Monday, October 6, 2008

Further encounters with domestic fowl

My route home from work sometimes takes me along a path that cuts behind the fields of the local elementary school. There are two ways to get to the road from behind the school: during the day, when school is in session, the fence around the school fields is locked, and you exit through the gate of some buildings belonging to the School of Tropical Agriculture. After hours, the Ag buildings are closed and the gate locked, but the school fields are open. If I come home between 4.30 and 6, I often find a community youth soccer league or baseball practice going on. After 6, the fields are usually deserted except for the occasional dog walker or frisbee thrower.

Today I got caught up in a research question at work (when exactly did Empress Dowager Wenzhao of the Northern Wei die? - answer: in 496 CE, according to her epitaph inscription, and contrary to some modern historians' reports, so there) and was late leaving, so as a result the fields were empty as I arrived. Just entering from the street side were a middle-aged man and a teenage boy, ambling idly along and tossing a football back and forth between them. Waddling along between them, the midpoint of the invisible line connecting the two, was an enormous white Muscovy duck with a spectacularly warty red face. I asked if he ever caught the football but apparently he was just along for the walk.

Because I am not usually prone to losing small objects, I still have the extremely low-tech cell phone that I got when we signed up for service four years ago. It doesn't have a camera, so no picture of the duck. Rex, who lost his in May and in consequence has a schmancy new one, reminds me that if only I were more forgetful I would have been able to show you that I'm not making this up.

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