Our writing group is using the subject of a "tabloid headline" prompt for this week's fun. You can make one up or use one you like. A favourite of mine, "Severed leg walks to hospital" doesn't work here in Bali so I made one up. My fictitious tabloid name comes from my husband who has pet names for all the newspapers. He calls our paper The Village Idiot.
The Daily Intruder, Monday, April 24th. Dateline: Bali, Indonesia
Balinese Duck Speaks!
Farmer Wayan Sudari of Ubud, Bali, attempted a conversation with his head duck yesterday afternoon in the presence of this Daily Intruder reporter and others gathered for the briefing. Sudari, who calls himself a duckpoke or duck wrangler, claims this duck and others in the badling (name for grounded ducks) have been speaking to him for over a month, ganging up on him and threatening to form a union for better working conditions. “These ducks are not acting like Balinese ducks. They act like Hell’s Angel gangs I’ve seen on TV,” said Wayan.
“For centuries we’ve been working in the rice paddies!” Wayan claims the head duck, Donald, recently quacked to him, while stretching up to full height and staring into his chest. “Every day, we get in line and do exactly as you tell us . . . waddling down rows, cleaning up bugs, frogs, eels and grasshoppers before we dive into the water to swim.”
Wayan commented to the reporters he was surprised the ducks have kept an account of perceived abuses for many generations. He was astonished at the details of Donald’s grievances.
Wayan’s ducks move together in “rafts” from field to field following his lead. Like most rice farmers in Bali, Wayan uses a long bamboo switch flying a white flag decorated with duck feathers. Raised in the air for visibility, the flag guides the ducks from field to field where they clean and fertilize as they go. “Another unrewarded benefit,” Donald complained to Wayan as he plucked a grasshopper off the path, wiped his bill on his wing and pooped for emphasis.
Wayan reports that Donald and the gang have even complained about Wayan’s rice field clothing - shorts and a Bintang Beer t-shirt. “Bali farmers, in sarongs, we ducks can respect, but you...in your old rubber shoes and ugly clothes. Ugh. Quack.” says Donald. “And that rap music gives us indigestion! Nobody can rest.”
Wayan guesses the ducks, in their enclosure behind the house, have been listening while he practises English, playing phrases over and over on tapes each evening. As Wayan practises, he claims he’s heard, over the normal quacking, a lone duck voice repeating over and over “The tailor is rich…” Sudari notes that he found an iPhone, lost by a tourist, in the duck enclosure last month. It was tuned to Netflix and playing the American film, Norma Rae. He thinks Donald was heavily influenced by the Sally Fields role.
In order to improve working conditions Sudari has been wearing a sarong and playing gamelan music in the field. Despite these concessions the ducks refused to speak in the presence of our small group of reporters. Wayan, claiming the ducks were trying to embarrass him, asked us all to notice the fish-eye Donald was giving him during the interview.
“Just like my wife,” Wayan said, “They make me look bad.”