Five ducks lived on the pond. They were very pretty ducks and because they were pretty people liked to look at them. But looking at ducks gets boring because ducks don’t really do much, so to get the ducks to do something the people would feed the ducks. They fed them bread from their picnic sandwiches.
The five ducks were very good friends. They looked out for one another. They shared. One thing they shared was the bread. And because they shared the bread, each duck gained the same amount of weight because bread is full of carbohydrates. Especially white bread, and that is what the picnic people mostly fed them.
One day, after the picnic people had left and the ducks had all eaten their bread, something appeared in the sky above the pond. All the ducks craned their heads to see what it was. It came out of the sun with its wings flapping and landed clumsily in the middle of the pond. The ducks gasped, as much as ducks can gasp. They stared. They swam toward one another and huddled together.
“What is it?” asked one of the ducks.
“It is a bird of some sort,” answered another.
“Are you sure?” asked a third duck.
“It was flying, wasn’t it?” said the second duck.
“Bats fly. They’re not ducks,” added the fifth duck, who liked to be contrary.
And then the thing that had landed in the pond spoke. It said, “My name is Lester, and I am a duck.”
And the five ducks laughed and laughed because Lester looked nothing like them. He was brown and mottled and he had a lazy left eye. And look how skinny he was! Why, it was a wonder he could fly anywhere at all. The wind must have its way with him.“You’re no duck,” they told Lester.
The next day, when the picnic people came with their bread, the children pointed at Lester and said, “Look at that ugly duck.” Some of the women reminded their children of the ugly duckling story because they felt bad for Lester. But the children ignored their mothers as much as they ignored Lester. They fed their bread to the five fat, pretty ducks and Lester got none. The other ducks did not share with Lester.
And it went like this for many days. Lester was very hungry. He said to the other ducks, “When the picnic people come tomorrow with their bread, could you share some of it with me?” But the other ducks pretended not to hear him because they knew it was worse to be ignored than to be hated and the pretty ducks wanted Lester to leave.
The next day, when the picnic people came, there was only one duck left on the pond. It was Lester. The other ducks had all died of heart attacks because of their high cholesterol levels. The people were confused. “Where are the pretty ducks?” they said. But they soon realized that feeding an ugly duck was better than not feeding any ducks at all and so they fed their bread to Lester.
Lester was starving and he gorged himself on the bread. The picnic people loved it. They kept tossing in more bread and Lester kept eating it. When the people finally left, Lester had a stomachache. He Lester took a nap because that is what you feel like doing a couple of hours after ingesting a lot of carbohydrates.
When Lester woke up later that night he was no longer alone on the pond. There was another duck. “Hello,” the new duck said. “My name is Witherspoon.”
Lester laughed. Witherspoon! What a ridiculous name for a duck. And look at him! He looked nothing at all like Lester. He was white and sleek and when he swam he went in circles. “I have a balance problem,” Witherspoon explained.
The next day, when the picnic people came with their bread, they were excited to see the second duck. They thought that he was pretty and people like pretty things better than they like ugly things. They tried to feed him bread, but Lester would not allow it. As Witherspoon spun in circles, Lester darted for the crumbs and gobbled them all up. The people became angry with Lester.
“Get out of the way, you ugly duck!” they yelled.
“Let the pretty one eat some, lazy eye!” they shouted.
Witherspoon pleaded, “Please, let me have just one taste of bread. I’m very hungry.” But Lester’s heart was hard from the treatment of the five pretty ducks and sometimes when you have been treated badly it makes you want to treat others badly. So Lester did not share. He ate all the bread. And he fell asleep with a full stomach while Witherspoon stayed up all night, his stomach growling.