Satire: Today at the Duck Pond

In the early months of the pandemic lockdown, local filmmaker Trent Harris started documenting his regular trips to visit the duck pond in Sugar House Park. He compiled his observations into a book called Today at the Duck Pond, below are some excerpts from the project. This is more than a love story between a man and a duck. There is also a chicken involved and…Madonna.

Duck Pond
Trent Harris’ book (complete with his abstract duck illustrations), Today at the Duck Pond: The Complete Collection, is available at Ken Sanders Rare Books and online through echocave.net.

Today at the Duck Pond…
I went to Sugar House Park today and had a long conversation with the ducks. Me and the ducks are on the same page, no doubt. So, I got that goin’ for me. I need to get more stuff going for me. Maybe I should get a job? Ah…a lot of people don’t know that ducks never get cold feet. I know it. It’s one of those things you pick up when you sell worms. But besides being brave, ducks also express love and recognition to humans. They are like dogs that way except ducks can change their sex. BBC did a documentary on it. I am not sure why. But there is a dark side to ducks. They sleep with one eye open, and in a 1999 study, it was proven that only half the duck’s brain was asleep. Ducks are our courageous half-brained friends and they have three eyelids so they can see when they duck deep dive. I just love ducks.

Today at the Duck Pond…
I was missing my pet chicken, Rosie. We lived together in Los Angeles and she was a good chicken. People don’t know this but chickens can be quite affectionate. She enjoyed being petted and I liked stroking her feathers. When my mother visited, she would make Rosie cheese toast. What is so wrong about love between a man and a chicken, as long as it doesn’t go too far? She lived in my backyard in her chicken house under a Tasmanian fig tree. How romantic. So, there was a big Hollywood party in the backyard and I threw a chair into the barbecue. I had to leave Hollywood and I would have taken Rosie with me but the dog next door ate her! Now, do you understand why I hate L.A.? And why I will never work in that town again, only I never had a job there anyway! Ha! And the rumors floating around about me and Madonna have got to stop. Yes, we “knew” each other. But I can say no more. And yes, there was that one time on the beach that, if I could tell you about, the universe would just explode. So, I won’t. She was living in a house in the hills above Malibu that she bought from Olivia Newton-John. It burned down. After that, things were never the same. She seemed distant. Then she left Sean and then Sean got really weird and wouldn’t dress up like Olivia anymore. See what I mean! Hollywood! It’s a nuthouse!

Today at the Duck Pond…
There have been reports of a crackpot hanging out by the duck pond threatening people. I have not seen him but the bugger better not show up on my watch. The duck pond needs to be a safe place where ducks and people can just get along. The ducks paddle around quacking while people bring their dogs to poop. It is just like America. What happened to America? I hate people who throw bread in the duck pond. I don’t like to hate. I love spring! I love frogs. I really love chickens and I am nuts for ducks. And ants are fascinating. Did you know a queen ant can live to be 30 years old unless some meanie steps on her or smashes her house? I have a wonderful ant farm, hours of fun. Anyway, as America unravels, the ducks at the pond are coming together. They have a plan. It is an escape plan. I want to go with them but I can’t fly. What happened, America? Even the ducks want to split. We need to get back on track America! We need to get back on track.

Today at the Duck Pond…
This guy walks up and says, “Do you comb your hair with a balloon?” And I say no. Then he asks me if I know where San Francisco is and I say “yes.” Then he tells me he is the CEO of a great big famous tech company. Then his friend, Kenny walks up and asks me for a quarter. So, I gave him a quarter. Then Tech Giant and Kenny head over to Mr. Softy’s ice cream truck and a Chevy pulls up blaring the worst sounding music in the world and a gaggle of high school girls gets out and they head for the ice cream truck, too. Mr. Softy starts yelling at Kenny about something so Kenny goes over by the garbage can and Tech Giant comes back to me and says, “Get a load of the babes.” Now Kenny has his head in the garbage can and he comes up with a falling apart straw hat and he puts it on. The girls get back in the Chevy, the gawdawful music starts, they drive off. Kenny comes up and says, “Too bad the chicks left, I was about to bust a move.” I said, “You got ketchup on your hat.” And Kenny says, “I know man! I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck!” Maybe I really should get a job or something like that.

Today at the Duck Pond…
I suspect there are agents at the duck pond. There’s a red-headed twerp on a phone and a guy up on the hill with some binoculars. And a helicopter buzzed by about an hour ago. So, I mosey over by the phone twerp and say, “Portland?” He pretends not to hear me. So. I say, “Portland, Portland, Portland? Ever been to Portland?” Then I say “I read you loud and clear, ten four, over and out.” And the guy on the hill starts watching us with his binoculars. So, I wave and the guy with binocs looks away really quick. Then I say, “Border Patrol? Sprechen sie Deutsch?” And phone twerp says, “What are you talking about? And I whisper, “Don’t mess with the ducks. This is America.” Phone twerp hurried away. We’ve got to be vigilant.

Today at the Duck Pond…
I decided to set up the ol’ chessboard on the grass and hope for a game. The ducks watched. All was fine. Then Lucifer, the goose, approached. I stood up. A lot of people don’t know what a goose can do to a chessboard, but I do. Lucifer kind of looked around and pretended to be talking to the ducks. I hear the woman yelling, “The goose is eating your chess people!” Lucifer flies out into the middle of the pond with my white rook in his beak! Then the lady says, “That is so cute that that goose wants to eat all of your chess people.” Then the woman gets a call on her stupid phone and I hear her say, “Oh, I am taking pictures of weirdos at the duck pond.” I look around to see if there are any weirdos and I see more geese. They are coming my way. I know what they are thinking. I grabbed my tree branch and went after them. The lady snapped a picture of me chasing the geese around the ol’ chessboard, got in her car and left. OK, I am getting a job.

Today at the Duck Pond…
Ducks and beer got me through the virus lockdown. What happened, America? What am I talking about? Who am I? I was posing these questions to the ducks and they just sat there. No help. When did “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” give way to Fortress of the Frightened and Greedy? How come I can’t get the lid off an Aspirin jar? Why are people mad at Mexicans? I like Mexicans. Lots of ducks and old people go to Mexico in the winter because it’s a great place. When my dog died I buried him in the backyard. I put up Christmas lights, I lit candles, I put his collar in a safe, I put his doggie dish in my special box, I put pictures of him on the wall. It has been over 25 years and I still dream about that dog. What happened, America? Where did you go? Do you need a proper burial? Will I dream about America when I am dead?


Get more reading suggestions for the whole family here.

Trent Harris
Trent Harrishttp://echocave.net
Independent Film & Video Magazine called Trent Harris, “One of America’s premier cult directors.” The Los Angeles Critics Association awarded Harris, Best Independent Experimental Film, for his feature, Beaver Trilogy. This film was also listed by the London Guardian as one of “Fifty Lost Masterpieces” and hit the "Top Ten" list of Art Forum Magazine. Harris has had three films at Sundance. He has also received major screenings at The Lincoln Center in New York, The British Film Institute, the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Harris' book (complete with his abstract duck illustrations), Today at the Duck Pond: The Complete Collection, is available at Ken Sanders Rare Books and online through echocave.net.

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