A Duck And A Mouse Trapped In A Leaky Lifeboat
“They should have given us oars.”
“Don’t talk! We’re not supposed to talk.”
“They can’t hear us, they’re too far away.”
The mouse stood up and waved vigorously. The tourists on the shore laughed and cheered and waved back, snapping pictures.
“Sit down, you’re rocking the boat,” said the duck.
The mouse sat, lifting his shoes as the water level continued to rise. “Is there anything to bail with?”
“No,” said the duck.
“Maintenance is going to hear about this.” The duck made no response. “How long before Old Ironsides comes back?”
Old Ironsides was a ship -- a boat-shaped trolley running on a submerged track, actually -- that cruised around Huck Finn’s Sandbar every hour on the hour. Once a day, to fill up what would otherwise be a dead spot in the amusement park’s schedule of events, they put the duck and the mouse in a lifeboat and let them bob up and down, waving at tourists, until Old Ironsides returned to pick them up.
The tourists would take photos and videos of the two sitting and bobbing and waving, and share those with their family and friends on social media. It was a cheap form of advertising for the park.
“Twenty minutes,” said the duck. “Twenty minutes, at least. The whole circuit takes twenty-seven minutes, and we’ve been sitting here maybe five, maybe six.”
“How fast do you think it’s leaking?”
“About an inch a minute now,” said the duck, “but as more water fills the boat, the lower it will ride, and the lower it rides the greater the water pressure at the leak, and the greater the water pressure at the leak, the faster it will flood in.” It seemed fitting that the duck would be this well informed about the physical properties of water.
The mouse looked at the shore, trying to catch the eye of another park worker. All stayed fixedly intent on their duties, either tending to tourists or cleaning up tourists’ trash. They did not see his frantic waving.
(The tourists did, of course, and laughed and waved and snapped more pictures.)
“I’m going to call for help.”
“Don’t!” said the duck, this time more loudly than before. “They’ll fire us.”
“They won’t fire us,” said the mouse.
“They will fire us! Remember what happened to the cat? She snagged her tail on a ride and they fired her, both for ruining a costume and for breaking character.
“That wasn’t her fault,” said the mouse. “It was an accident.”
“It was her fault. She got too close to the ride. They fired her, they’ll fire us.”
The mouse lifted his big green sneakers and rested them on the gunwale of the boat; the duck did the same with his big spats-wearing webbed feet.
“The water is higher,” said the mouse.
“The boat is lower,” corrected the duck.
They sat silently for a moment, then the mouse asked: “Will we sink if we both stay on the boat?”
There was a significant pause before the duck said: “Probably not.”
“Then one of us has to go over the side.”
“You first,” said the duck.
“Me? I’ve got white fur! Look at the water!” A fine sheen rested atop the water: Motor oil and diesel fuel and anti-bacterial agents and trash and doubtlessly urine from excited little kids on Huck Finn’s Sandbar who couldn’t wait for Paul Bunyon’s Raft to ferry them back to the restrooms ashore. “It will ruin my costume.”
“It will ruin mine, too,” said the duck.
“You’re black,” said the mouse. “No one will notice.”
“Feathers!” said the duck, shaking his arm at the mouse. “Fur -- especially that cheap synthetic crap you wear -- can be cleaned. My feathers will be ruined.”
They sat silently, watching the water climb higher -- or the boat sink lower, take your pick.
“Can you swim?” asked the mouse. “It’s more in character for you to swim than me -- “
“I. Can’t. Swim.” said the duck with grim finality, but the mouse suspected he was lying.
“The water isn’t that deep. Chest high, at most. You could walk ashore -- “
“Tracks,” said the duck. “Cables. Pipes. The floor isn’t flat and smooth. I have big, awkward feet. Buoyant feet, made of foam.
“If I trip and fall over my head will flood and that will pull me down and I’ll drown. No, I’m not getting in the water.
“Neither should you.”
The mouse felt surprised that the duck cared even a little for his safety. “Can we try paddling ashore with our hands?”
“This boat weighs nearly four hundred pounds,” said the duck. He had dutifully read all of the employee handbook when hired. “We probably can’t move it with just our hands.
“And we’d ruin our costumes.”
“But at least we’d stay in character.”
The mouse looked ashore and waved again, not daring to stand up this time. The tourists laughed and cheered and waved back and snapped more pictures.
The tall masts of Old Ironsides could be seen over the top of the far side of Huck Finn’s Sandbar, meaning they had at least fifteen minutes before they could hope to be hauled out of the water.
“We need hand signals,” said the mouse. “We need some way of alerting workers on the shore that we need help.”
“That’s a great idea,” said the duck. “Put it in the suggestion box on your way out of the park when they fire us.”
They watched the water rise / the boat sink for another moment, then: “If we sink, we ruin the costumes, and we get fired.”
“If one of us jumps in the water, they ruin their costume and they get fired. And if they slip and drown, the other person will get fired just on general principles.”
“True,” said the duck. “The park is a merciless taskmaster.”
“If one of us removes his costume and jumps in the water, we may not sink, but the person doing so will get fired for breaking character.”
“I need this job.”
“So do I.”
They sat silently, observing the inexorable interaction of boat and water. “We have to get somebody on shore to come help us without breaking character,” said the mouse.
“Got any ideas?” asked the duck.
“As a matter of fact, I do.”
On the shore, one of the park supervisors heard a strange, nervous titter run through the crowd and glanced over at the duck and the mouse sitting in their boat in the middle of the water.
“The hell…” she said to herself, then went running down to Jenny Jetski.
Jenny was signing autographs and posing for pictures with tourists. Since her costume didn’t have a head, she was allowed to talk in public.
“Get over there and stop those two,” said the supervisor. “Now!”
Jenny looked over at the duck and mouse. “What are they doing?”
“They’re making out,” a little boy said with a smirk.
“Be right back, kids,” said Jenny Jetski. She hopped on her jet ski -- even though her show wasn’t scheduled for another 45 minutes -- and roared over to the lifeboat.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Jenny asked the duck and mouse. “The supervisor is livid.”
The duck and mouse gestured to the rapidly changing water-to-boat ratio. Jenny understood immediately. She grabbed a rope on the prow of the boat, wrapped it around her handlebars, and quickly towed them back to her dock.
She and the supervisor helped the duck and mouse off the sinking lifeboat, saving their costumes from water damage. The mouse made a big show of looking into the duck’s eye, and Jenny explained to the crowd of tourists, “The duck got a spec in his eye. The mouse is helping him get it out.”
The crowd oohed and applauded the mouse’s kind behavior, sharing the photos and videos with their family and friends on social media. The supervisor called maintenance and they came to take the now sunken boat away.
And neither the duck nor the mouse got fired.
Text © Buzz Dixon