The duck hunting

by Mikhail Strannik

The duck hunting

Three young people walked up the grassy sandy slope near the river until they came across several duck nests. One of the guys collected all the eggs into his hat.

“We’ll have a good omelet, we’ll eat our fill!” he said.

“Gleb, don’t you dare!” Olga exclaimed. “Put the eggs back.”

“Not likely!” he objected. “My dad always taught me that nothing should be wasted.”

The girl covered her face with her hands.

“We should not do this!” she said.

“Whatever!” another young man, Igor, supported Gleb. “Nothing’s wrong with that”.

The guys broke some dry branches from the nearest bushes. Igor built and lit a small fire. Then he took a wide metal bowl from his backpack. Gleb found several suitable stones, brought them to the fire, put the bowl on them and cracked the duck eggs into it. After a few minutes, the eggs sizzled—they were ready.

Olga refused to eat.

“Well, suit yourself,” both guys said. “More for us”

Gleb and Igor took out spoons and began to eat, washing down the fried eggs with canned beer they had grabbed from home. The bowl quickly became empty.

“It was really tasty,” Gleb said, rising to his feet.

At the same second a drake swooped down on him, hitting his forehead with its beak and thrusting its webbed feet into his eyes. The blow was so strong that Gleb collapsed to the ground and the drake fell dead. Igor and Olga rushed to their friend.

“I…I…can’t see anything,” as soon as he said this, Gleb twitched and froze on the grass.

Igor placed his fingers along the carotid artery of Gleb’s neck. There was no pulse.

“He is dead,” Igor said in confusion.

“What?” Olga cried. She couldn’t believe.

But Igor did not have time to answer. Two more drakes appeared as if out of nowhere and crashed into his neck. Blood spurted from his mouth, and some moments later Igor fell to the ground, motionless as Gleb. Olga screamed wildly and ran away. She could not help them. They both were dead.

The burial was two days later. The mothers of Gleb and Igor visited their fresh graves daily. Every morning the place became messy since all the local birds behaved as if they had chosen the graves for easing themselves. The mothers cleaned their son’s graves again and again, but it didn’t help for long.

This went on for almost a whole week, until one day when the mothers were leaving the cemetery and a huge flock of birds attacked them. Both women did not know where to hide. They tried to run away. One of them awkwardly turned around, stumbling over gravestones, and bumped her face against the low fence. A sharp metal rod pierced through her head. A sudden spasm passed through her body and she became motionless. The second woman didn’t notice that, but her foot suddenly got stuck between two trees growing nearby, so she fell to one side and her head hit an old tombstone. With a soft cry, she shuddered and froze forever.

The mothers were buried next to their sons. Many of the locals were crying and brought a lot of flowers for the funeral. Two weeks later, Olga left the village, even without finishing school. And not a single bird flew over the graves of Gleb and Igor anymore. Their gravestones also remained clean. Visitors had only to brush off the leaves and put fresh flowers there. Although their photographs were covered with a web of cracks in the very first winter. And, of course, it had turned out that ducks can be hunters, too.

December 2, 2015.

Translated from Russian by Maxim Sviridenkov.

About the author

Mikhail Strannik

Mikhail Strannik is the pen name of Mikhail Dymshyts, a Russian poet and fiction writer. Born in 1969, he graduated from the First Moscow State Medical University in 1995. His first book of poems On the edge of reality (Na grani realnosti) appeared in 2010. Since then he has published more than a dozen books of poetry and fiction for children and adults. Mikhail is a member of the Writers’ Union of Russia. For his literary work, he was awarded several Russian prizes, including Nekrasov Prize and Chekhov Prize. He lives in Moscow, Russia.

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