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Duck Duck Goose

The Shellfish Eater

For Jesus and William S. Burroughs on the occasion of their birth.

Duck Duck Goose was a comedy show starring a duck and a duck-billed platypus, both uncreatively named Duck by the show’s creator, a scraggly old bush pilot and ornithologist named Goose Faberbacher. The gimmick was Goose taught the two animals to talk, but the duck as the token dummy of the show failed to learn, so Goose and the platypus would pingpong quips and jabs and puns while the duck remained a stupid duck.

Like “I say, what is that fowl odor, Duck and Duck?”

And the platypus would reply, “I do apologize, but I've had the most horrible indigestion since being convinced I was half beaver and gobbling logs all weekend, but Duck has no excuse for eating wood. How do you defend yourself, Duck?”

“Quack!”

“Precisely.”

“I say, isn't the platypus known as a shellfish eater?”

“Not so, not so. I always make a make to share my food.”

The truth is Duck was only in it for the blackberry jam cookies Goose gave him every night, so shellfish line was a lie on every level.

The truth is Goose never taught the platypus to talk. The platypus he called Duck was always able to speak. This was true of all platypuses. They were the immortal product of the union between conventional ducks and a giant race of angelical nautical rabbits responsible for a multitude of biblical catastrophes. As described in Genesis, Noah's flood in particular was designed solely to eliminate the platypus as a species, but the creature was too damned tenacious to die.

Audiences were amazed at the puppetry Goose and his invisible partners must've been employing on the platypus, but when Duck Duck Goose got a Saturday morning TV show, the amazement wore off as the artifice seemed so obvious, and only awful puns remained. The platypus wanted to repackage the show for the irony-loving hipster kids, a little kitch with a wink and a nudge, the whole panoply of tricks available to a wordsmith like the platypus, but the thing was the old man loved the puns. It’s what he thought comedy was: the purity, the decency. So when they lost Saturday morning show to three other people named Duck, Duck, and Goose, and the old man pretended he wasn't heartbroken playing the second stage at state fairs, the platypus wanted to once again repackage the show as a night club act where he could work blue, and Goose got to keep his puns, but he couldn't do that to old man with his sense of comedy purity and decency and genuinely wanting to make kids laugh with awful jokes, no matter how much it doomed them forever to playing for the fried food-eating masses. And the platypus could do this forever since he was immortal, and the duck, as only a stupid duck and had no use for comedy, had to be replaced each time it died, but Goose declined in time to nothingness as the laughs likewise diminished as all things subject to nature’s forces must soon succumb to entropy, except perhaps the platypus.

Soon the show was the only space where the old man could string together coherent sentences and knew which way to walk. But he never forgot to give the platypus his blackberry jam cookie before tucking him into bed.

But then Duck killed Goose. During a performance, he forgot not to touch the poison spur on Duck's heel. That’s one of the few things science got right about the platypus: they’re poisonous. The platypus screamed at the few people in the audience that day, “Somebody get some help! This is a man's dignity. He's a human being damn it!” But they kept sipping their slurpy drinks with their fat faces confused at the strange turn of the comedy show, waiting for the punchline, waiting for it to mean something.

The platypus tried the show solo, doing the comedy bits by himself plus the thirty second duck quacking with his normal randomness. “I say aren't platypuses shellfish eaters? No, indeed, I always make a point to share.” But the type of irony that delighted the platypus didn't play right to middle America moms and dads and kids only wanting to go on roller coasters.

That's when the platypus announced he could resurrect the dead. He told the local paper, “The right spur kills, and the left spur resurrects. I thought the old man was better off dead, but I miss him, and if it saves the show, I'll resurrect him on fairground stage two next Sunday.”

“Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!” the reporter said in comedy voice as if a comedian would appreciate this sort of thing.

“Yes,” the platypus replied. “Sunday is indeed the day of the week I just mentioned.”

That Sunday, he had the coffin open on the stage and mounted the prone body awkwardly as everything a platypus does must be awkward (a few irony-loving hipster kids in the audience snickered and he regretted ever coveting their regard). The resurrection itself was simple. He only had to stab the old man with his spur. Goose woke up confused but no more confused than he was before he died. It was just another day to him. But none of it had the sort of showmanship that told the audience this was important and real. The platypus only seemed relieved and defeated. The audience just believed Goose faked his death or just didn’t care one way or the other that he had died and refused to believe it was anything but more jokes and puppetry. It was much easier to believe this trick’s artifice than to believe platypuses can resurrect the dead.

The platypus lived a few more years with the old man, performing the show for nobody on a stage built in the backyard. The old man smiled as he told his terrible jokes though the platypus wondered if somewhere deep down he knew there was nothing. At least he still got his blackberry jam cookie every night. Soon Goose Faberbacher died but at a normal time and for a normal cause, body running down and purpose running out in due measure. Other than the thirty-third duck, the platypus was alone again, as is the destiny of all those creatures who live forever beyond mortal man’s performances, the reason why the platypus’s favorite thing was comedy.

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