Sue Allison was a reporter for Life Magazine; her writing has also been published or is forthcoming in Best American Essays, Antioch Review, Harvard Review, New South, Streetlight Magazine, Threepenny Review, Fourth Genre, The Diagram, River Teeth, and a Pushcart Prize collection. She holds a BA in English from McGill University and an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Every time he came home, he found the duck in a different place. It was a small, painted wooden duck his wife had picked up someplace, maybe even before he knew her; it just always seemed to have been part of their lives, and he knew he hadn’t given it to her, and she hadn’t bought it as a souvenir of a trip they’d been on. He didn’t like it much (he was into finer stuff), but it got his interest when it began to migrate. Sometimes, when he came home, he would see that it would be on the mantel, sometimes on an end table, sometimes on the other end table or on the kitchen counter, the bureau in the bedroom, her bedside table, his bedside table. What was with the duck? he wondered, but he was a little afraid to ask, so he didn’t, and after a while he found he couldn’t settle down for the evening until he had found the duck’s new resting place. He even used to think about it on his way home, imagining where it was going to be, what new spot to put it she had thought of, and he wondered what it meant that it was in the kitchen, say, or the hat shelf or on the magazine stack or the TV stand; he wondered sometimes what it was thinking. But he still never said anything, nothing at all, and neither did his wife. When, years later, someone asked him what the secret to his long marriage was, he didn’t say so, but he couldn’t help thinking: It was the duck.