Anne the duck never really had that active a social life. Throughout primary school, secondary school and college, she kept to herself. She could never bring herself to strike up a conversation with any of the other animals, and rarely ever responded to any greetings, and she spent playtimes reading outside.
It wasn’t until university that she told herself that she would rectify it. After weeks and weeks of her housemates going off to the pub without her on Friday, and thinking of the fun she was missing out on, she finally worked up the courage to walk up to fellow duck Melissa and ask ‘Can I come with you tonight?’ Melissa’s response was ‘Sure,’ which made Anne feel a mixture of surprise, relief and trepidation she couldn’t explain. It was like her insides were being blended into Angel Delight.
So instead of spending Friday night reading and catching up on her coursework, Anne walked with her housemates, all ducks, to the local pub. Another week was complete and it was time to celebrate by getting pissed and making friends.
The inside of the pub was decorated with regal-looking wallpaper with rows of small golden lions above wood panelling and illuminated by faux-candles, a look so antique that it contrasted with the large TV playing sports. There was a band in the corner – a heron and three geese – playing cover songs, with a couple of animals dancing while most simply watched. Melissa and friends didn’t want to stay in, however. When they ordered their drinks, they went outside to drink on the picnic tables. Anne wanted to go inside just so she could listen to the band, but thought it better not to argue with her housemates if she wanted them to be her friends.
She did know why they went outside though; it meant they could chat easier. She had every intention of starting the conversation, yet when she tried to force words out of her beak, it suddenly turned dry. Melissa, social butterfly that she was, started the conversation instead, and while Anne knew what they were talking about – classes, lecturers, news –she wasn’t sure she understood it. It all just seemed gobbly-de-gook to her, senseless quacking.
In seconds, she stopped listening and turned to another picnic table, where there was only one person sitting, sipping from a Carling. Anne recognised him instantly – Terry the turtle, from her English lectures. He normally had some good points to make when studying a text, and he always made the rest of the class laugh with the silly voices he gave the readings. They had read The Tell-Tale Heart and he gave the madman the voice of Ed Wynn.
It was, however, less that, and more the fact he was alone and silent that made Anne sit next to him. He said nothing as she did, so she finally managed to start the conversation. ‘Hi.’
Terry swallowed, and seemed to use his saliva as mouthwash for a minute. ‘Oh, hi,’ he said back.
‘You’re Terry from English, aren’t you?’ Anne said, even though she knew full well who he was, ‘I love your readings.’
‘Thank you,’ said Terry before taking another sip of his beer.
Anne guzzled down her beer, just to give her the courage to continue the conversation. ‘You ever think of going into drama? You know, you could be the next Kenneth Branagh. You…’ She almost said that he had more energy than turtles usually had, but bit her tongue when she realised he might find it offensive.
‘Um, thanks,’ said Terry, before sloshing his saliva around his mouth again, ‘I was…actually, you know, kind of inspired by him. I liked Hamlet and I liked Frankenstein, even if it was over-the-top, you know.’
Melissa was watching.
‘Oh!’ was what Melissa said, that made Terry’s neck contract. Melissa beckoned Anne over to her, and whispered into her ear-hole to make Terry buy her a drink. ‘He came here for the same reason you did,’ Melissa said.
Anne stumbled back towards Terry as the latter finished off his Carling. ‘Hey. Hey.’
‘What is it?’
‘I’m…I’m a bit low on money. You mind getting me a Guinness?’
Terry rose from his seat, swallowed again, and went inside.
Melissa again whispered into Anne’s ear hole.
Terry came back with two drinks, one for himself, one for Anne. As he plopped them down, Anne dug deep into the pits of her stomach to find any and all courage she had within.
It would be good for Melissa, good for Terry, good for Anne.
‘Oh, thank you, sweetheart,’ she said, and with that, she held Terry and kissed him on the cheek.
Terry disappeared. At least his appendages did. Now all that was left was a shaking shell. ‘Come out, Terry,’ said Anne, but Terry did nothing. In the time it took for Anne to drink her beer, Terry still didn’t come out. It was almost an hour – at least it seemed that way – before Terry slowly popped out, said ‘Sorry’ and left quickly, again destroying the myth about turtles’ speed.
The incident was embarrassing for both Terry and Anne, but because of it, Anne had more confidence in going out with her housemates. Seeing Terry’s reaction had made her see the importance of coming out of her…you know what I’m going to say.