by Sandra Crook
A thrashing of
fragile wings sent plumes of water splashing
furiously into the air. The frisson of excitable
terror amongst the other birds was almost
palpable, as clumps of feathers were torn out and
left to float on the turbulent water of the lake.
lakeside, Becky screamed, pointing at the carnage
something, Homer, she yelled,
theyre killing each other.
cousin, Clint, had walked on ahead with his
really the man for this, Homer thought
nervously, but Beckys obvious faith in him
generated an unfamiliar swell of courage within
his puny chest.
his jacket and shoes, he plunged into the water,
his senses reeling in shock at the iciness
beneath the first lukewarm couple of inches. For
a second he panicked, sinking way down below the
surface and hearing, through the gurgling of the
water around him, Beckys screams from the
side of the lake.
forcing himself upwards until his head popped
above the surface, he struck out in an awkward
breast stroke, his face lifted high out of the
water. Being asthmatic, he had an aversion
to submerging his face in water.
struggle ahead continued, generating huge chutes
of water that threatened to engulf him.
Beckys screams changed to cheers as he
gained ground, and adrenalin coursed through his
melée, he repeatedly forced the predator away
from its victim, conscious of sharp cuts being
inflicted on his hands by its razored bill. It
flew at him, again and again, until Homer had to
sink below the surface for respite. Lungs
bursting, he emerged again, in time to see his
enemy disappearing across the lake, casting
baleful backward glances.
victim was now surrounded by a host of other
creatures, and Homer could not tell whether it
had survived. His chest began to tighten and he
realised he was about to have an asthma attack.
Alarmed to see
how far his struggles had taken him, he began to
swim desperately for the shore. There was no
way this attack would pass without his inhaler,
which was tucked inside his jacket at
Beckys feet. Bursting with air that he
couldnt seem to exhale, he struggled on,
spurred by Beckys cries of encouragement.
Eventually, exhausted, he staggered out of the
water and collapsed at her feet.
he gasped, as she rummaged frantically through
his jacket. He snatched it from her, and dragged
several sharp breaths on it, his fingers almost
too numb to grip. Then he collapsed on the grass,
and waited, as the salbutamol permeated his
airways and his struggles began to ease.
struggled into a sitting position, dropping his
head onto his knees. Becky knelt beside him,
stroking his back and murmuring words of
encouragement. His wet clothes stuck to his bony
frame, beginning to steam gently in the warmth of
the August sun.
gathered around him, muttering quietly. He sensed
their admiration and awe.
cousin Clint pushed through the throng, glaring
Christs sake, Homer he hissed, in
embarrassment. They were just two ducks
having a shag.
rubbing Homers back, and glanced nervously
at the crowd. Then, scrambling to her feet, she
melted into the crowd.