don’t you have a big built-in swimming pool?” one whined.
After what seemed like hours of duck-sitting, Blossom tore loose from the bunch and practically raced to the fence where Riley and Merle were watching her. “Those ducklings are so demanding. Do this, do that. And their no-good mother yacks more than a magpie.”
“You need to put your paw down,” said Riley. “If you know what I mean.”
Merle did a little hop. “If you don’t, they’ll waddle all over you.”
Sheba, the glamour kitten that lived on the other side of Riley, had come out of her house and poked a nose through her picket fence. “Where did all those ducklings come from? I want ducklings in my yard!” she pouted.
Blossom headed back to her house, shaking her head again, this time over what little Sheba knew about ducklings. Skyler had finally returned. But just as Blossom was almost to the patio, Skyler propelled herself across the yard like a rotary mower.
“Excuse me! Excuse me!” Planting herself in front of Blossom, blocking her path to the back steps, Skyler quacked, “Would you mind watching my kids for a bit? My best friend has asked me to waddle over to the arboretum for a dip in the creek. I could really use a night out. Thanks, bye!”
Blossom could only blink. The four babies skedaddled to the patio, surrounding her. But Blossom was ready this time. She’d let them know she’d just observe them from the grass while they swam in the pond.
They all started quacking at once, interrupting each other, flapping their wings, knocking each other out of the way, talking over each other.
“We’re hungry, Auntie Blossom. We need greens! Or catch us some bugs.”
“What?” How was she going to catch bugs? She didn’t have a beak.
“My back itches. I think I have lice. Get them out, Auntie Blossom.”
Lice! Blossom thought of the four of them riding on her back, her back that all of a sudden felt like it needed scratching.
“Can we come in your house?” they quacked.
“We want to sleep in your sleeping basket.”
“Do you have video games?”
“We want to try Froot Loops.”
“WE NEED CELL PHONES!” they all cried.
Blossom’s ears were ringing. No wonder Skyler flew the coop. Her kids were as annoying as mosquitos at bedtime. Actually they were as annoying as Skyler was.
The springtime sky grew dark but Skyler did not return. Blossom wondered what would happen when her own family realized she was not in the house. But being a good auntie, she told her little responsibilities that she’d sit on Skyler’s nest with them until their mother came back from her night out. Blossom settled into the sticks and twigs and the ducklings snuggled up close to her, rubbing their fuzzy little lice-infested bodies against hers.
Suddenly the big one popped up. “Doesn’t your family wonder where you are? Why don’t you go in your house and take us with you?”
Blossom tried not to scowl but she didn’t want the ducklings in her house, so she tried blowing off his suggestion. “That’s not necessary.”
He shoved his little fuzzy face into hers. “Yes it is. Do you have Netflix?”
That was the paw that broke the cat’s back. Blossom stood up, sending the other ducklings rolling. She shook herself off and said, “You guys are as selfish as your mom! My family doesn’t have Netflix or video games or cell phones. We’re not rich!”
Blossom huffed. Here she was outside in the dark and the cold, doing someone else’s job, with ducklings she no longer even liked and who were now reminding her that her family didn’t have the bucks and bling that, say, Sheba had. And in the cold, dark, damp corner of the yard, it was as if fireworks had lit the sky. Blossom felt her mug turn into a sly smile. “Children, Auntie Blossom knows someone who has an outdoor heated swimming pool.”
Minutes later, Blossom stood at the back door of her house, meowed twice, then waited patiently for her family to let her in. With only the light of the crescent moon above, she watched as the four ducklings hopped through the holes of the chain link fence and waddled across Riley’s yard to get to Sheba’s mini mansion. Now Sheba could try her paw at duck-sitting. He he he!