Wednesday, November 12, 2014


In the last few years of my mother’s life she began to write. She even took a creative writing class which resulted in her submitting stories to several publications, including the Jewish Daily Forward. I have re-printed one of her stories here before. But I never recall her writing about “Lucky”, the inaptly named pet duck she had when she was about 6 years old. I used to love hearing the story as it reminded me so much of the tumult in “You Can’t Take It With You”, the Kaufman-Hart play which was turned into a classic movie starring Lionel Barrymore. My mother’s home was just like that.

My mother was raised by her mother and a woman named Mary, a delightful Irish lady who worked as their maid and nanny. She became part of the family, with my grandmother and Mary living together even after Mary married and had children of her own. Added to this mélange were my Great Grandfather Max Henkin, from Russia, and his son, my Grand Uncle Irving.

My grandmother had caught her own husband with one of his lingerie models, flagrante delecto, at the time she was pregnant with my Mom, and so, she divorced my grandfather and became a single mother. This was in 1929 and very unusual for the times. She worked, though she didn’t need to, and the care of the children; my mother Ruth and her brother, my Uncle Walter; was largely left to Mary.

I’m a bit unclear as to how “Lucky” got into the picture. I seem to remember part of the story involving Miller’s Meats on Kings Highway, and he may have come from there. Anyway, “Lucky” ended up taking up residence in the bathtub of apartment 3-C at 3619 Bedford Avenue, on the corner of Kings Highway in Brooklyn, quickly becoming my mother's pet. If you live there now this may be of interest to you.

“Lucky” seemed very content with this arrangement, though again, on this point I am unsure just how long the arrangement lasted before disaster set in. In this case the disaster was initiated by my Uncle Irving, who had a desire to take a bath. This was not at all unusual for Uncle “I”, as he was a fastidious person in all aspects of his living.

Reaching past the shower curtain, he started the warm flow of water, waited a few moments and then stepped behind the curtain. That’s when he screamed. It was, reportedly, a scream of epic proportions, echoing throughout the apartment, sailing from the windows into the courtyard and throughout the neighborhood. It came very close to being the "scream heard ‘round the world."

“Lucky”, initially happy to have company in what he perceived to be a spring shower, reacted to the scream by nipping at my Uncle’s legs while flapping his wings and quacking. The quacking and flapping soon ceased, and although it is unclear just who wrung “Lucky’s” neck, wrung it was, and the quacking ceased.

My mom was downstairs playing at the time and, with no foreknowledge of the incident, returned home in time for supper, ready to eat. Mary was finished cooking and my Grandmother had just laid the table when my mother arrived. The family sat down to dinner and my mother started in with relish, as she had been out all afternoon. She had just swallowed her first bite of dinner when Uncle Walter asked her if she was “feeling lucky tonight?” My mother had no idea what he meant by this question and went on eating.

That’s when Uncle “I” spilled the beans. Gently, he asked my mother how she liked the taste of duck. My mother stopped eating, and for the first time noticed that the whole table was staring at her. Quickly she put two and two together, and then, running from the table she entered the bathroom, with it’s now dry, and empty, bathtub. “Where’s ‘Lucky’?” she asked in all innocence. “You just ate her”, came the amused reply from her brother.

Sobbing hysterically, and feeling very much betrayed, she ran to her room, where she remained for the rest of the evening, not to be seen again until breakfast. There is no moral here, no lesson to be learned. Not many people keep ducks in their bathtubs nowadays anyhow. It’s just a warm memory of my mother telling me a story while she was preparing dinner one night. Although the story sounds a bit cruel, it apparently left no emotional scars on her. How do I know this? She told me the story while preparing dinner. We were having duck that night.

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