“We don’t eat the feathers, cause see that would be silly, right Dada?”
“Yeah, cause we only eat the meat, and feathers aren’t meat and… and… um… cause see the meat’s on the inside!”
The duck we were plucking had only hung for a couple days. I’d planned on waiting longer to breast it, giving the meat time to age and myself time to add a few more to the collection, but Everett couldn’t wait. Every time I headed for the garage he was all over me, demanding to know if I was going to “cut the duck”. Each time I said no, he’d elicit a fresh promise that I wouldn’t do it without him. The persistence was notable for a kid with the attention span of a caffeinated squirrel. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“It’s a green-winged teal Dada, cause see it’s not a… um… it’s not a gold eye, it’s a teal.”
“Golden eye. You’re right, it’s not a gol…”
“Daisy killed it, by getting it in her mouth, but you shot it remember cause see it tried to swim away, but Daisy got it and put it in her mouth and it died, remember Dada?”
We were crouched together over the dead little duck, pulling the best fly-tying feathers and placing them in a jar. I’d spent a few minutes before we started considering how to best frame the process of butchering a duck. I didn’t need to. The urgent, unfiltered, stream of consciousness that gushed out of him left no room for parental interjection. He clearly needed something from this experience, but whatever it was, he didn’t need it from me.
“And she brought it back, and gave it to Steven after you shot it and I told her good dog Daisy! And I petted it, and it was soft, but Daisy was wet and really cold and… and… and I got to carry it back to the truck even though it was a big hill, but I held on big-kid and I didn’t fall down in the snow even though it was big hill cause see Dada?”
“Right.” I said, eyes on the duck, hesitant to say even that much, anxious not to derail whatever process his little brain was frantically spooling through. I occupied myself instead with knife-work and held the silence.
“Can I keep it?” he asked then.
I looked up and found him holding a single feather.
“Sure” I said, “if you want to. What are you going to do with it?”
He considered my question a moment, eyes fixed to his new treasure, before answering.
“I’m going to remember,” he said.