Ugly Duckling Part Two

Oct 02

The swan grew up among ducks, all along believing himself to be hideous. Later in life, he discovered that there were others that looked exactly like him. To his surprise and immediate delight, he found that, rather than being considered ugly, the swans were held to be the very model of grace and beauty. The laws of the kingdom forbade men from killng and eating them-only the king was allowed to do this, and being the special food of the king was indeed an honor rather than a horror. There were, however, far more swans than the king could ever hope to devour, and he didn’t seem especially interested in eating swans at all.

The swan thought he had it made. Until, after being in the company of the other swans, one asked: “Who the hell are you?”

“What do you mean? I’m a swan like you!” the swan answered.

“No you’re not.” another swan commented. “You may look like us-but you sure don’t act like it. You talk like a duck, you fly like a duck, you even act like a duck. You might as well be a duck.” The others agreed, stuck their bills in the air and trundled off to the lake for a swim-it was clear that the swan was not meant to follow. Swans are beautiful and graceful, but they are also cruel.

“Well that fucking figures.” the swan said-and indeed, his earthy swearing was a habit gained from the lowly ducks (whom the king did not mind eating, by the way). The swan lit a smoke. “Great. Now what the hell am I going to do?”

Just then, a flock of ducks floated by. “Look,” one of them declared, “it’s one of those stuck up swans!” the other ducks grumbled and shot eat shit looks at the swan.

“No-wait a minute fellas.” the swan said. “It’s not like that. I’m-I’m not that way.”

“What do you mean?” a duck asked suspiciously.

“I don’t think any bird is any better than any other. We’re all the same under the feathers, we just look different on the outside…’cause that’s the way God made us.”

The ducks liked this line of thought as it appealed to an inner sense of vanity-which was something for which the swans had a natural affinity. They nodded in agreement. Momentarily, the swan went off with the ducks and was hanging out with them (the ugly duckling rhetoric of their youth was by now forgotten, if not really forgiven). They smoked and drank together. They shot pool and played cards. The swan even allowed the occasional drunk duck to make untoward advances on him.

The swans observed this unseemly behavior with more derision than usual, as it was one of their own acting in such crass manners. They were beginning to discuss what to do with the wayward swan who acted like a duck (namely, whether to drive him off or murder him) when the swan approached. They fell into an uncomfortable silence when the swan drew near.

“Swans! Great day we’re having isn’t it?” the swan asked.

“Not really,” a swan answered. “we’ve been watching you with the ducks. It’s bad enough you are uncouth as they are-but do you really have to flaunt it this way?” the others nodded or hissed their assent to the remark.

“Uncouth?” the swan asked in disbelief and pressed a wing to its breast. “I don’t think you understand. As swans it’s important we uphold our diginity, and the best way to do that is by sharing it with others, not so blessed.”

“I-I never thought about it like that.” the other swan admitted. Some of the others were not too convinced and still eyed the swan suspiciously.

“Think about it, we share our swan-ness with the ducks, and our classiness gets spread around. It’ll upgrade the whole freakin lake. Next thing you know, it’ll be a goddamn nature preserve or a park or something. Sorry-don’t mean to talk that way-I’ve been hanging out with ducks all day.”

This made sense to the swans. It never occurred to them that there could be another application to their marked beauty and style aside from partitioning themselves from others not so fortunate. Perhaps they could most fully enjoy and embrace their swanality by mixing with other water-fowl.

“How should we…share our gifts?”

“Just start hanging out with them. Y’know, like I have. But don’t come on too strong. You might want to-make yourself look more duck-like, and…and act more duck too! Yeah!”

Soon, the swans started to swim, fly and nest with the ducks. They took care muss themselves up at first, so as to not upset the ducks too terribly, and covered themselves with reeds and mud. Eventually, it became difficult to tell the swans apart from the ducks.

One day, the king was out hunting at the lake. He fell asleep in the afternoon sun, with his blunderbus at his side. A loud honking awoke and startled him. It was the swan, it pointed at a flock of birds that took to hasty flight. Not wanting to miss his chance at some good fowl for dinner, the king fired into the flock-and wondered where all his swans had gone. There seemed to be only one left.


  1. Love it!

    Not entirely relevant, but this quote came to mind so I thought I’d share it with you…

    “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, sinners are much more fun.” Billy Joel

  2. Lynn Wesch /

    hmmm… loved the personalities and the parable somewhat alluded to, but why not let the ducks try a little grooming and why want to be a duck anyway if they’re continually hunted? A little swan-ness is not a bad thing! I bet swans have time to read a lot more and possibly even write since they aren’t too worried about being shot.

  3. Peter /

    Thanks Lynn for reading. I hear ya about the ducks grooming; however, you may want to consider that this was probably the way the swans chose to see them rather than the way they actually were…

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