Duck Food

“Mummy, mummy, mummy!”

The morning stillness was broken by the shouts of an excitable small boy towing his tired looking mother towards the lake.

From her seat, a little further around the water, Annabelle smiled. She missed those days, when her Martin was so excited to come and feed the ducks.

“Oooh! Swan!”

Annabelle watched, amused, as the small boy froze on the edge of the water while the stately white bird almost as big as him glided regally by. She was pleased to see he had a healthy respect for a bird that, if angry, could do him serious harm, but the stock-still pose that suggested he was barely daring to breath was funny. Funnier still was the almost exaggerated sigh of relief once the swan had moved further away.

The boy splashed into the shallows in bright red wellyboots, jumping up and down and ensuring none of the wildfowl would come within yards of him. Behind him, his mother gratefully sat on a convenient bench. Annabelle watched as the young woman opened up her bag and pulled out a small sack of something.

“Here; Lucas, come and get the duck food,” she called.

The boy, Lucas, regretfully left his splashing, though his eyes lit up again when he took hold of the bag. Annabelle half expected to find the contents were bread, but Lucas’ first, uncoordinated throw suggested the food was something else.

Curiosity got the better of Annabelle and she stood and moved closer. Lucas’ mother looked up.

“Oh! I didn’t realise there was—that is, I hope we didn’t disturb you,” she said.

Annabelle offered a reassuring smile. “If I wanted peace and quiet, I would have gone to the library. It’s nice to see someone enjoying the lake.”

At that, Lucas’ mother laughed ruefully. “We have to come here at least once a week. Lucas insists. We’re normally earlier, though.”

“My Martin was the same at Lucas’ age.” Annabelle watched as Lucas flung another handful of feed out onto the water. Whatever it was, the ducks were clearly delighted by it to judge by the way they were flocking. Even the swan was showing a casual interest. “Though for Martin, duck food was bread.”

“Apparently, it’s ‘very bad for ducks, mummy’,” said Lucas’ mother in a tone of voice that suggested she was repeating a lecture that had probably been given in the pompous but shrill voice of a disapproving five year old. “Ever since his class took a trip to the local wetlands trust sanctuary, he’s been obsessed with ducks.”

Annabelle chuckled. “So what is good for them?”

“Corn, oats, peas, lettuce, if you rip it up a bit.” Lucas’ mother grinned. “He came back with a sheet of instructions on how to make duck food.” She gestured to the lake. “And you can’t say the ducks don’t like it.”

Annabelle chuckled again. “They do seem to be treating it like Mana from heaven.”

Lucas flung his last clumsy handful in the direction of the swan, who gobbled it up and then looked as embarrassed as a swan could look for stooping so low, and then he turned and did a rather comical double take on seeing Annabelle standing next to his mother.

“Do you like feeding the ducks?” he asked.

“I do,” said Annabelle. “Your mum was just telling me about your special duck food.”

“It’s ever so good for ducks,” said Lucas, puffing his chest out proudly and looking Very Serious.

“And they clearly like it,” said Annabelle with a smile.

Lucas nodded vigorously, handing the empty bag back to his mother. “You have to feed them proper food or else they might get sick and you mustn’t feed them too much or they might get too fat and not be able to fly.”

Annabelle nodded gravely. “Do you think, if I were to feed them tomorrow, with you, that would be too much?”

Lucas puffed himself up importantly as he considered the question, then deflated as he realised he didn’t know the answer. “Mummy do you think it would be too much?”

His mother smiled. “Perhaps if we bring a little less food and then Mrs–?”

“Thomas,” said Annabelle. “Annabelle Thomas.”

Lucas’ mother smiled again. “If we bring a little less, Mrs Thomas can join in.”

Lucas bounced in clear delight at having found an adult ally in his duck feeding hobby.

After making arrangements to meet the following morning (“Unless it’s raining, of course,” as Lucas said sagely), Annabelle bade goodbye to her new friend and his mother and as they headed away from the lake, she headed back towards her seat to collect her things. It looked like she was going to need to go on a shopping expedition: duck food would require supplies.