This line of thought gave me the idea to get in touch with someone who is very familiar with flying south--the Ugly Duckling. I thought it might be interesting to see how he's doing and what his memories are of his tumultuous childhood.
Greg: Thanks for flying by. So, what are you up to these days?
Duckling: Well, the usual things swans do, swim on ponds, soar through the air, look graceful.
Greg: I suppose it's a far cry from the days of your youth.
Duckling: Oh my, yes. Those were trying times, I can tell you. I thought that I had no future. I certainly did not have a place to call home.
Greg: Tell us a little bit about that. That is, if it's not too painful.
Duckling: It is rather, but that's all right. My therapist says it's healthy for me to talk these things out. Let's see, I suppose I should start at the beginning. Do I need to lie down?
Greg: No, that's okay, I'm not a therapist.
Duckling: It all started right after I was hatched. I was different from my siblings, being much larger and gangly than them. My beak was too big, and I was a different color. The animals in the barnyard called me ugly, and the description stuck.
My mother was very supportive, but my father...well let's just say he wanted nothing to do with me. That was a very hard thing to overcome.
Greg: Yes, I can see how troubling that could be. But you said that you had no place to call home.
Duckling: That's right. I couldn't take the daily persecution, so I left the farm as soon as I was able to waddle. It was no fun being alone in the world at such a young age, I can tell you. But, I've always had an independent streak in me. My therapist says it comes from having to fend for my self so early in life.
Anyway, I stumbled upon some flocks of wild ducks and geese. They were only a little more tolerant of my looks than the more refined society of the barnyard was. That's saying something, because wild animals are a tough crowd.
Greg: Things were better, why didn't you stay with them?
Duckling: Because of the hunters. They made life miserable for us, and shot quite a few ducks and geese. No, that pond was no place for the faint of heart. I decided that the risks were too great, so I took off from there. Not literally, you understand, I was still too young to fly.
Greg: Oh my. Where did you go then?
Duckling: I stumbled upon the cottage of an old woman. She was an old dear. I felt like a little sultan under her roof. She took good care of me for a while. But she had other pets--a cat and a hen. We did not get along well at all. They teased me endlessly about my looks. It was more than I could stand.
Everywhere I went it was the same. All anyone saw was the way I looked, not the bird I was beneath the feathers and behind the beak. I tell you, it was enough to give me a complex!
I thought it would go in forever, but then I saw them.
Greg: Saw who?
Duckling: The swans. They were flying south for the winter, and they looked so regal and elegant. Something inside me moved. I longed to fly up and join them, but I was still unable to fly. I thought my heart would burst. Winter was coming and I had no place to go.
Greg: So what happened? Winter can be a killer.
Duckling: You don't have to tell me! I was found by a farmer, but that didn't work out--his children were very nasty. I decided the cold was better and left. I wound up living in a freezing little cave. I tell you, it was enough to drive me mad. In fact, I think it did, because when the spring thaw came I did something terribly daft.
Greg: What, what?
Duckling: I saw the swans return to the lake. That was the last straw. I saw their beauty and their regal bearing and I thought that I couldn't go on the way I was. I flung myself at them hoping that they would peck me to bits.
Greg: Oh dear. Did they?
Duckling: Did they what?
Greg: Did they peck you to death?
Duckling: Of course not. Would I be standing here if they had? By now I was all grown up. So, when they saw me, they told me what a beautiful swan I was. Naturally, I thought they were having me on, but then I saw my reflection in the lake and saw that it was true. I was a beautiful swan. The rest, as they say, is history.
Greg: Wow, great story. You should write that down and get it published! Thanks for spending some time with us and talking things out. You'll get my bill in the mail.
Duckling: Don't bother, I've already got one.