One Lone Duck Egg

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
One Lone Duck Egg

When I was about ten years old, I was visiting my friend Becky, who lived on a farm down the street where they raised cows, pigs, and ducks. Becky and I spotted one lone duck egg that had fallen from its nest into the pond. I held onto a tree trunk and leaned out to coax the egg toward us using a long stick, finally pulling it close enough to pluck from the pond.

Becky’s mom said I could have it, and when I asked my mom if I could try to hatch it, she said sure.

Forming a nest from one of my T-shirts, I tucked the egg into an old sock and lay it gently on the wad of fabric. Then I positioned a desk lamp nearby, moving it this way and that until the bulb was close enough to provide warmth, but far enough away to avoid igniting the T-shirt.

When I left for school, I made Mom promise to watch it; I was afraid the duck would hatch while I was gone and suffocate in the sock.

I kept watch over the egg for a couple of weeks, maybe three, but it showed no signs of life.

Eventually I asked my mom if she thought it would ever hatch. She said probably not. Not after this long.

“Should I crack it open?” I asked.

“You could, if you want to,” she said.

“What’s going to be inside?”

“I don’t know.”

“If it’s not a duck, will it be rotten?”

“I don’t know. You might want to take it far from the house, just in case.”

I cradled the egg in my hands and walking slowly out to one of the fields in search of the right place. I spotted a big, flat fieldstone that could work. Whatever was in the shell could rest on the rock long enough for me to see it, study it…care for it.

I squatted, held the long-nurtured duck egg and apologized to the little life it might have been—might be?—and then slowly, lightly, tapped the shell.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” I murmured. “I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry.” I tapped, but still lightly. Tears gathered. “I’m so sorry...” tap-tap. “I’m so, so sorry…” tap-tap-tap.

The shell finally gave way. I pulled it apart gently, as close to the rock as possible, to ease its contents onto the unforgiving surface.

Slimy yolk and whites slid out. It didn’t smell. A goopy, blood-colored spot made my stomach lurch. But…was it fertilized? If I’d regulated its temperature more precisely, might it have formed into a duckling?

I couldn’t bear to look at it another minute.

On my way back to the house, I wondered, Should I have stayed home from school to watch over the egg? Should I have bought an incubator?

“What was in it?” Mom asked when I came in the back door.

“Nothing,” I replied. “It was just a regular egg.”

“Was it rotten?”

“No.” I thought of the red spot. And then I felt a crumbling—a breaking—deep inside.

I ran to my bedroom, shut the door, and wept.

Photo by Helio Snaps. Used with permission. Post by Ann Kroeker.