This spring, I had the great misfortune to see a mother duck lead her ten chicks across a parking lot and into a picturesque little pond not far from my apartment.
I say misfortune because, as I watched their tiny, fuzzy bodies plunk one by one into the water, I knew I would have to closely monitor this family all summer long. They had adopted me, and they didn't even realize it.
So every week I would pause briefly on a bench after work and watch them paddle around, cheep-cheeping and sticking their little butts in the air as they dove and splashed. And I would conduct a head count, just to make sure there were still ten, none of them having been nabbed by a predator or squashed by a passing car.
When I mentioned this compulsion to keep tabs on the ducks to one of my coworkers, he demanded to know why these animals were so irresistible. But you can't really explain that level of cuteness. So he posed a Sophie's choice question purely out of deviousness. "Okay then, would you rather lose one of the ducklings, or have a baby fox starve to death?"
After some horrified thought, I finally had to admit, "Well, I guess ten is kind of an embarrassment of riches."
I felt a bit guilty about that answer. Until a few nights later when, driving home from this same coworker's house, I almost hit a fox that darted across the road. But I didn't. I spared him. So I believe I earned the right to keep my fine-feathered family intact.
They're so grown up now that I can't tell which are my original ducklings and which are just your run-of-the-mill Mallards. But sometimes I wonder if they recognize me, ever watchful. #11.