After more than five years spent commuting everyday from the Corpus Christi area to Alice for my former job, I was recently able to secure a position here as a reporter with The Nueces County Record Star.
"So, how would you like it if you're dad didn't have to drive all that much anymore, and I was right around here? We could play together more, and I wouldn't be as tired all the time. And we could even have lunch together," I asked my daughter Mariela, the weekend before coming on board.
"Allrriigghht!," she said.
Well, now as an official northwest Corpus Christi area father, the first activity on my list of things to do was take my daughter to the park and feed the ducks.
Mariela was of little help at first. Gung-ho about feeding the ducks, she reached for the Nature's Own Honey Wheat bread for their afternoon feeding while at the store.
From my mind came the sound of screeching car tires coming to a halt, of stagecoach drivers pulling on the reigns to stop the horses before they go over the cliff, of mountain climbers using their climbing axes to slow their descent as they slide toward a large open crevasse. It was a "Whoa!" kind of moment.
"I am not going to feed a duck Honey Wheat bread!" I said. "We eat Honey Wheat bread! We don't have any at this moment, so why am I going to feed them what I want to eat?"
We went with a generic white bread.
"See, there are more slices in this one anyway," I explained.
"Ooookkkkaaayyyy…" she said.
We went nearby to West Guth Park, which I say now, has some ornery geese. I mean M-E-A-N. The honks and sounds they made at me, while I attempted to throw a few slices of bread was menacing. I felt like if that goose had a hand, he would have thrown me the finger. But I'm jumping ahead a little.
When we got to the park, Mariela refused to cross the street to where the ducks were, and any attempt I made to carry her over resulted in convulsions and hysterical pleas.
She had a previous incident with the ducks while with my wife Leti and her mom. Let's just say it was like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," except no one died or suffered from any life threatening injuries.
I walked alone, braving the cement divide between me and my destiny - Mr. Goose.
Oh, Mr. Goose, guarding that small dam like Sir Lancelot. Only the better knight can pass? I gave you bread Mr. Goose, along with sweet, sweet words, and all you did was honk, yell, waddle and chase.
Mr. Goose tried to pierce my feet with his goose bill. Yes, I admit it - I ran. Being a lover and not a fighter, I ran back to my daughter, who was wiser than I and had stayed with her back firmly planted against the truck.
"Hey come on, let's feed some of the ducks over here in the corner,' I said, as I tossed a slice of bread to one corner of the pond. No ducks approached. I took a few steps further out, away from the truck, and towards a group of genteel looking ducks nearby.
Soon, we were both taking turns, though Mariela tended to throw one whole slice of bread at a time, while I threw bits into the water.
"Mariela, they're going to choke on that,' I said.
Eventually, three ducks, some sort of mallards I believe, swam up in "V" formation. They attacked Mariela's bread slices like hyenas to a carcass, picking and quacking, picking and quacking, till it was all gone.
"Gimme some more bread. Hurry, hurry!" she yelled.
She began throwing two slices at a time.
'Sorry Mariela, we're all out,' I said at last.
"Huhhhhhhhh…" she said, grabbing at the plastic bag as if I missed a slice.
Nothing left for them, we said goodbye to our duck friends and I spent the rest of the afternoon and part of the evening pushing her on the swings at the park.
"Wheeeeee, push my higher daddy!" she said.
I continued to push until I heard a loud bark nearby. It was dark and I turned my head to see where the dog was. Two seconds later, I had Mariela's swinging backside in my face, nearly knocking me out. I saw stars that night.
"Hahaha, daddy, I'm swinging taller than you," she said.
"Yeah," I said, still rubbing my face where her dress poked me in the eye. "We need to get going."
"Dad, 10 more minutes," she said.
"No five minutes," I said.
"Eight minutes," she said.
"Okay,' I said.
In the end, eight minutes turned into 15 minutes. It felt good to be home.
Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr. is a reporter for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.