I was out feeding the ducks again. I had a loaf of stale bread which I thought I might as well give to the ducks, rather than just throwing it away. So there I was by the pond, chucking handfuls of broken-up white sliced pan into the water. The ducks swam up as usual, happy to eat the Brennan’s white sliced pan, mouldy though it was. They didn’t care. One duck didn’t swim up like the others however. It stayed where it was and looked at me sternly. A strange prickly feeling came over me – I knew this duck. Its gaze was uncomfortably familiar to me. For a while it just looked at me from the middle of the little pond, its beady black eyes boring right through me. I don’t remember ever seeing such a severe expression on a duck’s face before. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t remember ever seeing any expression on a duck’s face. At last it spoke. “Nick,” it said, “I’m very disappointed in you. I take it you remember the last little talk we had together…”
I did remember. I remembered very well. I had promised on that occasion to mend my ways, to turn over a new leaf, to make something of myself. What is more, I remembered that I had really meant it – I hadn’t just been saying it. Something had stirred in me that day – the duck’s stern words had got through to me, made me think. For the first time in my life I had realized what a useless waster I was, and had resolved to do something about it. This had been a major revelation. Sad to say, following that flash of insight I had promptly forgotten all about the encounter and had immediately returned to my old ways. I say ‘immediately’ but there hadn’t really been any break, I never actually did change at all. I just meant to. In fact I had promised faithfully to. My face went red – I could feel the scalding heat in my cheeks. I stared down at my dirty white knackered-looking trainers, deeply ashamed. I wished the earth would swallow me up. I couldn’t look that duck in the eye. What could I possibly say for myself?