Ducks and Doctors

Ducks and Doctors

A Story by Tony

Within each of us is the spirit of the ancient ones. Sometimes the most unlikely person will, for a moment, walk in the shoes of his ancestors for reasons that cannot be readily explained. Usually this will be because of one or more of the three primary directives of the human animal; Nutrition, reproduction, and conquest.

A cold wind blew up the canyon and my feet were happy within the insulated boots I wore. Leather gloves covered my hands in comfort, even holding the cold stock the old Remington .12 gauge semi-auto. It was around 10 degrees that morning, and I was in familiar territory. The doctor, I knew, was not. Frank, the barber, walked in front of me, the Doc just behind, our boots crunching in the frozen patches of snow as we headed for the river. Once there, we huddled in the blind, passing a bottle of snakebite around and staring out at the cold gray sky, waiting for the prey. Frank and I lit cigarettes and made small talk, and although the doctor did not join our conversation, no one was in the least bit uncomfortable. Our mutual adventure was of different people, joined by the ritual of the hunt and the uncapped bottle of spirits.

I was a mill worker from a small town, I lived most of the time outside. Dr. Njos, pronounced 'Ness', was a Norseman trom L.A. He had bought a small private practice in a little town picturesquely located on the edge of the pines where the mountains ease out into the high desert. He didn't really look like an outdoorsy person to me.
Dr. Njos was a great big guy, about 40, with a comb-over and thin stringy blond hair hanging over his ears. He had a bad complexion and a way of blinking too much and peering at a person thru beady little green eyes. He looked like a mad scientist, only bigger. For some folks, I guess he was a little intimidating. I remember it took him a couple of years to get a good clientele going in his office because his appearance was so odd. But his practice was successful, even in a place as rural as this, because he was a good doctor.

I met the doctor the way most folks do. I had come to get an antibiotic for a nasty infection, but even in my feverish state, I was not one to waste a source of knowledge about interesting things. I was big on questioning authority right out of the womb, and I know doctors to be intersting to read about or talk to. I also know Dr. Njos had honed his skills in a big trauma center down in southern California.

"Was it like all those TV shows, down there in Southern California?" I queried.

"No." He was staring at me, his eyes narrowed, and blinking rather fast. It was disturbing. He took a breath and continued as though the words were difficult to pronounce.

"I'll put it like this.....It was an Emergency Trauma Center, terrifying challenges and horrifying routine, difficult to describe, really."

Good answer, I thought.

"Did you like it then?"

"No, not after a little while." Now he was hunched over, making me a prescripion, the pen tiny in his big hairy left hand.

"Do you like it better here?" I was desperately trying to lure him into conversation, but he seemed preoccupied, now staring at the wall, tapping the pen slowly on the clipboard. Even though I was not sure he was enjoying my questions, he hadn't told me to shut up, or even given me what I could recognize as a dirty look. I felt obligated to sieze the opportunity.

"Is there something you can tell me about the big hospitals, something unusual, or that I won't learn from just visiting sick relatives?" He was peering at me again, more like a glare now, it seemed.

He sat up straight, glanced out the door and back, and says:

"In L.A., at least a couple of hundred times a year, people get things stuck in the anal cavity or lower intestine. All kinds of things that are not intended for said orifice. I have found this to be both fascinating, and troubling. Of course, you have probably assumed correctly that most of these individuals have elaborate but weak excuses for their predictament. Is that the type of information you desire?"

Now it was my turn to stare as I registered his answer.
And that was how I originally met Dr. Njos, and that is why I love to talk to doctors.

Months go by and then one day I'm down getting a haircut and Frank asks me if I want to go out to the duck blinds on the weekend.
The doctor wants to go with us, never tried hunting fowl before, imagine that......"

"I've never shot a duck."

"That's because you only go to smoke merch, and target practice with those handguns of yours."

"Oh, yeah. I forgot."

"Do you know Dr. Njos?" He rubbed house cologne on my neck, a clean sting.

"Yeah," I chuckled then, remembering the thing he had related to me at my appointment.
"Very interesting, that guy." 

"Do you think its weird that he wants to go duck hunting?" asked Frank, shaking the hair out of the sheet he had put over my shoulders.

"Only in that he doesn't seem the social type, I figure doctors do golf and drink quality high test, but I don't really know any doctors..... can I bring some weed?'


"Why not? There will be a medical provider with us if I OD or get stuck in the spirit world."

"Not this time pal...."

"But it's going to be freezing." I complained.

"I'll bring a bottle of Maker's, that should keep you and the good doctor warm and blissful."

"All righty then." I compromised.

I pulled my grubby hat on and headed for my truck.
"I'll see you gentlemen on Saturday then, god willing." I said as I pushed out the door.

A soft whisky glow warmed the duck blind as the day began to darken. The temperature was about 40 degrees. The wind moaned in the tops of the pines outside. Later, some duck came by. One flock, to high and too fast. My companions raised their barrels and let fly the pellets, and then my ears were ringing and the smell of smokeless filled the air. I did not shoot. I never shoot at living things if I am not going to eat them, and I hate duck.

Our eyes scanned the sky, and unbelievably, one duck flailed and plummeted. Now, in the middle of the river where we were at, about 30 yards out, was an island. A little tiny thing, twenty feet wide and about 30 long, just a bunch of boulders holding some dirt aloft in a river running high and fast for the season. A scraggly juniper grew from the rocks defiantly. This was where the collective spirit of the ancient ones decided to land Dr. Njos's dinner duck. A few feathers flew as the cadaver hit, smack dab in the center of the island.

Is that my duck, or yours?" The doctor was squinting at Frank now.

"I would say you shot it all right, but it don't look like you'll take it home!" Frank replied, laughing.

I gathered up loose items and shouldered my backpack. When I stepped out of the blind, the doctor was sitting on the bank, unlacing his Hermann Survivors.

I looked at Frank and he looked at me, no words necessary, just a log pause.......

"What'cha doin' there, Doc?" Frank asked with hesitation.

"I have to go get my duck, there." He pointed across the boiling black water, towards his dinner.

"That might not be a good idea, Sir. That water is very high and cold as the dickens this year." Frank suggested.

"Objection noted." replied the doctor.

He finished peeling off the layers of clothing and waded out carefully to knee depth, and then dove in. My scrotum shrunk instinctively, and I prayed then, that he would just come right back as soon as the shock hit him. I was genuinely concerned that I might have to go in and rescue this fool. And I wasn't sure I was Viking enough for the task.

Witnessing that doctor swimming naked across a freezing river for a lousy duck, and I do mean lousy, and returning with it, in his teeth, sealed in an empty cheetos bag was a unusually cool thing to witness. And that don't even account for the fact that he actually shot it, which was pretty impressive by itself.
But the way he howled and danced around as we scurried over the rocks, carrying his clothes downstream to where he landed was a clear reminder that humans, if not the smartest, were still the most interesting of all the animals in the kingdom.
The ride back to town was long and quiet, interrupted only by the occasional outbursts of laughter by Frank and I and the chattering of the old Vikings teeth.



© 2010 Tony

Author's Note

Can you see the story? If not, honestly, what does it need.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register

Featured Review

Ok, third read. I think I 'see the story'. The first paragraph is integral [?] The doctor going after his bird is a demonstration of a "walk in the shoes of his ancestors"...right?
I like it, Tony. It's a bit different, original, and both narration and the story are enjoyable to lose yourself in; this rural, American world is a contrast to my own.

"a little town pecturesquely located " [picturesquely?]

"He didn't really look like and outdoorsy " [and = an?]

"thin strngy blond hair " [typo: stringy?]

"But he was a good doctor because his practice was successful even in a place as rural as this."
[re-wording suggestion:
But his practice was successful, even in a place as rural as this, because he was a good doctor ?]

"Do you think its wierd that he wants to go duck hunting?" [weird]

Back later.

another P.S. When I first saw your title, I thought 'quack' that all me, or a little pun of your own?

Posted 10 Years Ago

3 of 3 people found this review constructive.


your story plays out clear , most entertaining

Posted 7 Years Ago

I see a story for sure. You are one heck of a storyteller.
Jocelyn wonders.

Posted 7 Years Ago

You touch that story and you are mud.
I only read it because I have not read anything
of yours for ages and you are the best at describing
interesting citizens of any one I know .
In this story you have surpassed your unusual abilities.
In other words you are , always were and still are the
best damn writer I have ever read.

I just ceme from Apollo Blessed where I saw you saying
things about characters which made them walk off the
page and start breathing again.

'Thanks, Tony
---- Eagle Cruagh

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I really liked this story. Great character development, and I just like this kind of outdoor man verse the wild stuff. The doc seems like he would be an interesting character for other stories. I want to know more about him, so that leaves me with the desire for more stories. I read the review below and I didn't catch those errors, so that tells me that the story kept my mind on the story. Good job.

Posted 9 Years Ago

I know for a fact I read this a while back but I must not of reviewed it. Upon reading it again, I have to say that this is a little stroke of genius. I love the characters, I love the quirkiness of the story and the writing was superb. I don't have to look for the story...its all story.

Posted 9 Years Ago

Yes, I have shamelessly advertised my writing group.
I am shocked by the excessive lack of literary requirements that WC offers and I choose to extend another option to others.

But I have looked at your prose because the group has expectations regarding the ability of the writer and the type of prose written (we only except certain types).

The fact is that I cannot critique every potential member I come across, due to the fact that it costs effort that I reserve for the group, and the fact that many who join WC often dislike constructive criticism and come here for gratification regarding their skills.
But, I will critique your writing as a quick and small sample of the skills of EMN reviewers.
I enjoy giving advice to those who reasonably request it. So I’m glad you’ve asked for feedback.
Hope this helps you, regardless of whether or not you join.

The “Ducks and Doctors” name feels like an interesting title, but I think it could reel more readers in if it was interpreted another way. For example, the story focuses on one doctor in particular, so the plural in the title could mislead or confuse readers. Perhaps the title could focus closer on the bizarre event the main character experiences. For example, something like, “Duck Teeth” (teeth referring to how the Doctor gets the bird in a bag clamped in his mouth). It would raise questions in the readers’ minds because it’s unusual. Questions that can only be answered by reading your story.


“Within each of us is the spirit of the ancient ones.”

Somewhat awkward. It’s a great idea, but it could be re-worded to sound smoother, grab the reader’s attention faster, and lose some words it doesn’t need. For example, the word ‘is’ is a passive word, which is a word that adds no meaning to a sentence, takes up space, and can be erased by re-arranging the sentence. Another way to say more with less, is that the idea of “ancient ones” and “spirits” refer to the same general concept of our great past lurking in our hearts and bones.

To lose those extra words, this first sentence could become something like, “Ancient spirits live within us.” This is a smoother hook that says the same thing with less words.

“Sometimes the most unlikely person will, for a moment, walk in the shoes of his ancestors for reasons that cannot be readily explained. Usually this will be because of one or more of the three primary directives of the human animal; Nutrition, reproduction, and conquest.”

This second part is absolutely fascinating, but I think it’s a little too blatant to just tell the message of the story right at the start. It often reads better to show this message through the actions of the characters and let the reader experience it, instead of giving very obvious foreshadowing. I think that these lines would actually serve the story greatly if they were the last few sentences. To give the ending that extra sense of what the protagonist has gotten out of the experience with the duck and the doctor. To leave the reader with a sense of inner change in perspective.

The other issue with opening with these kinds of lines is the sudden, awkward jump from aimless information to the introduction of the protagonist’s voice. One minute, there’s an objective voice telling the reader about ancient spirits and suddenly, “A cold wind blew up the canyon and my feet were happy within the insulated boots I wore.”
The reader didn’t even know there was wind or a canyon or a character and this can make it hard to adjust to the sudden change in topic. Shifting time also does this. The flashback to how he met the doctor right away confuses the reader, especially near an opening because why get the reader used to the present just to drop it and go to the past?

It’s lovely. But more details about sight, touch, taste, ect. would really round out the story. What does the snow feel like under his boots? Is the grey sky streaked with clouds that drift like icebergs across the heavens? Intimate, simple details and feelings about the environment convey a lot about the characters and how they interpret the world around them. For example, I love the line, “I was desperately trying to lure him into conversation, but he seemed preoccupied, now staring at the wall, tapping the pen slowly on the clipboard.” This image of the Doctor looking away and the main character peering at the doctor is realistic and I felt as if I was standing in that moment.

Slightly vague. Telling the reader that the doctor looked “like a mad scientist, only bigger” doesn’t convey his actual size or define what the main character thinks a ‘mad scientist’ looks like exactly. Without these explanations, the reader has a blank, vague idea of what he appears.

The flow of the story is often stopped and started to shift time, which can cause awkwardness. There are several spelling typos like, “thru, interesting, sieze,” which will make you appear as if you don’t put the effort to correct simple things, though I’m sure you do. It also heavily distracts your reviewers from things you want them to notice like if the characters are good, etc.

The story is told from the main character’s view, but the reader gets very few details about him. It’s all about the doctor. The main character also expresses less emotion, almost as if the story is being told in third person instead. For example, “I was big on questioning authority right out of the womb, and I know doctors to be intersting to read about or talk to” is straight and objective telling of his personality. This whole sentence could be simply dropped and the reader could infer from the protagonist’s constant and unique questioning that he likes to ask questions from doctors.

I enjoyed this story. It’s fresh, unique, and it has many moments where I connected with the story. Good luck with your writing.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

The story is quite clear, I'd say, and a very entertaining one. Cold as the dickens, eh? Hmmmm.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A strong opening. It pulls me in: Within each of us is the spirit of the ancient ones. And the tone and perhaps message set for me: sometimes we walk in our ancestors shoes, destiny perhaps. Then from the narrators direct address we movce to action, nice. the blend of both.

The picture, of hands holidng the gun, the cold wind, the rugged country. It is vivid. The brooding silence, reflective, anxious perhaps of the men, makes me think they are apprehensive of an encoutner to come. And it surprises me, the group, so diverse, from all walks of life. And the snake bite, and the uncapped spirits, a nice image. Of opening. Of a shift in perception through ordeal perhaps. It is gritty too, grounded in reality, the cigaretes, the canyon, strong rugged imagery, men who are pratical vocational, groudned in the reality of making a professoin, yet searching for something more, someting capped and bottled perhaps.

the way the narrator describes te characters is strong for me, the nicknames, the revealing snippets, brings me in the company of the men. the narrators view too, is keen and clear, judgemental, like the men, closed off. Afraind of what may change perhaps? It is a strong view too, and it makes me want to read on. The man who challenges, and the way his feelings and views are shared. It is very interesting.The mill, makes me think of the earthy truthfullness of the narrator.

The conversation, moves nicely back in time, gives me revealing history, and deepens the prior scene, in which nothing is spoken, the men guardd and wary.
Here th narrator trying to contact, and the self reflectionn, I like that:

"I was desperately trying to lure him into conversation, ...obligated to sieze the opportunity."

It brings me closer, to the narrator, into his view of the world, makes me curious. The reactions too, interesting, The doctor starting at the wall, yet not breaking off the conversation. also there is a sense of distance, the narrator believing in the authority of the doctor, who must be interesting because he reads things. Revealing. Makes me think that the narrator searches himself answers, knowledge, he questions and challenges. Seeks a truth.

The very toungue in cheek , a voice I can also here, the humour of the doctor ,and also almost resingation.

"And that was how I originally met Dr. Njos, and that is why I love to talk to doctors." Funny. and also I can sense the narrator too shares a similar way of looking at life.

I like too the digression, going and weacing in time, Now to the haircut. And its well done, skilfully shows me the way the men relate, and why they are now i nthe first scene there.

Then the way the scenes move forward,the strange place, the language, Vikings, dickens, it is a very strong scene and characters that work for me well, the narrator who does not shoot duck because he doesnt want to waste life. Then musing on the sight of the doctor swiming the water, unexpectedly.

Great detail here too, the scrotom shrinking, percpetiob of feeling and body reaction that is treue and microscopic in its detail, and the way the doctor sas objection. The clever irony, and yet held back way.

I really enjoy this, and feel you might want to work on what I felt is a sudden ending a need to close too soon perhaps. The image of the howloing around the campplace - might that be a central iage, of liberation, with the glow of whiskey, the spirits? If you do the same here as you have done before, attention to the microscope deatails yaou will I believe find the truth in these inages, pull in closer, on the significant ones, and I think if you just track this along, let it weave and digress as you have done, and let it come to that final vivid scene, and tarry as long as it needs to here, you might find the wa your story wants to develop.

In any case, i really enjoyed this story, strong on voices and characters, it is deeply thematic, for me the search and hunt for something else - and if you let its voice carry you along I think you will find where this needs to end. I suspect there is much more in the swimming and the island, and the dancing around the camp fire, if you let the image explode, digress, adding more detail and context as you did before, you will find what the images want to tell you. The heart of your story.

I enjoyed this, thanks for sharing this, really well done story,


Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Sometimes we don't need car crashes and gun battles to make interesting stories. This simple story of three rather quirky men doing something as primal as hunting together was quite entertaining. I still find myself rather intrigued by the narrator who goes hunting, but does not shoot.

Very entertaining.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

thats a good story

Posted 10 Years Ago

First Page first
Previous Page prev
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


22 Reviews
Added on October 13, 2009
Last Updated on December 29, 2010



Mexico...... Tan Lejos

I am a guy, 49. I am spirit residing in a carbon based life form. The god I know can be found in motion and rest. I live in Mexico because it's very free, and community still means something. .. more..

Born Again Born Again

A Story by Tony