The bell at the top of the door rang as Henry strolled into the butcher shop, a white-walled, white-tiled establishment. Behind the glass display case, chunks of pig, cow, and chicken lay like fleshy fallen Dominos. Bridget stood behind the counter, scribbling an order on a ledger. A relatively short woman with brown hair tied into a ponytail, she wore glasses and her hazel eyes flitted between the display case and her ledger. With a deep breath, Henry gave himself a pep talk. You are Henry Bartholomew Williams, and you are going to tell this woman how you feel.
“Bridget,” Henry said.
Looking up from her ledger, Bridget adjusted her name tag and said, “Hello, can I help you?”
“Bridge, listen, I need to be quick. My name is Henry Bartholomew Williams. I’ve been coming here for some time now. I don’t even eat meat. I just came here to see you. I threw all that pork away. It was such a waste, but it was worth it.” Feeling his arm tingle, he knew he had to continue. “I’m a vegetarian. It was worth seeing you each day and getting look at you from a distance.”
Then what consisted of his bicep shriveled, and Henry glanced down and saw that his arm had transformed into a duck wing. The left side of his shirt tore open as the wing grew, sprouting pristine feathers with a beautiful blue stripe, only it was larger than a duck’s wing—it was a human-sized wing.
Bridget’s face slowly transformed into that of a woman witnessing a man’s arm change into a duck’s wing.
“Oh my god,” she said.
“Bridget, Bridget, eyes up here,” he said, pointing at his face. “I’ve got to get through this. I’ve been watching you and trying to get the courage to come talk to you, and I think I’ve finally gathered the courage. I like you. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever encountered in my entire life. I’ve watched you greet customers, and while you get a little annoyed with the little kids, overall, you are kind and funny and …”
His other arm morphed into an identical duck wing. Bridget dropped her ledger and it clanked on the floor.
“Wha … What is happening? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, don’t worry about it. It’s the magical realism, Bridge. Google it later but not right now. What I’m trying to say is that I think I love you. No, I’m hopelessly in love with you. I want to spend every single moment of my life with you. I want to have children with you. I already bought the four-French door refrigerator in stainless steel, and you can have the whole bottom drawer for all your meats. I want to grow old with you and complain about our aching joints together.”
His tennis shoes sprang off his body, revealing two large orange webbed duck feet.
“Is this some sort of prank? Am I being recorded?” she asked. She took off her cap and hastily smoothed her hair down, her eyes glancing around for cameras. Then she glanced back at the man who was turning into a duck. At the sight of his feet and wings, she contemplated pinching herself. Despite the feathers and duck feet, he had a strong jawline and adorable wavy brown hair. She’d worked at this butcher shop for three years, and he was the first man to ever hit on her.
“Bridget,” he continued getting down on one knee. “I know this is fast, but would you do me the honor of becoming my girlfriend?” He clasped the tips of his wings together in supplication.
Bridget stared at him blankly as his mouth and nose transformed into a long, large duckbill, and his eyes shrank back into the sides of his head, which suddenly became covered with metallic green feathers.
She paused, staring at this seventy-percent duck, thirty-percent man creature, and weighed her alternatives. She could live alone for the rest of her life or consider what this man was offering her right now.
“I don’t even know you. How old are you? Are you employed? Do you live with your mother?”
“Bridge, I don’t have that much time, but I’m 32 years old. Yes, I’m employed, marketing, and no, I live in an apartment. I also spend my free time raising money for charities like St. Jude and Make-A-Wish. I cook a delicious mushroom cheese quiche. Make me happy by flying off into the sunset with me.”
Bridget eyed Henry with suspicion. Was he telling the truth? And even if he wasn’t, what was life anyways but a series of choices until eventual death? Wasn’t life too short to give up a man who would literally turn into a duck for you? She thought of Alfred Lord Tennyson “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Taking off her apron, she said, “Okay, Duck Man, let’s go.” And she slid over the counter and embraced her feathered lover, and they flew out the door together.
Abby Yuan is a rising senior at Dougherty Valley High School. She’s an animal lover who intends to one day become a veterinarian. In her free time, she likes to bake cakes, write stories, and argue with her brother and father over scientific theories.