This story was written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Collecting Detail. The challenge was to observe three things during the week and tie them into one cohesive piece. The three observations I used to inspire this story are my husband eating a churro at a hockey game, taxidermy ducks on display at the philly cheese steak place I frequent, and a video on how ducks mate. Yeah I know it sounds like the taxidermy ducks are a bit far fetched, but no joke they were real!
C is for Caducity
Caducity as defined by Merriam Webster: the quality of being transitory or perishable
“I’m here!” Sara was unsure if the exclamation mark was too much. Was Joel excitable like that?
Her phone vibrated: “I’m here too. Just sat down.”
Sara got out of her gray Acura and examined the strip mall. A strip mall was not what she’d been expecting. “Los Palmas” blared at her from the red neon sign above a glass fronted entrance. There was a piñata hanging in the doorway as she pushed the door open.
It took her a second to adjust to the gloomy maroon of the interior. The smell of chilies and cinnamon hit her hard. Mariachi music blared from the speaker next to the hostess stand, mingling with the noise of families eating in the large packed room. Everywhere gaudy “Mexican” decorations hung, including red Chinese lanterns, multi-colored Christmas lights twinkling against velvet curtains, and sombrero sticker decals on the windows.
“Sara?” She heard her name and turned to see a curly haired man in a gold paisley vest (which was doing nothing for his pot belly) waving at her. She walked to the table and gently hung her Prada purse on the chair for fear of placing it on the red vinyl tablecloth or the tiled floor.
“Sara, I’m Joel.” The curly haired man extended a hand across the table. Sara observed the ruby signet ring as she shook it.
“I like your vest, it’s very, um, Elizabethan.” Sara replied, pulling her short black dress down as she sat.
“Oh thank you. I got it last year. I was in a community theater production of The Vagina Monologues.”
“Aren’t all the parts female?” Sara replied as she picked up the menu.
“Well yes, it was a drag production.”
Sara looked at him with raised eyebrows. “Do you know what’s good here?”
“Hmmm . . .” Joel pursued the menu. “When I eat Mexican I normally get tacos with carnitas.”
“I think I’ll go with steak fajitas. I enjoy steak.” Sara unwrapped the cutlery and smoothed the red napkin onto her lap.
The waiter approached. “Are you ready to order?”
“Yes,” replied Joel. “I’ll have the tacos with carnitas and for the lady the steak fajitas please.”
“And a glass of your house white,” added Sara.
“I’m sorry. We don’t carry wine. Corona?” asked the waiter.
Sara nodded and sighed as he walked away. “How did you find out about this place?” she asked Joel.
“I get a discount,” he replied loudly munching tortilla chips and double dipping in the salsa. He pushed the bowl in her direction. “I sell my ducks here.”
“Ducks?” Sara asked, nibbling a chip with no salsa on it.
“Yes. Those ducks.” He waved a hand towards the dessert display at the front of the restaurant.
On top of the dessert case were six ducks of different sizes and colors. A white duck with black tufts on its head lifting a leg on a branch. Two brownish ducks with black wings looked like they were about to take off. One that looked like a normal duck you’d find on a pond. “Are they real?” asked Sara.
Sara continued to stare at the ducks and Joel stopped munching chips to regard her. He couldn’t tell if her hair was black or brown, but the way small curls were coming undone from the loose bun at the nape of her neck aroused him. Red tinted light sparkled off her French polished nails as she unknowingly pushed curls into place.
“I’m a taxidermist,” Joel elaborated. “I work at the Natural History Museum. I’m in mammals though. The ducks are for fun and extra money. Doesn’t pay great.” He crossed his arms and joined Sara in staring at his ducks.
The waiter found them both staring at the display and not at each other. “Your food is ready,” he said with a wide smile. He started placing plates and bowls on the table, all the while the bells on his Sombrero jingling discordantly. He finished by depositing a bottle of Corona in front of both of them.
“I didn’t order this,” Joel said to the waiter’s back as he walked away. He shrugged and took a sip.
“I do displays.” Sara said while placing steak and beans on top of a tortilla. “At the big Nordstrom’s downtown.”
Joel continued to sip his Corona.
“I dress the mannequins. I suppose it’s not dissimilar from ducks,” she added.
“Well I have to take their skin off and stuff the skin, whereas yours probably come with skin and not real skin either.” Joel said, glancing back at the ducks while rocking his chair. “It’s not very good is it?”
“No.” Sara pushed her plate towards the middle of the table. “Do you think they have churros here?”
“Most likely. Do you know duck penises are a bit like churros. Corkscrewed.”
“Seriously?” Sara asked.
“Seriously. You see the lady ducks developed corkscrew vaginas because the male ducks are a bit forceful you see. So then the male ducks developed corkscrew penises and the penis disappears for most of the year and then reappears for mating season,” Joel replied.
“I don’t think I want a churro.” Sara sat back in her chair and stared into Joel’s puppy dog eyes. “Do you feel bad for the ducks?”
“Feel bad for them? No. Why should I?”
“Well I mean in real life they can’t even have proper sex apparently, and then they go die, and you come along and do all sorts of nasty things to their corpses. Don’t you think the ghost ducks take offense?” she explained.
“No. I’ve always thought about it as giving them a second life. I mean there are lions on display at the museum that have been there a hundred years, with people coming to visit, and talking about them. They’re not forgotten, neither are my ducks.” He spilled Corona on his gold paisley vest as he animatedly explained his theory. “Shit. This is going to be expensive to clean.” He tried to pat the beer off with a plump hand.
“I think your ducks are creepy. Not as creepy as my mannequins though. But at least I can dress them in expensive designer cloths. I get discounts at Nordstrom’s too. Still can’t afford much. I got this bag the other week. There was a blowout sale and I get my employee discount too. I was late on rent this month, but it was worth it.” She indicated the Prada bag hanging from the chair.
“Sounds like we’re in the same boat there. I was late on rent for this vest.” Joel grinned at her. “Want to go someplace else? I haven’t actually eaten here before, it was just the discount and I feel I owe them for the ducks, why don’t we go to that steak place over on Main?”
Sara tilted her head and her eyes became silts as she regarded Joel from as far across the table as she could get. “Ok, I like that place. I just need to go to the bathroom and straighten up.”
Joel watched the way her spine undulated in the low backed dress as she walked away, then called the waiter over for the bill.