by holliehughes

Duck lived at the edge of the pond – Goose lived on the island in the middle.  That was the way it had always been for as long as either one of them could ever remember.  Or rather, that was the way it had always been for as long as either one of them ever cared to remember – which is not really the same thing at all.

Of course, it hadn’t always been that way.  A long time ago, when they were both very young fowl, they had gladly sailed round the pond together – each perfectly content to be in the happy company of the other.

‘Come share my bread!’ said Duck, when the children came to the pond in droves, trailing long lines of stale crumbs in their wake.

‘Help yourself to all the twigs and sticks from my island you can carry!’ said Goose, when their nests were due a re-build.

As the warm and balmy days of summer began to give way to the sharper breezes and crisp mornings of autumn though, their friendship began to cool also.  The children with their bread and stale cakes were fewer and further between now, and Duck began to think that Goose was taking more than her fair share of the food that was on offer.  Goose, for her part, thought that Duck was just being mean – anyone could see that she, Goose, was twice as big as Duck and therefore needed twice as much food.  But the children came to feed ‘the ducks’, not the geese – so Goose just had to bite her beak and put up with it.  Until, that was, along came the day when Goose could bite her beak no longer.

‘Just who do you think you are, Duck?  That bread is as much mine as yours!’ she squawked.

‘Oh really?’ Duck snapped back.  ‘Why do you think it is that the children come to feed the ducks at the duck pond then?’

‘Well, if that’s the way you feel, why don’t you just stay away from Goose Island from now on then?’ cried a now distraught Goose.

‘Goose Island!  I never heard such nonsense!’ exclaimed Duck.  ‘But, Goosy Dear, if you’re prepared to keep over there and stay away from my bread, then you’re very welcome to it!’

And that was the start of the uneasy truce.  From that day forth, Duck kept to the edge of the pond and Goose kept to the island in the centre – each going to extraordinary lengths to avoid even so much as having to look at the other.

Much, much later – when along came fluffy duckling and sleek gosling – still they kept to the hasty pact made many seasons ago.

‘Stay away from those greedy geese,’ quacked Duck to Duckling.  ‘They’ll steal your bread as soon as look at you!’

‘Stay away from those pesky ducks,’ clucked Goose to Gosling.  ‘They think they’re so much better than us with their hoity toity ways.’

Just like little anythings though, little ducklings and little goslings won’t be told.  Each curious about the other, they began to cautiously circle the middle water – the no-fowl’s lake exactly halfway between the central island and the shore.  Until, over many tentative days, they slowly but surely became friends – and, slowly but surely, they began to hatch a plan.  It was soon agreed that, in the dead of night, with only the moon for company, one very brave little Duckling and one very brave little Gosling would each creep from his own nest and take to the water with a gentle plop – each to be fast asleep in the other one’s nest by daybreak . . .

‘QUAACK!’ howled Duck in surprise the next morning, when she saw that Gosling was fast asleep in Duckling’s place ‘Just you wait ‘til I catch that naughty Duckling!’

‘SQUAAWK!’ shouted Goose in shock, when she found that Duckling was fast asleep in Gosling’s place.  ‘You just wait ‘til I catch that cheeky Gosling!’

As Duck gathered up cheeky Gosling, Goose scooped up naughty Duckling – and, hot under the feather, frothing at the beak, they each pushed angrily through the water to confront the little birds and each other.

‘DUCKLING – you naughty little duck!  YOU’RE NESTED!’ hollered Duck, as soon as she spotted him from across the pond.

‘Now, just you hold on a minute, Duck’ Goose spat back.  ‘I’m dealing with this, and I say this is entirely cheeky Gosling’s fault.  If anyone’s getting nested, it should be him, and I’m the bird to do it!’

‘Well that’s where you’re wrong Goosy dear.  This is just the sort of behaviour I would expect from one of your kind – Gosling can’t be blamed for that.  Duckling, on the other hand, has been brought up to know better – and must be the one to be nested RIGHT NOW!’ yelled a now furious Duck.

‘There!’ crowed Goose triumphantly to Gosling. ‘Haven’t I always told you about these ducks and their hoity toity ways?  Well, now you’ve seen it for yourself!’

Then, with a tut and a cluck and a muttering flurry of feathers, Goose and Gosling returned to Goose Island – and Duck and Duckling made their way back to their own nest at the edge of the pond.

When the moon rose again that night though, a rather unwelcome visitor arrived at the pond alongside it – sneaky, sly Fox!  With a flash and a howl, and a frightened commotion of fur and feathers, Duck and Duckling swam straight over to Goose Island without a second’s thought.

So, what was Goose to do now?  Well, even a very disgruntled goose will tell you that, if there’s one thing worse than a hoity toity duck, it’s a sneaky, silent, sly and deadly fox for sure!

Between them, they soon came to realise that there was actually plenty of space on Goose Island for two nests after all.  Then, when the sun rose again the next morning – and sneaky, sly old foxy had slunk on back to his lair – all four of them took to the pond together, sailing through the middle waters, to play and wait for the parents and children at the edge.  What is more – once they had begun to share the stale bread and cakes more freely, they found that there was more than enough food to go round as well.  Duck and Goose were friends again, and Duckling and Gosling were the happiest of playmates.

And Fox?  Well, let’s just say that old Foxy had to look elsewhere for his dinner after that.  After all, we don’t want to spoil a happy ending now, do we?