Throughout his school years, he was greeted with annoying quacks from giggling classmates. Billy Joe Watson, the meanest kid in school, once forced him to wear a plastic duck bill. Even the teacher laughed before sending Billy to the principal.
Mallard tried to ask his mom: “Why did you give me this stupid name?”
“I like the way it sounds,” she said dismissively. “And it’s not stupid!”
So Mallard secretly vowed to change his name.
On the day before he was old enough to do it, Mallard slept more soundly than he ever had in his life. That night, he had a bizarre dream.
Mallard dreamed he was a duck. He started to panic, which came out as loud strangled quacks. Then suddenly he noticed a few other ducks watching him. If he could tell a duck’s look, he would have guessed they had looks of surprise.
“Dude, what’s wrong with you?” the nearest duck asked.
“I’m not a duck!” Mallard squawked.
There was an awkward quiet.
“Not a duck huh,” said a duck with a low voice.
“Well then, what are you buddy?”
The group of ducks stared at him with what Mallard guessed were expectant looks. But before he could answer, the water around him roiled. A tremendous wave was followed by an ear splitting roar. The group of ducks scattered as Mallard felt himself consumed by the water. He quickly swallowed air before he was pulled into the deep.
When he awoke from his shock, all Mallard could see was darkness. All Mallard could smell was fish stink. The world around him was sticky and soft. He flailed around for a bit which caused the world to shake and rumble.
“Ssssttttoooopppp!” the rumble insisted.
“Who’s there?!” Mallard quorked desperately.
“Does it mmaatttteerr,” the voice boomed.
“Where am I?” Mallard squeaked.
“In my bbeellllyy.”
“Let me out!” Mallard snapped.
“Why should I?” the bemused voice ventured.
“Because I’m not a duck!!!” Mallard screamed.
The voice erupted into what only could be interpreted as a cruel laugh. Mallard grew extremely angry. He wildly padded his duck feet, and crazily snatched at his fleshy surroundings with his duck bill.
“Oooooowwwww!!!” the voice bellowed. “Sssssttttoooooppppp!!!”
Mallard padded and snatched until he drew blood.
There was one last horrible sound like a tractor tearing up a fence. Then Mallard was tossed willy nilly until he found himself drifting through space. The sudden sunlight was blinding. He reflexively flapped his arms, which were actually wings, and glided into the air. He looked down into the water to see an enormous green fish dive into the surf and disappear. Whatever he had done had been just enough to save his life.
“That was crazy man,” said a duck who had joined him in the sky.
“You’re telling me,” Mallard huffed.
“Say Not-A-Duck, you wanna join us for a duck party?” the ducked asked.
“Not really,” Mallard frowned.
“Well okay,” the duck shrugged. “But you’re really gonna miss out. There’ll be all kinds of duck ladies there.” The thought of a duck lady made Mallard want to retch.
“I think there’s something you should know,” Mallard said. “Not only am I not-a-duck, but I can honestly say I HATE DUCKS.”
There was another awkward quiet.
“Man you’re about the craziest duck I ever met,” the duck laughed. “Hope to see you at that party,” he added before turning to fly in the opposite direction.
The craziest duck I ever met.
The phrased buzzed through Mallard’s brain until it developed into a surprising thought. “What the hell…” He shifted his weight which altered his direction. He looped around in the air to follow the other duck.
Mallard tentatively alighted in the midst of a large gathering of noisy ducks.
“Hey, look who showed up!”
The ducks welcomed him warmly. They immediately offered him hors d’oeuvres, minnows on moss and lake grass with crayfish. It was all very delicious.
After they ate, they shared duck stories. One older duck told a tale of how he once chased a goose from the lake. “I puffed up my chest and skimmed the surface of the water and made obnoxious honking noises,” he said proudly.
Another gave a sad story about how she had lost her only duckling. “I begged him to say away from the drain,” she wept.
The last story was told by the duck who had invited Mallard to the party. It was about Mallard and how he had escaped the hideous maw of the big mouthed bass. “He burst forth like a shooting star!” the duck proclaimed. “Man it was like nothing I’ve every seen.” The other ducks nodded in obvious appreciation.
“Yes, what a duck!”
“Hey, that’s a much better name,” the duck who had told the story announced. “No longer Not-A-Duck, you are What-A-Duck!” And the other ducks quacked in a approval for a long time.
Mallard slowly drifted out of sleep. The last thing he wanted to do now was change his name. He couldn’t exactly say what had changed his mind. He could only say that there was more to his name then he once believed, and that he wanted more than anything to find out what that was.