When I was little I had book about a duck named Ping who lived on the Yangtze river. He worked for a fisherman and it was his job (and the job of the other ducks) to catch fish. They even had rings around their necks so they couldn’t swallow a whole fish. At night the fisherman would blow his whistle and they would climb back into his boat on a long gangway and sleep comfortably on beds of straw.
The last duck would always get a solid thwunking from the fisherman with a thick cudgel. That was to make sure that every duck knew to hurry when he blew the whistle and not tarry.
Ping was a young duck. He liked to tarry and would often wait until the last minute to return to the boat. One night he wasn’t going to make it in time and would be the last duck. He chose instead to wander in the reeds. It was scary but the next morning was full of exciting adventures with lots of river boats, long necked loons, and something I’ve forgotten.
The point is that at the end of the day he heard a familiar whistle and scrambled to find the boat so he could be reunited with his mother. Of course he was the last duck and got thwunked. Of course he didn’t mind because he deserved it and he was now warm and safe.
I always liked Ping. When my mother was in graduate school and we would visit her and go to the library, I always wanted Ping and something by McCloskey – preferably One Morning in Maine.
This morning I felt a bit like Ping. I parked my truck in the lot and heard the train whistle. I’ve been proud and spent the extra half hour sitting around but it was raining and I have a meeting so I ran for it. The conductor didn’t hit me with a big stick but I got the glare and the “Next time I won’t wait” speech.