Non-Winged Migration

Tracy Lords is telling Larry King about her mother's boyfriend's probings, incidents that led to her early life in porn. But I am heartened by the other channel's story of the ducks and their long sea journey.

In the Spring of 1992 a cargo freighter bound from Singapore to Vancouver encountered a rogue wave in a mid-Pacific storm. The wave's force ripped three containers from their straps and sent them sixty feet down into the water, where the impact broke them open. Later-examined inventories indicated that one was filled with coke ore, one with costume jewelry, and the third with several thousand yellow rubber bathtub ducks, none more than three and one-half inches high.

Oceanographers and current mappers found that the ducks not only stayed together but circulated the earth twice in overall distance, though never actually traversing the globe.

They floated up the Bering Straight and around the top of Alaska and the Northern Canadian Islands. Warmer currents kept them from freezing in the petrifying waters of King George the Sixth Land and the iceberg fields around Puffin Island.

Though millions of obstacles of flow presented themselves, the gaggle never found itself passing out of current. They never floated close enough to shore in what amounted to (sometimes narrow) continental rivers to be stopped by banks or bars or foliage, and they were never taken under the surface long enough to lose their buoyancy. They passed 2100 miles in one direction and then doubled back the same path before turning eastward again.

The warmth of the current preserved their color. If they veered off into the icy surrounding water, the temperature difference sent them popping and cracking back into the warmer, sun-colored center of the steady path they made.

In 1997, a surveying glider saw them, thousands of them, yellow and orange in the arctic light.

As the world waited by its computers for the millennial zeros, the ducks were hoofing it around the northwest coast of Labrador. They ringed the dark pine islands of Newfoundland and bobbed onward past actual living geese and Canadian brants in St. Margaret's Bay. A drunk at Ram Island Light thought they were mythical beasts, heralding the events of Revelations, and raised his thermos of Bushmills and Ovaltine accordingly.

They came out of Canadian waters at the mouth of the St. Lawrence in late 2002 and were monitored as possible terrorist devices by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Office of Homeland Security. A colonel was convinced they carried explosive charges ("every fucking thing comes through Canada") and would serve as attractive nuisances for toddlers on the beaches of Maine and Cape Cod. Underoccupied, excitable mayors were dissuaded from drawing attention to the spectacle. Shorelines and breakwaters were sandbagged. A net was lowered by a bomb squad helicopter with no consequences. Heavy, mesh-gloved hands turned a few of them around and around, and they were sent down to rejoin their compatriots.

In late July, to great fanfare, they were harvested by the Portland, Maine fire department. Their original buyer has waived all claim of ownership.

God tells us to love every one of his creatures, even inanimate ones. How these peregrinating bathtub objects have enobled the orderly process of nature, its sudden blasts of chance and yearning for form and pattern and ending. They never faltered. They stuck together. No voyage of this nature had ever been recorded or even imagined until it happened. Do not look for them on E-bay. It is the Smithsonian they deserve. And it is Odysseus they bring to mind, with half the watching world as their only Penelope.

About the author:

Richard Wirick lives in Venice, California, where he practices law and writes. He is the West Coast correspondent for the British journal Mind, and his stories, essays and poems have appeared in Northwest Review, Indiana Review, Texas Review, L.A. Weekly and other journals.