Dusty Feathers

This is the third, and final, part of my little romantic tale for February.  Research again, but easier than the prison stuff (Muscovy ducks, Russian hats and brood parasitism).  It was written in answer to this prompt (for the February Hint Fiction Challenge):

Fertility
My Muscovy duck hatched seventeen ducklings–along with four chicks from eggs the hens snuck into her nest.
I’m still waiting.

By: Kirsten Beachy

Vin stepped over to Ezra and sat down across from him.  When the slight man didn’t say anything by way of greeting, he smiled.  The Southerner’s entire focus was on the letter clutched in his hands.  His eyes were darting back and forth as he read it.

Turning to the older man beside Ezra, he arched an eyebrow.  Josiah only shrugged.  “What’s Miss Laura got to say?” he asked, his low voice soft.

“Apparently, her sister is quite frustrated,” Ezra said.  Amusement colored his tone.  He looked up at Vin and tilted his head.  “Do you know what a Muscovy duck is?”

Vin frowned.  “It’s a big duck that came from Mexico and South America,” he said.  Then, he shrugged.  “People keep on farms and such, though.”

Ezra nodded.  He smiled and looked down at the letter.  “I was put to mind a duck wearing an ushanka,” he said, shrugging.  He chuckled and then looked up.  When he noticed that Vin was blinking at him, he shrugged.  “The Russian furred earflap hats?”

“All right,” Vin said, clearly still not seeing the humor.

Sighing, Ezra looked at Josiah.  “It loses the humor when you have to explain it,” he said.  Then, he looked at Vin once again.  “Muscovy means… coming from Moscow.”

Vin blinked at him for a moment longer.  Then, he chuckled and nodded.  “I got ya now, pard,” he said, his voice soft.  Then, he shook his head.  “I don’t know why they call them that.  They ain’t from Russia.”

Ezra nodded.  “Their family keeps ducks and chickens,” he said, waving at the letter.  Apparently their Muscovy duck has recently hatched a large brood of seventeen ducklings.”

“Wow,” Vin said, nodding.  Then he tilted his head slightly to one side.  “I’d think that’d make her sister happy, not annoyed.”

“She’s jealous,” Ezra said.  He shrugged and added, “At least, that is Laura’s perception of the situation.”

Vin frowned and shook his head.  “Her sister wants a large brood of young’ns?” he said, blinking.  “They know how to take care of that, but women can’t get seventeen at one go.”

“I can’t imagine a woman wanting seventeen babies at once,” Josiah said, shaking his head

“Her sister is very pregnant,” Ezra said, shrugging.  He shook his head.  “Apparently, seeing the duck with her brood of duckling… and the four chicks she hatched beside, is stirring feelings of jealousy because she would like to have her baby in her arms.”

“Now, see… that makes sense,” Vin said, nodding.  “Must be tough, watching others enjoying being mothers when you’re still waiting.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Ezra said, shrugging.  He gave Vin a playful wink and added, “I’ll never be a mother, after all.”

Ignoring his comment, Vin looked over at Josiah, his brows furrowed.  “How’d the duck hatch any chicks?” he said, shaking his head.

Ezra shrugged and shook his head.  “Laura said that the chickens had sneaked the eggs into the duck’s nest,” he said.  He turned to Josiah, clearly hoping for an explanation.

“The duck has to leave the next sometimes,” Josiah said, shrugging.  “When she’s away, the chickens settled down on her nest and lay an egg.  Since the eggs of both birds are white, it goes unnoticed until the young hatch.”

“Do they do it on purpose?” Ezra asked, blinking.  He shook his head.  “I’ve heard of cuckoo birds putting their eggs in the nests of other birds, so that the other bird raises their young for them.”

“I’ve never heard of chickens doing it on purpose,” Josiah said.  Then, he shrugged and said, “I suppose it’s possible though.”

Vin looked thoughtful at Ezra and then said, “You ever think about what’ll happen when you get out?”

Ezra blinked at him for a moment.  Then, he shook his head.  “I’m sorry, Vin,” he said, blinking again.  “What has our eventual release to do with the topic of brood-rearing in fowl?”

Vin chuckled and shrugged.  “Not the duck,” he said, pointing at the letter.  “The lady and, more to the point, her sister.”  When Ezra flushed, he leaned a bit closer.  “Ever think of maybe hooking up with her when you get out?”

Ducking his head, Ezra shook his head.  “I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think of it,” he said, his voice soft.  He looked down at the letter and shook his head again.  “I can’t see what I’d have to offer as a husband and I know that Laura’s sister thinks her a fool for… carrying on the relationship.”

“You weren’t expecting to fall for her, were you?” Josiah said, smiling.

“Honestly, no,” Ezra said.  His brows furrowed.  He looked at Vin and nodded.  “When Laura writes to me about what her sister has experienced during her pregnancy, I’ll admit… there’s a desire for it to be Laura who is pregnant and… about to bear my child.”

He closed his eyes and tucked the letter away in his jumpsuit.  “I am not sure what the future holds, Vin,” he said, shaking his head.  “If you’d asked me seven years ago if I thought that I could end up in prison, I’d have laughed in your face and yet…” he trailed off, waving around at the exercise yard.”

Vin heaved a sigh and nodded.  “That’s true enough,” he said.  His brows furrowed and he looked out towards the far wall.  “I know that I never expected to be in a place like this.”

“I know my mother would never approve of my leading a simple life in the country, raising ducks and chickens and… children with someone like Laura,” Ezra said, his voice soft.  “I’ll say this, however,” he paused and looked pointedly from one man to the other, “I know now what my mother’s way of life will get me.  It might get me rich, but it can also land me in a place like this and I seriously doubt the judge would be so lenient a second time.”

“Put that way,” Vin said, smiling.  He nodded.  “A simple life does seem mighty appealing.”

“Infinitely more appealing that landing myself back in prison,” Ezra agreed.

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