View Full Version : Criss's Peeps
10-15-2011, 02:50 PM
Springtime in the desert can be both beautiful and dangerous. The milder air stirs new life among the cacti and scrub, bringing forth blossoms of unique beauty and brief duration, while at the same time snowmelt from the mountains create flash floods which can sweep away houses and cars unlucky enough to be in the path of the onrushing muddy waters. Into this maelstrom of destruction comes forth new life in this arid region.
Around Lake Meade, the biggest manmade lake in America resulting from excavation for the Hoover Dam, ducks, geese and other waterfowl make their nests among the rocky shore, concealed from predators by the tall lake reeds and cattails. Marshland is practically nonexistant in the Southwestern part of the United States, and natural habitats are quickly diminishing in man's quest for dominance on this planet ("progress", he calls it), so whatever suitable spot which can be found is quickly taken over by wildlife to begin the natural cycle of mating and nesting once again.
On this fine spring day, a pair of mallard ducks chose a prime spot to start their family: a grassy knoll beside the lake, well hidden from sight of predators. The female, or hen, used the grass to build the nest, lining it with down plucked from her own breast to make a soft bed for her eggs. The male, or drake, kept guard over the nest, protecting his mate-for-life and his young from whatever danger would come their way.
In time, six white eggs are laid in the downy nest. Now the hen must sit on them for four weeks, incubating them with her own body. Four times a day, she turned them over and moved them around to keep every part of the growing embryos warm. Therer were no weasels or foxes in the desert, but there was the threat of snakes and lizards; the hen remained vigilant throughout the incubation period. Who knew what dangers lurked along the shore of Lake Meade?
A month has passed. The weather had grown warmer. The hen felt hungry, so she left her nest just long enough to dabble in the water for food. She would leave her nest only for a moment, then return to incubating her eggs. Unfortunatly, it was a moment too long--a loud crack! broke the stillness of the desert air, and the hen exploded in a burst of feathers and blood. The eggs lay in their downy nest, unprotected, alone.
Along that same shoreline where the hen had laid her eggs, famous illusionist Criss Angel was setting up for his latest demonstration: an underwater escape that promised to be his greatest (read: most dangerous) to date. His crew, consisting mostly of members of his own family and a few close friends, had their misgivings about the whole enterprise. Of all the escapes a magician can perform, underwater escapes were the most dangerous. In spite of all the safety precautions, there was still the possibility of Criss drowning in the lake.
Criss himself was not complacent about it, either. He knew that one mistake, one error in judgement, or one piece of faulty equipment could spell his doom. He had examined this stunt from every possible angle and did his best to anticipate anything that could go wrong, yet there was still the underlying concern that the unexpected could crop up during the demonstration and end in tragedy. In spite of the danger, he was determined to carry it out--his art, his audience, indeed his very nature, demanded it.
The crew was going over a routine equipment check when a loud bang! startled them. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked around, wondering what had just happened. "What the hell was that?" Criss said, looking around the shoreline.
"Sounds like a gun," Doug Malloy replied.
"Hey, there's not supposed to be any hunting around here!" Criss said indignantly. "Someone could get hurt!"
"This from a man who's gonna drown himself in a lake!" Doug sneered.
Criss muttered a reply along the lines of telling Doug to keep his opinions to himself and headed for the small motorboat anchored nearby. "I'm gonna find out who's shooting around the lake," he said as he untied the boat from its mooring. "I don't want any casualties around here while we're taping."
Brothers JD and Costa joined him in the boat. "Just make sure you don't become a casualty yourself," the former told him.
The motorboat chugged along the shoreline, its occupants keeping a lookout for the mysterious gunman of the lake. "You see anything?" Criss asked his brothers.
JD shook his head. "Nothing," he replied. "I think it was just a bunch of (bleep)holes helling around, using their guns as noisemakers. Probably drunk outta their minds."
Criss nodded in agreement. "Think we should turn back?"
"Yeah, maybe we should," JD sighed. "There's nobody out here."
The brothers were about to turn the boat around when something caught Costa's eye. "Hey!" he cried, pointing to a grassy knoll. "Over there!"
Criss steered the boat toward the knoll and killed the engine when the bow touched land. Costa spread the grass wide enough to reveal the blasted remains of the hen duck who had nested there. "Looks like someone's been doing a little duck hunting out of season," Costa commented grimly.
Criss felt revulsion rising in his throat. "My God!" he choked. "Who could do such a thing to a helpless duck?"
Costa reached over farther and exposed the nest of eggs. "This must've been her nest," he observed.
"So, what do we do?" JD asked.
"The thing to do is report this to the authorities," Criss replied. "Poaching's against the law, and as law-abiding citizens, we have a duty to report this. Meantime," he went on, stripping off his t-shirt, "I'm going to make sure these little guys are put somewhere safe and sound."
"Uh, Criss," JD spoke up, "I don't think that's a good idea..."
Criss gathered the eggs into his shirt and bundled them up. "Hey, you wanna just leave 'em here for snake food? They'll be fine; like, what's your worry? They'll just take 'em to some wildlife sanctuary and let 'em hatch, and take care of 'em until they can be released into the wild. Trust me, everything's gonna work out just fine!"
The eggs were stowed under the seat of the boat, and the threesome made their way back to the demonstration site, unaware of the life stirring within the six eggs wrapped snugly in Criss' t-shirt.
10-16-2011, 06:36 PM
Back at the demonstration site, Criss carried the shirtful of eggs to his Range Rover and set them on the front passenger seat. "There you go, little guys," he said softly. "You'll be safe in here."
"You gotta keep 'em warm," a voice spoke behind him.
Criss turned and saw Dean Waring, the newest member of the camera crew, standing there. "Come again?" Criss asked.
"Eggs need to be kept warm if they're gonna hatch," Dean repeated.
"Since when are you an expert on eggs?"
"Since I was in 4-H when I was a kid," Dean replied. "I hatched baby chicks using a sixty-watt bulb and a shoebox back in Nebraska. If the eggs aren't kept warm, the chicks inside the eggs'll die."
"Well, okay," Criss said, conceding to Dean's experience, "but I don't have any light bulbs or anything--just my shirt."
"Well, you'd better find something soon," Dean warned him, "or else."
Criss motioned Dean to follow him. "C'mon, let's see what we can use in the supply van."
They trotted over to the boxy white van and pulled open the rear doors. Inside was a jumble of cables, lights, tripods, camera equipment and other technical supplies needed for taping the show. Criss climbed inside the van and began to search for anything warm enough to incubate the eggs. "Hey, these overhead lights get pretty hot," he said. "Maybe we can hook up one of them and set the eggs on it."
Dean opened up a large first aid kit. "Here's something better," he said. "Thermal packs."
Criss picked his way over the coils of cable back to Dean. "Yeah! There you go!" he cheered. "Those'll work."
The two men raced back to the Rover. Dean broke open the thermal packs to activate the heating elements inside and laid them over the bundle of eggs. "That'll hold 'em for a while," he said.
Criss clapped Dean on the shoulder. "Good job, Dean," he said. "Couldn't have done it without you. Now I got to call the cops and tell 'em about what happened to their mother."
"You'd be better off calling Animal Control," Dean told him. "They handle stuff like that."
"You know the number?"
"Not offhand, but I know they can help you with your egg problem better than the cops."
Criss pulled out his cell phone and dialed nine-one-one. It was easier than trying to locate the animal shelter, he figured. They would direct him to the proper authorities pertaining to this matter.
"Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?" the operator asked.
"Uh, hi," Criss began. "Uh, I want to report a poaching incident here at Lake Meade. Somebody shot a mother duck all to hell and left six orphaned eggs. Can you send someone from Animal Control or something?"
"Did you see anyone shoot the duck in question?"
"No, I didn't, but I did hear a shot from about a quarter of a mile from where I'm standing. There's not much left of that poor mama duck, by the way. It was blown all to hell."
"All right, sir, we'll send out ASPCA officials to investigate the poaching incident. Can you give me your location?"
Criss gave the operator the location of the demonstration site. "Thank you, sir," the operator said. "They're on their way."
He flipped off his phone and stuffed it in his pocket. "They're sending out the Animal Cops," he said to Dean. "Everything's cool. Now, let's get back to work."
The afternoon ran its course. The demonstration rehersal went well with no accidents or mistakes. All the safety procedures performed to peak capacity. Criss was confident that the taping tomorrow would be smooth sailing. The crew was busy taking down the equipment and packing it into the van when a large SUV with the Nevada state ASPCA logo rolled down toward the site. Criss had all but forgotten he had called them, so busy he had been with the demonstration practice. He ran toward the SUV, waving and calling out "Hi!"
The truck stopped midway, and two uniformed police officers, a tall man with a fashionable goatee and a slim blonde woman, climbed out. "You called about a poaching incident?" the man asked.
"Uh, yeah, I did," Criss replied, a bit embarrassed about having forgotten about it. "It happened down that way." He pointed in the direction where he and his brothers had taken the boat. "When we heard the shot, me and my brothers took the boat over there to investigate."
"Can you take us there?" the officer asked.
"Uh, yeah, sure."
Criss took the officers to the boat and untied it. The two officers climbed into the boat and sat down on the narrow benches while Criss shoved it into the water, hopping in at the last minute. He pulled the starter on the outboard motor, and they were off to the scene of the crime.
The little boat glided along the shoreline to the grassy knoll. "There it is!" Criss cried out. "That's where the nest was!"
He turned the boat toward the knoll and killed the motor. "See?" he said, pointing to the remains of the mother duck. "Son of a (bleep) blew her all to hell."
The female officer picked up the blasted carcass and set it gently onto the floor of the boat. "This wasn't poaching," she said. "This was just killing for its own sake. Someone was just using it for target practice."
"You mean like a drive-by shooting?" Criss asked.
"Drive-bys are more gang-related," the female officer said. "Whoever killed this duck was just plain trigger-happy." She scanned the knoll. "The father duck can't be too far off," she said. "I'm no duck expert, but I heard they mate for life. He's gotta be here somewhere." She turned to Criss. "Did you see a male duck around when you found the female?"
Criss shook his head. "Nope," he replied. "She was alone with her eggs."
The female officer looked into the nest. "I don't see any eggs."
"Well, I took 'em with me," Criss explained sheepishly. "I mean, I didn't want them to get eaten by snakes or nothing. I mean, there are snakes in this area, I heard."
"Where are the eggs now?"
"In my Rover. Dean and I put some thermal packs on them to keep them warm. He's a 4-H expert on baby chicks, you know."
The female officer didn't know, but she nodded anyway. Meanwhile, the tall male officer was scanning the area around the knoll. "Hey, over there," he said, pointing to a spot not too far from the nest.
He climbed out of the boat and onto the knoll, then stepped carefully along the shoreline to a scrubby area about two feet away from the knoll. He reached down and picked up the limp form of a dead mallard, its hunter-green neck swaying like a rope from a tree. "I think we just found Papa Duck," he shouted.
Criss watched mournfully as the duck carcasses were crated, labeled as evidence and stored in the SUV. Memories of his father's body taken away to the morgue on the day he died of stomach cancer replayed in his mind. He had yearned for one last look upon his father's face as the gurney bearing the body was wheeled by two attendants in starched white shirts into the cororner's ambulance, covered head to toe in a blinding white sheet as if to conceal the horror of death from the world of the living. He would not see it again until the funeral, and even then only for a brief time before the casket in which his father lay would be interred into the cold, dark earth.
But this wasn't the same, he reminded himself. Those ducks didn't die of a lingering illness as his father did; this was senseless, cold-blooded murder. Someone took a couple of potshots at a pair of innocent ducks who simply wanted to create what they hoped was a safe place to raise their young. Now the poor little ducklings would never know their parents, thanks to whomever was too callous or too drunk or just too stupid to care. At least he had rescued them in time, thank God.
I'm gonna make sure those little ducklings are cared for, he vowed. I don't know how or where I'm gonna do it, but I'm gonna make sure those little guys live somewhere safe from (bleep)holes like whoever shot their parents! And if I ever find out who did it, I am so gonna kick his ass all the way to (bleeping) Mexico!
Criss turned to the female ASPCA officer approaching him. "Thank you for reporting this incident," she said, shaking his hand. "We'll take the ducks to HQ for a post-mortem. As for the eggs, well, we don't have the facilities to care for them. You can call Wildlife Rescue of Nevada in Valgado, however. It's about twenty miles south of Reno if you care to make the trip."
Criss smiled politely. "Thanks," he said. "I'll give them a call."
They shook hands again, and the ASPCA truck sped off. Criss walked toward his Rover and opened the passenger door. "How're you doing, little guys?" he said cheerfully. "You keeping warm under there?"
He picked up one of the thermal packs to readjust it. It was cold. "Oh, no!" he said fearfully. "Oh, no! Oh, God, please!"
He punched the packs to try to reactivate them. "Come on! Come on!" he muttered through gritted teeth. It was no good. The packs had expended their heat supply; they were just lumps of cold silicone gel. In desperation, Criss called out, "Dean! Dean, I need you here! The packs are cold!"
Dean ran toward the Rover. "What's up?" he asked.
"The packs are cold!" Criss cried. "We gotta save the eggs!"
Dean thought fast. "Does your heater work?"
"Of course it works! Why?"
"Does it blow onto the floor?"
"Well, uh, I-I think so."
Dean stuck his head into the Rover and examined the control panel. "Okay," he said. "Put the eggs on the floor and make a tent around them."
Criss did as Dean instructed. He laid the bundle of eggs onto the floor under the dash, then curtained them with the parka coat he had left in the Rover last winter. "Now, turn on the heater and direct it onto the floor," Dean told him.
Criss climbed into the driver's seat, adjusted the controls, started up the engine, and turned on the heater. Hot air blasted his feet, nearly toasting them, but the eggs were once again safe from cold. "God, I hope we're not too late," he murmured.
Dean closed the passenger door. "You think you got it under control?" he asked.
"I think I'm good," Criss replied, still hoping the eggs had not suffered any damage.
"Okay, then, gimme a call if you have any trouble."
"Right. See you tomorrow."
Dean walked away. JD and Costa walked up to the Rover and climbed in. "My God!" JD exclaimed. "It's like a friggin' oven in here! You got the heater on or what?"
"Sorry, guys," Criss said, "but Dean says I gotta keep the eggs warm or they'll die."
"Well, you don't have to roast them!" JD retorted. "Can't you turn down the heat a little?"
Criss shook his head. "Can't. You guys are just gonna have to grin and bear it until we get home."
So JD and Costa were forced to endure a sweltering ninety-minute ride back to Criss' estate, Serenity. They kept the windows rolled down to cool off while wishing they had some bottled water to rehydrate themselves. "First thing I'm gonna do when we get home," Costa muttered, "I'm gonna throw myself into the pool!"
"First thing I'm going to do," JD said, "I'm gonna throw Criss into the pool! And I'm gonna hold him down until he comes to his senses!"
"Yeah, like that's gonna happen," Costa said, wiping his sweating brow. "You'll drown him first."
10-16-2011, 11:54 PM
Veritas I wish you'd stop reading my mind I love this story
10-17-2011, 05:08 PM
Serenity, Criss' twenty-five-million-dollar estate, lived up to its name that spring evening. The shrubbery, just beginning to bud, swayed gently in the desert breeze. A soft trickle of water from the fountain in front of the sprawling mansion accompanied the few birds twittering in the trees. The setting sun gilded the tiled landscape with a coppery golden light.
This quiet scene was shattered by the booming thump of car stereo woofers as Criss swerved up the main drive and parked by the front door. He shut off the engine, killing both the noise and the insufferable heat inside the Rover, to the great relief of his brothers in the back seat. JD and Costa bolted out of the Rover to cool off in the evening air. "Oh, man!" JD exclaimed, airing his sweating body by flicking his shirt, "thank God we're home!"
Costa said nothing; he just peeled off his sweat-drenched shirt and cast it aside as he strode toward the giant pool in the back of the mansion, all the while cursing his younger brother for nearly baking him alive, eggs or no eggs. When he reached the rear patio, he unbuckled his belt, pulled down his khaki shorts and briefs, and dove nude into the crystal clear water, savoring the refreshing chill of it. He surfaced, tossed his head to clear the water and his hair from his eyes, and whooped in a combination of relief and triumph. "Come on in, bro!" he called to JD. "The water's fine!"
JD watched all this from a distance at first. The pool did look tempting, especially from that sweltering ride in the Rover, so he pulled off his clothes as well, but kept his briefs on for the sake of his dignity, and dove into the pool as well. His overheated flesh cooled off instantly on contact with the water. It was bliss.
He emerged and turned to Costa. "Oh, man, that feels good!" he said, wiping the pool water from his face. He looked around. "Hey, where's Criss?"
"Tending to his eggs, I guess," Costa replied, shrugging.
JD looked through the large glass windows leading to the living room. "I see him," he said. "Yeah, he's got those eggs all right."
Costa chuckled a little. "Wouldn't it be funny if they hatched?"
"Well, I don't know how funny it would be," JD said, shrugging, "but that's Criss' problem. He's the one who took them from their nest, so he's responsible for them."
Inside the house, Criss laid the bundle of eggs gently on the seat of an overstuffed chair. "I hope you little guys made it all right," he said anxiously. "God, I hope I'm not too late."
With a feeling of trepadition he unwrapped the eggs. A flicker of movement startled him. He spread out the shirt covering to reveal six quivering balls of wet featherdown set among broken shards of eggshell. There was a tiny peep, then another, then another, then all six joined in the chorus celebrating their emergence into the world.
Criss could only stare at this miracle in awed silence. My God! he thought. They're alive! They all made it! Oh, thank You, God! Thank You!
He got up and dashed toward the pool. "Hey, guys!" he shouted. "They hatched! The eggs have all hatched! Come on! Check it out!"
JD and Costa reluctantly pulled themselves out of the pool to see what was happening inside the house. They managed to find a couple of towels in the small cabana used as a dressing room and dried themselves off, Costa wrapping his around his naked hips. "Okay, what's the deal?" JD asked.
Criss pointed excitedly at the overstuffed chair. "Look!" he cried happily. "They hatched!"
He knelt down beside the t-shirt nest and gently stroked the ducklings' tiny heads. "Hey, little guys!" he crooned. "How ya doin'? Happy birthday! Welcome to the world!"
10-19-2011, 07:01 PM
"Congratulations, Criss," JD said. "It's septuplets."
"So, you gonna pass out cigars or something?" Costa joked.
Criss looked up at his brothers. "Ha, ha, very funny," he deadpanned. "And you know I hate cigars."
Suddenly, Hammie, Criss' cat, leapt up onto the arm of the overstuffed chair to see what his owner was so interested in. Criss reached out to pet him. "Hey, Hammie," he cooed. "Looks like you got yourself some new siblings."
Hammie stared down at the peeping balls of fluff, their down just beginning to dry out, and growled in his throat. "I think Hammie's jealous," said JD.
"I think Hammie's hungry," Costa said.
Criss felt a needleprick of fear in the back of his mind. He had seen his cat stalk small lizards and the occasional bird around the estate; the six helpless ducklings sitting in the makeshift nest were appetizers for him. He didn't want to get rid of Hammie, of course, but he felt responsible for the six little lives bundled in his t-shirt on the chair. He knew he had to do something, and fast. But what?
JD divined Criss' predicament. "I really think you should call someone," he advised. "I'm sure there's a wildlife preserve or something willing to take them in."
Criss turned to his brother. "Yeah? Like where?"
"I dunno," JD replied, shrugging. "Go online and Google it."
Criss rose and turned to go to his office. The minute he was away from the nest, however, the peeping grew louder, more frantic. He returned quickly and knelt down by the chair again. "Hey, it's okay, little guys," he crooned affectionatly. "I'll be gone for just a second. I'll be right back, I promise."
He stood up again to go to his office. Again, the frantic peeping. "What's the matter, guys?" he asked the ducklings. "What are you afraid of? It's okay, I'm just gonna go to the office for a minute."
The peeping continued. Criss glanced at Hammie. Suddenly he understood. "Oh, I get it--you're afraid Hammie's gonna eat you up." He picked up his cat. "There," he said. "I'll just take him with me, and you won't have to worry anymore." He stroked the cat's head. "C'mon, Hammie, let's go."
While the danger posed by Hammie had been averted, the peeping still continued. "What?" Criss cried out in exasperation. "What's the matter with you guys, huh?"
Costa tapped Criss on the shoulder. "I think they're going through separation anxiety disorder," he said.
"Well, I'm no naturalist, but I read somewhere that when ducklings hatch, the first thing they see move, they think it's Mom. You saw them hatch, they saw you, so..."
Criss dropped Hammie as the awful truth sank in. "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You mean to tell me they think I'm their mother?"
Costa tried to suppress a laugh. "Yeah, that's just about the size of it."
JD could not hold back his own laughter, but let it out in fits and spurts. "Oh, my God!" he chortled. "Oh, my God! Criss is a mother! Oh, God, wait'll everybody hears about this!"
Criss' face burned from embarrassment. "God, this is just what I need," he grumbled.
The peeping grew even more frantic. Criss turned to see Hammie on the arm of the chair, crouched in attack mode over the nest. "Hammie, no!" he shouted as he lunged toward his cat. "Get away from those ducklings!
He grabbed Hammie and whisked him away from the nest. "Don't you ever go near those ducklings again, do you hear me?" he scolded the cat. "They're not for you to eat, understand?"
Hammie glared at Criss, angry at having been deprived of his prey. Criss handed Hammie over to Costa and returned to the nest. "It's okay, guys," he reassured them. "I won't let anything happen to you."
The peeping quieted down immediatly. JD looked at Costa. "Maternal instinct," he joked. "There's no fighting it."
10-19-2011, 09:48 PM
Honestly I could see this and I'd probably would be laughing myself
10-20-2011, 05:26 PM
A full moon hung over Serenity that night. Criss lay in bed, sound asleep, a rare occurance as he usually lay awake over planning his next demonstration or worrying about performing it without hurting or killing himself. It had been a trying day, what with the ducklings and all. Hammie, his cat, lay curled up beside him on the pillow as was his habit, the stalking incident forgotten for the time being.
The ducklings slept huddled together in their makeshift nest of soiled t-shirt and cardboard shoebox over a glowing sixty-watt bulb (recommended by Dean Waring, the cameraman who aided Criss in the egg recovery) to keep them warm, well away from Hammie's reach. Their down had dried out, leaving them fluffy and soft to the touch. They did not need food as their yolk sacs had fed them while they were still in the eggs. Safe and warm in their t-shirt-shoebox nest, they passed the night in peace and contentment.
With the dawn, however, came chaos.
Criss woke up to the sound of persistant peeping. He turned over and tried to shut out the noise with his pillow, groaning, "Shut up, you guys, I'm trying to sleep!" But the six ducklings would not comply. The peeping went on without cease. Irate, Criss flung the bedclothes aside and wrenched himself out of bed. "Okay! Okay!" he growled. "I'm up!"
He pulled on his bathrobe and walked over to the nest, rubbing the sleep from his stubbled face. "What the hell do you want?" he snapped.
The ducklings quieted immediatly and looked up at Criss. "You guys hungry or something?" he asked them. "You want breakfast? Huh? Is that what you want?"
The ducklings simply stared at him with their tiny beadlike eyes. "I don't know what you guys eat, but I think I can find you some breadcrumbs or something in the kitchen," he said. "Hold on a minute, I'll be right back."
He turned away from the nest. The frantic peeping started up again. Frustrated, Criss picked up the shoebox. "Okay, okay!" he said. "I'll take you with me! Happy now?"
The peeping stopped. Criss carried the shoebox out of the bedroom. "Geez!" he said, "I turn around for two seconds and you think I abandoned you!"
Normally, the spacious, well-equipped kitchen was the domain of his personal chef, Ed Bible; Criss' culinary expertise was limited to ordering from a menu, so he left it to the more talented Chef Ed to prepare his meals. Ed wasn't available at that particular point in time to help him feed his new charges, so Criss was left to his own devices. Feeling completely lost in the kitchen of his own home, he searched desperately for a box of breadcrumbs or whatever he thought his ducks would like to eat. "There's gotta be something here," he muttered as he opened and closed cupboard after cupboard. "There's gotta be something--"
Finally, he located the walk-in pantry, stocked floor to ceiling with boxes and cans of food. "Yeah, here we are," he said. "I'm sure he's got something here I can use."
He stepped into the pantry. Outside, the peeping echoed loudly off the tiled walls. "All right! All right!" Criss called out to them. "I'm coming, I'm coming! Keep your feathers on, willya?"
He found a box of salad croutons, but they were much too large for the tiny ducklings to swallow. There was a container of garlic-flavored breadcrumbs, but Criss felt it would be too spicy for them to handle. Finally, he found a box of cornmeal, just the right consistancy for the newborns. "Okay!" he exclaimed in triumph. "Breakfast is served!"
He poured some cornmeal into a shallow bowl and set it into the middle of the nest. Not a good idea, he thought, as he noticed it left very little room for the ducklings to move around, let alone eat. Besides, they probably needed some water as well. He removed the bowl and set it on the floor, filled another shallow bowl with water, set it beside the cornmeal, then took the nest off the counter and set each duckling, one by one, beside the bowls. "There," he said. "Now you can eat."
He sat down on the floor beside them and watched as the ducklings wobbled on unsteady legs, trying to gain a sense of balance. Criss realized this was their first attempt at walking since they had hatched yesterday. "Come on, little guys," he prodded, "you can make it."
Gradually, the little ducklings gained control over their spindly legs and waddled toward the bowls. "That's it," Criss encouraged them. "Come and get it."
The ducklings stuck their tiny beaks into the bowls of cornmeal and water, curious as to what was in it. Criss sat on the floor, watching them with almost paternal pride. "You guys eat your breakfast," he told them. "I gotta get ready for work."
He got up from the floor and walked out of the kitchen. So did the ducklings. They followed him out of the kitchen and toward the stairs in a neat line, nearly running to keep up with him. Criss did not notice this until he was on the first step of the stairway. He looked down and saw his little brood around his feet, looking up expectantly at him. "Hey," he said, puzzled. "What are you guys doing here? You should be back in the kitchen." He waved them away. "Go on, shoo!"
The ducklings did not budge. "I gotta go to work, okay, guys?" he said. "I can't have you underfoot when I'm working. Now, go on, go finish your breakfast."
He stepped up another step on the stairs. The ducklings crowded around the first step as if trying to climb up. Irritated, Criss stepped down and squatted in front of the ducklings. "Look, guys," he said, trying to be reasonable. "I got a job to do, and I can't take you with me, understand? Now, let's go back into the kitchen and finish our breakfast, okay? C'mon, let's go."
He rose and walked back to the kitchen. The ducklings instinctively followed him, trotting as fast as they could to keep up. Criss bent down and tapped the bowl of cornmeal. "C'mon, guys," he said. "Eat your breakfast."
The ducklings huddled around the bowls. "Now you stay there while I get ready for work, okay, guys?" he ordered them. "You wanna swim? The pool's out back."
Again he walked out of the kitchen, and again the ducklings followed. Criss whirled around, exasperated. "Will you stop following me around?!" he exploded. "What the hell's wrong with you guys, anyway?"
"There's nothing wrong with them, Criss," he heard a voice speak up.
Criss turned around and saw his brother, JD, leaning on the stair rail, grinning. "They're just following their instincts," he continued. "You're their mom, remember? Where you go, they go. There's nothing you can do about it."
"But I gotta be at the Luxor by nine AM," Criss told him. "I can't take them with me. They'll get lost, or get stepped on or something."
10-21-2011, 12:33 AM
And he thought this was going to be easy
10-21-2011, 09:18 PM
He looked at JD warily. "Hey, how come you know so much about ducks, anyway?"
"Oh, I did a little Googling last night," JD replied. "For one thing, keeping wild ducks as pets is against the law--they're a protected species. And second, since you were the first thing they saw move, they adoped you as their mommy. They're gonna follow you no matter where you go, so...you might as well get used to it if you wanna keep them."
"First of all, I'm not keeping them as pets," Criss argued. "I just rescued them, that's all. And second, I can't have them following me all over the place 'cause they'll get stepped on or lost or whatever. I want them to be safe, but I don't want them underfoot. I mean, I got my shows to do, and the demonstration to tape. I can't spend all my time baby-sitting a bunch of ducks."
"Well, you'd better make a decision soon," JD told him. "Those ducklings are too young to take care of themselves, and if you leave them here at home, Hammie's gonna have them for breakfast."
Criss looked down at the ducklings huddled around his feet. JD did have a point, he conceded. If he left them here at Serenity, Hammie would make short work of them. But the minute he was out of their sight, they would start crying for their mother. They had just been hatched from the egg; they were newborn babies who needed constant care. It wasn't as if he could hire a baby-sitter for them or leave them at a day-care center for the day. He pitied the six tiny orphans standing helpless before him, but at the same time he resented the responsibility for caring for them. What did he know about raising ducks? Hammie had never been a problem. Cats were practically low-maintenance to the point of self-sufficiency: a bowl of food, some water, and a clean litter box and they were fine. The ducklings, however, needed round-the-clock care, something he could not afford to do, not with his career and all. Yet he could not bring himself to abandon them; they would die without someone to feed them. He had to do something, and fast.
The sleek black Dodge Viper glided up to the main entrance of the Luxor Hotel and Resort and came to a stop millimeters from the curb. Matt Behr, the clubfooted parking attendant on duty that morning, limped up to the driver's side, smiling broadly. He knew only one person drove that particular vehicle; besides, the circle-A logo was branded prominantly on the wheel rims. "Mawnin', Mr. Angel," he drawled, "how ya doin' today?"
"Morning, Matt," Criss said, handing Matt the keys. "Gimme a hand here, willya?"
He jerked his thumb at the passenger seat bearing a wire cage with six lively ducklings inside. Matt did a double-take when he saw them. "Criminy! Is them ducks?"
"Yeah, them's ducks all right," Criss replied drily. "I need you to get 'em outta here, okay?"
Matt limped around to the passenger side and opened the door. He picked up the wire cage and laughed. "Well, I'll be hanged! I've seen you bring in all sorts of critters, but this takes the grand prize at the county fair! Where'd you get 'em, anyway?"
Criss took the cage from Matt. "Long story," he replied. "I gotta get going here, okay. I'll be by later."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Angel, sir," Matt said, saluting. It did no good to pry. Criss Angel was a magician, and magicians were full of surprises. At least it wasn't a snake or one of those big bugs from Africa or somewhere; things like that gave Matt the willies like nothing else. A bunch of baby ducks? No big deal.
In fact, the baby ducks turned out to be an even bigger deal than Matt surmised. Everyone in the production office had to drop what they were doing and gush over the cute little duckies. They cooed, they crooned, they giggled and they fussed over the six downy chicks cowering in the cage, terrified of the giants surrounding them. A few stuck their fingers through the wire mesh to pet them, only to see the poor things cringe and flee in terror. In the end, Criss had to take the ducklings into his office, ordering everyone back to work.
He set the cage next to his desk, plugged in a small space heater and set it next to the cage. He turned it on low heat, then settled himself down at his desk to work out the details for his latest demonstration. The heat calmed the ducklings, lulling them to sleep. Criss was able to work undisturbed throughout the morning.
A knock on the door interrupted him. "Who is it?" he called out.
"Criss?" he heard his personal assistant, Tom, call back. "Meeting time."
Criss looked at his watch. It read eleven AM. (Bleep)! he cursed to himself. I forgot about the production meeting!
He rose from his chair and stepped toward the door. Unfortunatly, he tripped over the duck cage, waking his little brood. The shaken ducklings peeped loudly, frightened out of their wits over the sudden jolt. Criss hissed a few choice expletives as he regained his bearings. He lowered himself to the ducklings' level. "I got a meeting to go to, guys," he told them. "You'll be safe here in the office." He adjusted the heater. "There, now you'll be nice and warm while I'm gone."
He rose to leave. The frantic peeping grew even louder. Criss could almost detect a look of absolute panic on their faces. Don't go, Mommy! they seemed to be saying. Don't leave us! We want to go with you! We need you to protect us!
Criss sighed and picked up the cage. "Come on, guys," he grumbled. "We got a meeting to go to."
From the moment Criss arrived at the meeting with the ducklings, he knew he was in trouble. The quacking from his crew clued him in on what to expect for the next two hours.
JD fired the first round. "Well, if it isn't Mother Duck!"
More quacking and laughing. Criss raised his hand in a placating gesture. "Okay, guys, you had your fun. Now let's get down to business here, shall we?"
He set the cage on the table and turned to JD. "You had to go and tell them, didn't you?" he said accusingly.
"Look, Criss, everyone knew you took those eggs. I didn't have to tell them anything--at least, not much."
Joaquin Ayela, a fellow magician and consultant, leaned over the cage. "Hola, little patitos!" he cooed. "Hola."
"What are you gonna call 'em?" Doug Malloy asked Criss.
"Yeah, what are you gonna call 'em? You gotta call 'em something, right?"
"They're called ducklings, okay?" Criss retorted.
"I meant, what are their names?" Doug pressed.
Criss shrugged. "Gee, I dunno. It never occurred to me to give them names."
Doug looked at Criss in mock indignation. "Geez! What kind of mother are you, not naming your kids?"
"They're not my kids!" Criss exclaimed. "I just rescued them, okay?"
Doug leaned over to the cage. He pointed out one duckling who had just stepped away from the others. "Hey, Ducky," he said. "You're our little ducky, ain't ya? Yeah, you're just ducky, ain't ya?"
Criss rolled his eyes. Doug pointed to another one. "And this one we'll call...um...Downy."
"You mean like the fabric softener?" Criss' cousin, George, asked."
"Yeah, whatever," Doug replied. "And this one will be...?"
"Quackers!" George blurted.
"Quackers!" Doug cheered. "So we got Ducky, Downy and Quackers. Any suggestions?"
Joaquin petted a duckling huddled in a corner. "I'm gonna call this one Omlette."
"Hey, it's a nice name," Joaquin protested. "A pretty name, a French name. Especially if it's a girl."
Doug nodded. "Okay, Omlette it is."
JD started laughing all of a sudden. "Hey, I got a great one!" he said. "How about Yolk-O!"
Criss stared at his brother in bewilderment. "Yolk-O?"
"Sure, as in Yolk-O Ono?"
Everyone groaned at the pun, but the name was adopted anyway. "Okay," Doug said, "we got one more. Any ideas?"
"How about Donald?" George suggested.
The suggestion was vetoed down. "Too obvious," Doug said.
Costa, who had been enjoying the scene from the sidelines, spoke up. "How about Ferdinand?"
"Ferdinand?" everyone chorused.
"Isn't that a bull?" Criss asked.
"Hey, don't you remember the movie Babe?" Costa said. "There was a duck named Ferdinand in it."
"Well, I never saw the movie," Doug said, "but, okay, we'll go with Ferdinand."
Criss rose to his feet. "Okay, the ducks got their names," he said. "Now, can we please get on with the meeting?"
The meeting lasted for two hours, but very little got accomplished. The ducklings were too much of a distraction sitting on the table, but whenever Criss moved them, they peeped loudly in protest, so back on the table they went. Near the end of the meeting, someone suggested lunch. "How about that new Chinese place?" George suggested. "I forgot the name, but I hear they got some great food there, especially the Peking duck."
Everyone stared at George for such a callous statement. George clamped his hand over his mouth. "Oops! Sorry, Criss. No offense."
Criss looked down at the ducklings. "You didn't hear that," he said.
10-21-2011, 10:48 PM
Omelette are you nuts?
10-22-2011, 02:13 PM
Caution Baby Ducks In Office Watch Your Step read the sign taped on Criss' office door. Inside, the ducklings wandered about the office but still staying close to Criss while he tapped away on his laptop at his desk. The six little ducklings explored the cavernous space underneath the desk, pecked at crumbs of food in the carpeting that somehow avoided the vacuum cleaner, and warmed themselves by the space heater, all the while huddled together in a downy mass of perfect solidarity.
The space heater was set on low, but the office became unbearably hot as the afternoon wore on. Dean Waring's warning on keeping the chicks warm still stuck in Criss' mind, however; they had not developed their feathers and so were still vulnerable to changes in temperature. Sweating, Criss peeled off his t-shirt and kicked off his boots to make himself more comfortable. He was about to strip to his briefs when he heard a knock on the door. "Come on in," he yelled.
The door opened slowly. Criss' brother, JD stuck his head inside. "Hey, Criss," he said.
Criss looked up. "Oh, hey, JD, come on in. Just watch your step, okay?"
JD entered the office. "My God!" he exclaimed, fanning himself with his hands. "It's like an oven in here!"
"Well, the chicks gotta keep warm," Criss reminded him. "So, what's up?"
"Well, I made a few phone calls last night," JD explained, "and there's someone I want you to meet."
JD opened the door wider. There in the doorway stood a plain-looking, bespectacled woman with orangey-red hair tied up in a bun. She wore a blue long-sleeved shirt and khaki trousers that gave her skinny frame a more masucline appearance. "This is Dr. Brenda Gilchrist," JD said. "She's an orthinologist from Wildlife Rescue of Nevada in Valgado. She's here to help you with your duck problem."
Embarrassed to have been caught shirtless in front of a lady, Criss hastily pulled his t-shirt back on, then stood up and shook her hand. "How do you do, Doctor," he said politely
Dr. Gilchrist returned the greeting cordially. "Hello, Mr...Angel, is it?"
"Criss. It's a pleasure to meet you." She looked around the office. "So, where are the ducklings?"
Criss scanned the floor of the office. "Oh, they're around here somewhere," he said. He bent over and peered under the desk. "Yeah, there they are, under here."
Dr. Gilchrist stooped down and looked under the desk with him. "How many are there?"
"I only see five."
"Well, there's six of 'em down there." Criss grabbed one of his boots. "Maybe one's hiding in my boot here."
He shook his boot and out tumbled the sixth duckling. "Oops! There he is!" he laughed. "Playing hide-and-seek, were you?"
"So where have you been keeping them?" Dr. Gilchrist asked.
Criss pointed to the cage. "I bought them here in the pet carrier over there. I didn't want to leave them at home alone, especially with Hammie."
The ducklings huddled around Criss' bare feet. "That's another thing," he said. "They follow me around everywhere I go. If I leave them, they start crying and carrying on like I'm abandoning them." He flushed with embarrassment. "They think I'm their mother."
Dr. Gilchrist nodded. "Your brother told me about that. You were the first thing they saw after they hatched, so they thought you were their mother. It's called 'imprinting'; it's instinctive, so there's nothing you can do about it. When did they hatch?"
"Have you fed them anything since they hatched?"
"Well, this morning I gave them a little cornmeal and some water. Is that okay? They didn't eat much, though; they just kept following me around the house."
"Ducklings are fed in the egg through the yolk sac, so there was no need to feed them for the first few days. At least you didn't give them any breadcrumbs--it's bad for their digestion. Water's good, but they need a protein diet. I've got some special meal mix for them." She looked at the space heater. "I'm glad to see you've been keeping them warm."
"Yeah, well, one of my cameramen was in 4-H, and he raised some baby chicks, so he's got some experience with them. I sure don't."
"You're not intending on keeping them as pets, are you?"
"Oh, no!" Criss protested. "No, no, no, no. JD told me it was illegal to keep wildlife as pets. I just wanted to rescue them after their parents got gunned down by Lake Meade. There are snakes and lizards out there that eat eggs, you know. I truly intend to return them to the wild as soon as they're old enough."
"Well, your intentions are honorable," Dr. Gilchrist conceded, "but you are doing more harm than good bringing them up in captivity like this."
Criss was shocked. "Captivity!"
"Yes, that's basically what it is--captivity. Carrying them around in a cage, no access to their natural habitat--they won't be able to adjust to the wild growing up in a human environment. And then there's the matter of your cat; once your back is turned, Hammie is going to hunt them down and kill them."
"So, what do you recommend that I do?" Criss asked. "Take them back to Lake Meade? They won't last an hour out there on their own! They need me to protect them! I can handle Hammie, all right. It's the rest where I need your help."
Dr. Gilchrist sighed. "Well, I'd gladly take them off your hands, Criss," she said, "but, unfortunatly, right now we don't have either the facilities or the staff to raise ducklings. We're barely making it as it is, what with budget cuts and our grant proposal being turned down. In other words, I'm as much in a bind as you are as far as the chicks are concerned. When your brother called me last night, he told me you would be willing to help out if I helped you with the ducklings, so I jumped at the chance and came here to Las Vegas. So, I'm willing to make you a deal: I'll help you raise the ducklings so they can live in the wild, and you help with the funding of our organization. Does that sound good to you?"
Criss looked at Dr. Gilchrist. Then he looked down at the ducklings gathered at his feet. Then he looked at Dr. Gilchrist again. "Okay, Doc," he said, "you got yourself a deal."
10-22-2011, 03:47 PM
He was about to strip to his briefs-That i wouldn't mind seeing ;);)
10-24-2011, 03:44 PM
So began the life Criss would live as foster mother to six orphaned ducklings. For the first week of their lives the ducklings napped in their makeshift nest, coming out only to waddle around for a while and explore the world around them. Of course their world was limited to the four walls of the production office or Criss' bedroom at Serenity. During their free time, Criss made sure that Hammie was nowhere near them. He did make a point to give his cat some quality time so as not to make Hammie jealous (and thereby not giving him more reason to kill), and to make sure his six foster children didn't get lost.
Dr. Gilchrist provided them with a protein-rich mash she called "duck chow" to feed them every hour on the hour, plus a shallow bowl of fresh water for them to drink. Criss and the doctor also kept plenty of paper towels on hand to clean up any waste the ducklings produced to prevent the spread of disease among humans and ducks alike. "It's a pity I can't teach them to use a litter box like Hammie," Criss lamented. "It'd make it so much easier."
The production office staff learned quickly to watch their steps so as not to step on any of the ducklings or their droppings. The ducklings, in turn, became an inconvenience whenever they were in the office: they turned up in shoes and purses, under desks and chairs, and near heat registers to keep warm. One assistant nearly took a couple of ducklings home with her when they hid in her backpack purse under her desk (she discovered them when she heard a chirping noise and mistook it for her cell phone).
At the beginning of the second week, the staff discovered Criss inflating a small plastic kiddie wading pool. When asked about it, he replied proudly, "Today's the day our little ducks are gonna learn to swim."
He set the pool by the large viewing window and filled it with a pail of water that had been sitting nearby. Then he fetched the carrier with the ducklings in it from his office. He set the carrier on a seat cushion that was the same height as the pool and opened the door. "Okay, little guys," he said. "Everybody into the pool!"
It was only a few inches from the edge of the cage to the water, but to the tiny ducklings it was like being on the precipice of a cliff. They stood there, afraid to take another step. "What's the matter?" Criss asked. "You scared?"
"Ducks don't jump, Criss."
Criss looked up and saw Dr. Gilchrist standing there. "Oh, hey, Doc," he said, rising to his feet. "How's it going?"
"Well, fine, until I saw you trying to teach your ducklings how to cliff-dive," she replied. "They need to walk into the water gradually. That's how they'll do it in the wild."
"Oh, well, okay," Criss said. "So we need a ramp of some sort." He scratched the back of his neck thoughtfully. "Let's see," he mused, "what can we use?"
Suddenly, Lisa, an intern doing data processing for MindFreak Productions, grabbed a clear plastic lid from a take-out container from a wastebasket and handed it to Criss. "Here," she said, "use this."
Criss examined the lid. It was flat and rectangular, wide enough to support the ducklings. "Okay, great," he said. "Thanks, Lisa."
He angled the lid just under the edge of the carrier, setting the other end into the water. "Okay, guys," he said, "now let's go swimming!"
The first duckling made a tentative move toward the plastic lid ramp with one webbed foot, then another, then, confident it would hold its weight, waddled down into the water. It bobbed up and down of the surface, then began paddling away. The other five followed suit, taking to the water without fear. Indeed, they seemed to enjoy it once they got the hang of it. They swam around and around the plastic pool, peeping and fluttering their stubby wings.
Their efforts were greeted with a round of applause from the staff. Criss wiped a dry eye in mock emotion. "I'm so proud!" he gushed.
A tapping on glass drew his attention. Outside the viewing window, a crowd of people had gathered to see the ducklings. Parents brought up their children for a better view, encouraging them to "say 'hi, duckies!'" or some such nonsense. Some held up cameraphones to take pictures, while others tapped the glass to attract the ducklings but only succeeded in frightening them away. Dr. Gilchrist had to leave the office and warn the people not to frighten the ducklings by tapping on the windowpane. "You'll only traumatize them," she told them.
Criss had hoped that the ducklings would stay in the water all day, but Dr. Gilchrist said that even ducks couldn't swim forever; they would have to go back to the nest, or they would suffer hypothermia from the cold water. Criss squatted down and tapped the plastic ramp. "Okay, everybody out of the pool. Come on, out."
The ducklings recognized their foster mother's voice and quickly obeyed, struggling up the plastic ramp to the carrier. They couldn't get a foothold on the slippery plastic, so Criss had to boost them up into the carrier. The crowd outside groaned in disappointment; some of the children pouted over being deprived of the show. Not wanting to disappoint his fans, Criss stepped out of the office to greet them. He, in turn, was greeted with cheers and applause. "Hey, everybody," he said. "How's it going?"
One little tyke got right to the point. "Where are the duckies?" he demanded.
Criss looked down at the child. "The duckies are going to take their morning nap right now, okay?" he explained. "They just had their first swimming lesson, and they're tired, all right?"
"They didn't look tired to me," the child argued.
"Believe me, they are," Criss said wearily.
"So, where'd you get them?" a girl in a grey Affliction t-shirt asked.
Criss related the whole story about finding the eggs by Lake Meade. "I'm not keeping them as pets or anything," he said. "I'm just raising them long enough for them to survive on their own."
"What are their names?" a little girl asked. "Do they have names?"
Criss struggled to remember the goofy names his crew had given his brood. "Uh, the guys named them, but I forgot what they were," he replied sheepishly. "I'll get back with you on that one." He checked his watch. "Uh, I gotta get back now. See ya."
He stayed just long enough to pose for pictures and sign autographs, then retreated to the privacy of his office. Dr. Gilchrist had positioned the carrier in front of the heater and set it on low. As usual, the heat comforted the ducklings and they went right to sleep. "Thanks for all your help, Doc," he said.
"Well, I'm glad to be of help, Criss," Dr. Gilchrist said. "And by the way, you can call me Brenda. Doc makes me feel like one of the seven dwarves."
Criss laughed. "Okay, Brenda."
She turned back to the ducklings. "Well, their next lesson is how to dabble for food."
"That's how ducks feed," Brenda explained. "They filter dirt and grit with their beaks to find food, like bugs and snails and such. That's what the feed I bought is made of: ground-up maggots, beetles, snails."
Criss immediatly felt nauseous. "Please," he groaned, "I just had breakfast."
Brenda patted him on the shoulder. "You'll be fine," she said. "We'll start on the dabbling this afternoon."
"Uh, yeah, sure," Criss said, still feeling queasy about the duck chow ingredients. "Whatever you say, Brenda. What do I have to do?"
"Well, nothing much, really," Brenda replied. "Just stick your face in the water and pretend to dabble like a duck. They'll get the hang of it."
Criss' stomach churned even harder. "Oh, great," he murmured. "That's all I need, a faceful of ground up maggots up my nose."
10-27-2011, 12:49 AM
Brenda scattered a handful of duck chow into the pool. "Tie your hair back, Criss," she ordered, "and keep a towel handy. You're gonna need it."
"Say what now?" Criss said, perplexed.
"You're their mother, so to speak," Brenda reminded him, "so you're the one who has to teach them how to dabble for food."
"And how the hell am I going to do that?"
"All you have to do is stick your face into the water and pretend to pick up a mouthful of food, then emerge and pretned to swallow it. Like this." She knelt down beside the pool, lowered her head into the water, then raised herself making gulping movements. "Get it? Only you're going to have to go a little furthur."
"Isn't there an easier way to do this?" Criss pleaded.
Brenda shook her head. "Sorry, but this is the only way in this case. I normally use a hand puppet, but these ducklings see only you as their mother."
Criss heaved a huge sigh. "Okay, let's get this over with."
The staff choked back their laughter and their disgust. The ever-present camera crew focused on the kiddie pool with the layer of duck chow on the bottom. Criss glared at them for a moment, then got down on his hands and knees beside the pool. Meanwhile, the ducklings were brought back to the water's edge and allowed to waddle down the plastic lid into the pool. They paddled around like before, more confident in their swimming abilities this time.
Criss steeled himself for the ordeal to come. He lowered himself to the ducklings' level. "Okay, guys," he said, "it's time for lunch. Pay attention, now, because I'm only gonna do this once."
He immersed his face into the water, nosed around the duck chow, then emerged quickly again. "Num-num-num-num-num!" he said, pretending to eat. "Okay, now you do it."
The ducklings swam around the pool as usual, not comprehending. "Hey, come on, guys!" Criss said impatiently. "You haveta eat! Now, watch me again."
He sank his face into the water, again nosed around the duck chow, and raised his head up. "Num-num-num-num-! See? It's easy! Now you do it!"
There was no response at first, then one duckling plunged his tiny head to the bottom of the pool, then another, then two more, then the rest followed. They bobbed in and out of the water, swallowing mouthfuls of duck chow and returning for more.
"Hey!" Criss exclaimed. "I think they got it!"
Brenda squatted down by the pool. "You did it, Criss!" she cheered. "You taught them to dabble!"
The staff and camera crew applauded. One cameraman adjusted his camera for a close-up of the ducklings feeding from the pool. Costa stepped up and clapped Criss on the shoulder. "You're a great mom, Criss," he said proudly. "But, uh, there's a little spot on your nose there."
Criss wiped his nose with his hand and examined it. There was a speck of duck chow on it. "Hm? Oh, sorry," he murmured, laughing nervously. "Guess I got a little carried away."
By the second week, the news of Criss' new foster family had gone national. They made the Sunday edition of the Las Vegas Sun. They were featured on the local news, then on every entertainment channel on television as a "human interest" story. Viral videos of the ducklings following Criss throughout the Luxor were featured on the YouTube; even the hotel security surveillance tapes had been downloaded somehow despite all security measures to the contrary.
In time, they began to receive their own fan mail. They received crude crayon drawings done by children, letters from duck lovers all across America, and requests for photos, some with Criss posing with them. Many demanded to know their names, or which ones were male or female. Dr. Gilchrist answered that one by closely examining each duckling: two were hens, the rest were drakes, she reported.
Every day, hundreds of people crowded the production office viewing window to view the six little ducks swimming around in their pool or waddling around the office. Many bought their children to show them the ducklings live and up close, gushing and cooing as they described the scene behind the plate glass viewing window:
"Ooooohhh! Look, Taylor!" squealed one mother to her preschooler. "Lookit the duckies!"
"See?" cooed another to her toddler. "See the duckies? Huh? They're babies, just like you."
"Aw!" gushed a matronly woman, "ain't they the cutest little thiiiiings?"
The crowding got so bad that security had to clear the area several times in a single afternoon. Concerned about the safety of the guests and his fans, but not wanting to disappoint them, Criss and Dr. Gilchrist decided to post regular viewing times for the ducklings swimming sessions, clearing the corridors of hangers-on and photographers. Once the ducklings emerged from their carrier and into the pool, cameras flashed and camcorders were set on "record" to preserve the moment for posterity. When viewing time ended and the ducklings went back into their carrier, groans of disappointment could be heard from behind the window.
All the publicity his ducklings generated Criss could handle. It was the constant need for them to follow him around that annoyed him. Wherever he went, whether it was to his office, to the deli for lunch, or even to the mens room, the ducklings trailed him untiringly. They slipped through doors faster than Criss could close them. they huddled around his feet when he stood at the urinal. If he tried to keep them in the carrier, they peeped piteously for his attention. In desperation he set a photo of himself beside the carrier and played a recording of his voice to keep them company. The plan worked; it allowed him to do his live shows without the ducklings being underfoot. They still demanded his undivided attention, though, severely cutting into his personal time. "I had no idea that six little ducklings needed so much care," he complained. "This is wearing me out big time!"
"You think raising a bunch of ducks is tough?" JD, his older brother and the only one with a family of his own, retorted, "They'll be grown up in a couple of months. Try raising a human baby for eighteen years and then see how you feel! It's a twenty-four-seven job--you won't sleep again until they've reached voting age, I can tell you that! Not to mention the expense: food, clothing, medical care, insurance, toys, setting up a college fund, make-up, a prom gown--the list goes on! All you have to worry about is filling up their pool and buying duck chow. You should be thankful!"
"At least you can hire a baby-sitter every now and then for a human baby," Criss countered. "Me? These little guys follow me everywhere--and I mean everywhere! They won't leave me alone for a minute! And I got Hammie to worry about: I got to make sure they don't get eaten, or at least keep him from getting jealous."
"Sibling rivalry," JD muttered.
"You see it as sibling rivalry," Criss retorted. "Hammie sees them as lunch."
"Hey, you wanted to take care of those ducklings," JD said, shrugging, "you gotta take the good with the bad."
The bad came during the middle of the second week. A few animal rights activists condemned Criss for raising wild ducks in captivity, forcing an impromptu press conference to refute such charges and confirm that the ducklings would be returned to the wild as soon as they were old enough. Dr. Gilchrist made her public debut when she informed the press that the ducklings were receiving good care and she insisted that she and Criss were doing everything within their power to insure the ducklings' well-being to be fit to be returned to the wild. "They are receiving the best care we can give them with the resources we have at our disposal," she said. "In return, Criss Angel has promised to aid our Wildlife Rescue of Nevada sanctuary in Valgado." To that, Criss nodded in agreement, though he didn't make it clear just how he would aid Wildlife Rescue of Nevada in Valgado.
It was during that conference that the nation learned the names bequeathed upon them by Criss' crew: Yolk-O, Ducky, Downy, Quackers, Omlette and Ferdinand. Yolk-O and Omlette were female, he informed the press, and Ducky, Quackers, Downy and Ferdinand were male. "Septuplets," Criss joked to the press. "Brenda and Criss plus six."
Face was saved. The animal activists declared a cease-fire for the time being, though they kept a keen eye on Criss and the ducklings, watching for any signs of inhumane treatment. Criss and Brenda relaxed to a point. The ducklings thrived in their artificial environment, well-fed and healthy.
10-27-2011, 01:15 AM
I can actually picture this :)
10-29-2011, 09:41 PM
Sunday of the fourth week was Mother's Day. Criss' own mother, Dimitra, had flown in from New York to visit her three sons and only granddaughter, to everyone's delight. JD picked her up from the airport in a taxicab instead of the usual limosine Criss customarily sent for her. "Where's Christopher?" she had asked him.
"Oh, he's tied up at the moment," JD had replied as he loaded his mother's luggage into the trunk of the cab. "But don't worry, everything is just ducky."
Dimitra ignored the quip and settled back into the cab for the ride to the Luxor. Later she would travel with Criss to Serenity where she had her own suite of rooms. It was quieter than a room at the hotel where she was accosted by overzealous fans and followed everywhere by cameras, even the ones not belonging to the hotel security system. Privacy had become a luxury since her youngest son became famous; she herself had become a celebrity by proxy, the Queen Mother of MindFreak Productions, adopted by fans as a surrogate mother figure. She had graciously accepted the role foisted upon her, but there were times she yearned for a bit of peace and quiet, away from the maddening crowd. Serenity afforded just that, isolated in the desert as it was. No fans demanding photos of her, no cameras in her face, no reporters asking questions about her life with Criss Angel--as far as she was concerned, Serenity was twenty-five million dollars well spent.
The cab pulled up to the hotel's taxi drop-off area. The cab driver helped with the luggage, a service which he received a generous tip. A uniformed attendant loaded the bags onto a polished brass luggage rack and wheeled them through the sliding glass doors into the lobby. Dimitra spotted Criss standing right in the middle of the lobby, waiting for her. This was no surprise to her, of course. What really startled her were the six little balls of fluff peeping loudly around his booted feet.
Dimitra drew closer to clarify what she just saw. "What's all this?" she asked, perplexed and amused at the same time.
Criss laughed nervously. "Say hello to your foster grandchildren, Mom," he said.
"I'll explain later." He looked down at the ducklings. "C'mon, guys, let's go home."
He turned and walked toward the production office. The ducklings followed en masse, waddling as fast as they could to keep up. Dimitra could not help but laugh at the sight. "How did this happen?" she asked JD.
"Criss found some duck eggs while we were setting up a demonstration by Lake Meade, see," JD explained, "and the mother duck had been shot by poachers, and so, out of the goodness of his heart, he took them in. They hatched at Serenity, and so, Criss being the first thing they saw, became their mother, so to speak."
Dimitra could only shake her head in disbelief. "Hmph! Well, isn't that interesting? Oh, well, considering what Christopher's done in the past, this should be the least of my worries."
Now, it was Mother's Day. Criss had arranged a small party in one of the banquet rooms at the Luxor, with immediate family and a few close friends in attendance. That, of course, included the ducklings, frolicking happily beside a larger plastic pool (they had outgrown the small blow-up model) complete with an artificial nest accessable by the molded slide covered with sand to allow for better traction. A heat lamp provided by the hotel kitchen provided warmth for the still vulnerable ducklings. They were still half-covered with down, but their necks had elongated and their bodies were becoming more streamlined. A tiny colored plastic band encircled the leg of each duckling for better identification and protection by state law.
Criss took the time to introduce his mother to his brood. "Okay, Mom," he said, "the one with the yellow band is Yolk-O--JD came up with that one--and the one with the white band is Omlette. They're both girls; the rest are guys. There's Ducky with the green band, Downy's is blue, Quackers is the orange one, and Ferdinand's red."
"Ferdinand?" Dimitra laughed.
"Costa came up with that one," Criss explained. "He got it from the movie Babe; there was a duck named Ferdinand in it."
"Oh." Dimitra grasped Criss' arm. "Well, I'm glad to see you taking such good care of them, Christopher."
"Well, I couldn't do it without Brenda's help."
As if on cue, Brenda came into the room with a paper sack and began scattering duck chow mixed with sand and grit into the pool. "Oh, hey, Brenda," Criss called out to her. "I'd like you to meet my mom."
Brenda stopped scattering feed into the pool and walked over to Criss and Dimitra. "Mom, this is Dr. Brenda Gilchrist," he said. "She's an orthinologist from Wildlife Rescue in Valgado; she's helping me raise the ducks. Brenda, this is my mom, Dimitra."
"Oh, how do you do," Brenda greeted her, shaking her hand.
"Hello, Doctor," Dimitra said. "I'm pleased to meet you." She looked at the paper bag. "What is it that you are doing?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm just spreading out some feed for the ducklings, that's all." Brenda explained. "I mix it with sand so they learn how to sift it out when they dabble for food."
"That's how ducks search for food. They take up a beakful of dirt and water and sift it through their nostrils to get at the food."
"What do they eat, anyway?" Dimitra asked.
"Oh, slugs, bugs, snails, things like that. The meal I give them is ground up maggots and beetles--"
Criss blanched. "Uh, Doc, please," he groaned, "not before dinner. I mean, it's bad enough I had to nose around in it."
Brenda nodded toward Criss. "Your son's got a weak stomach," she chuckled.
"You've never seen him do his so-called 'demonstrations', have you?" Dimitra retorted. "They tied mine up in knots!"
The banquet manager announced the small buffet was now open for service. There was a fine glazed baked ham (under the circumstances, Criss didn't think it right to serve poultry.), fluffy golden dinner rolls, steamed vegetables and potaotes au gratin. Everyone helped themselves to the food spread out before them. Quiet music coupled with the splashing of the ducklings in the nearby pool provided the soundtrack for the afternoon.
"So, Doctor," Dimitra said, "tell me all about your work with the little ducklings."
Brenda smiled. "Well, there's really not much to tell," she said modestly. "I've been working for Wildlife Rescue for at least three years now. Problem is, we're running out of funding; our grant proposal was turned down, and we're having difficulty getting donations. Criss here promised to help out if I helped out with the ducklings he found."
Dimitra smiled warmly at Criss, glowing with maternal pride. "I'm so glad you did, Christopher."
Criss merely shrugged. "Hey, what do I know about raising ducks?" he said. "I was going to turn the eggs over to a wildlife sanctuary, but they hatched when I got home."
"They probably wanted to escape the heat," JD spoke up. "He had the heater on full blast all the way back to Serenity--Costa and I were roasting alive in the back seat! When we got back home, first thing we did was hit the pool."
"Well, he did the right thing in keeping the eggs warm, at least," Brenda said. "I would have taken them back to Valgado, but we just don't have the facilities for them right now."
A furious peeping noise interrupted Brenda. Criss and Brenda looked down and saw Quackers and Ferdinand nipping and wrestling with each other in the pool. "Hey!" Criss snapped angrily. "You two break it up! You hear me? No fighting during dinner!"
The ducklings went at it for a while longer, then separated and dabbled for more duck chow. "They're just competing for food, Criss," Brenda said. "They'll be doing it a lot in the wild."
"Well, when they're here, they're gonna behave themselves," Criss insisted. "There's plenty of food down there, so there's no need to fight over it."
"Spoken like a true mom," JD said.
"Can it, JD," Criss grumbled.
On impulse, Costa tore off a piece of his dinner roll and tossed it into the pool. "No!" Brenda shrieked as she bolted out of her chair and scooped out the chunk of bread out of the water. "No breadcrumbs!" She tossed the soggy bread into the nearest wastebasket. "Don't ever, ever feed them bread!" she scolded.
"What's the deal?" Costa asked. "People in New York feed the ducks in Central Park bread every day."
"They're still ducklings," Brenda reminded him. "Their digestive systems can't handle breadcrumbs. They need a protein diet to stay healthy, and bread has too many carbs--it'll give them intestinal problems."
Costa held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, I won't give them any more bread. Happy now?"
Brenda sat down at the table, appeased for now. "Thank you," she breathed.
Criss suppressed a laugh. "My ducks are on Atkins," he joked.
When dinner was over, Dimitra was treated to a lovely floral layer cake with Happy Mother's Day, Mom written in perfect calligraphic icing script. There were more pictures, greeting cards and a gift of a shimmering black designer dress suit, complete with pearls. "Oh, this is much too nice to wear!" Dimitra protested as she held up the jacket. "Thank you all!"
A fanfare of duck calls startled everybody. Everyone turned to see none other than Doug Malloy and a few other members of his crew. In front of them was a serving cart with a sheet cake upon it. "Happy Mother's Day!" Doug shouted. "Heard you were having a party, so we dropped in!"
"Well, thank you," Criss said, bemused. "And, uh, by the way, we already got Mom a cake."
"This ain't for your mom," Doug said, "it's for you."
Criss was startled. "Me?"
Doug wheeled the cart forward. "Of course it is! We couldn't let your first Mother's Day go without a cake, now, could we?"
Criss looked down at the sheet cake and groaned. The top was frosted in blues and greens, simulating water, on which six gumpaste ducklings with colorful name tags floated. In the center was printed Happy Mother's Day, Criss! in big bold red letters. "I am so gonna kill you guys," he said.
"Personally, I think it's cute," Brenda said.
Doug pulled out a pastel envelope. "See, we even got you a card."
With a feeling of dread, Criss took the envelope and opened it. He pulled out the greeting card and looked at the cover of it: six yellow cartoon ducklings waving their wings at him underneath the message Hope Your Mother's Day...He opened the card to read the rest...is just ducky! it read.
Everyone, even Dimitra, was laughing at Criss' discomfort. He tossed the card aside. "Cute, guys," he said, "real cute."
10-30-2011, 03:45 AM
Forget killing think pink slip lol
10-31-2011, 07:08 PM
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > WE LOVE CRISS' DUCKLINGS!!
KrisLee: Criss was on E! News Tonight, and it showed six of the MOST ADORABLE little baby ducks you ever saw!! He found them by Lake Meade, and they hatched at Serenity, and now they follow him around like he's their mama just because he was the first thing they saw when they hatched! They are soooooooo cute, all fluffy and tiny like that! Makes me wanna hug them!
Curlye: I saw them too and they are so cute! Criss is so good to take car of them!
RoseRed13: What happened to the mother duck?
Veritas: I don't think it's a good idea to raise wild ducks in captivity like that. Why didn't he contact a wildlife reserve to take them off his hands?
PostGirl13: that is so funny those little duckys following Criss around like that!
Little ducks: *looks up at Criss* Mama?
Criss: Wha? I ain't your mama!
Little ducks: Mama! Mama, mama, mama!
JD: Told you, dude, not a good idea.
Greekgoddess: So now Criss is finally getting an idea on what its like to be a mommy! ROFL
Iluvcrisssomuch: Looks like Hammie's got himself six new siblings.
Veritas: ^^Hammie may want to snack on his new "siblings" if he had a chance.
KrisLee: He's not keeping them as pets--he says he's just going to raise them enough to send them back into the wild.
angelkiss23: Oh, so adorable and cuddly!
Rachel121967: and the ducks are kinda cute too!
"Oh, hey, Dave, what's up?"
"I just got a call from some energy company in Carson City. They want to do a commercial--"
"A commercial? Why would they want me to do a commercial?"
"Not you, the ducklings!"
"Yeah, they want 'em to do a spot showing how, quote unquote, environmentally aware they are."
"Well, I dunno, Dave..."
"Hey, it's good money--ten grand for two minutes' work. All they gotta do is cross a street."
"Cross a street? With cars and everything?"
"Don't worry, they won't let anything happen to your little family. You'll be with them, of course, since you're their 'mother' and all."
"Don't rub it in, Dave."
"Look, it's just an hour's work; one shot and that's it. And they get ten grand for it!"
"Lemme talk it over with Brenda, okay?"
"Sure. Just let me know by tomorrow morning, okay?"
"Sure, Dave. Talk to you later."
Criss hung up the phone. "A commercial?" he mused. "Geez, those ducks are more popular than I am!"
10-31-2011, 10:48 PM
11-02-2011, 05:18 PM
Brenda stared at Criss incredulously. "He wants them to do what?"
"He wants them to be in a commercial for some energy company," Criss explained again. "He says all they got to do is cross a street and that's it."
"Criss, you know we're trying to raise these ducklings so they can be returned to the wild," Brenda argued. "You just can't exploit them like this!"
"Hey, this wasn't my idea," Criss protested. "Dave called me this morning and told me we got an offer for them to do a commercial."
"And what did you tell him?"
"That I'd run it by you first."
"Well, I appreciate the fact that you did," Brenda said, "but what's your personal take on this?"
Criss ran his hand through his long black hair. "Personally, I don't see the harm in it," he replied. "I mean, all they do is cross a street. Besides, the money's good."
"How much are they paying?"
Brenda was aghast. "Ten thousand?!"
Criss nodded. "That's what they offered. I think it's a pretty good idea, myself, and we could use the money for your Wildlife Rescue reserve," he quickly added.
Brenda mulled it over in her mind. "All right," she said finally, "but on one condition--that I'm present during the shooting. As a member of the ASPCA, I have a duty to make sure those ducklings are treated humanely."
Criss extended his hand. "You got it, Doc," he said.
They shook on it, and the deal was made. "I'll call Dave and tell him we're good to go," Criss said, reaching for the phone, "and don't worry about a thing. I'll make sure nothing happens to our ducks."
Dave Baram handled the business end of the deal with smooth efficiency. It was setting up an available time to shoot the commercial that proved to be a stumbling block. Criss' schedule was filled to bursting with live shows, taping his series, personal appearances and interviews, leaving no time for him to be on the set.
Though the ducklings were accustomed to Dr. Gilchrist being present, they refused to budge from their carrier without Criss present. They huddled in a corner of the carrier; they refused to follow direction; they hid under the cars and refused to come out, and they peeped incessantly. Frustrated, the director told Brenda to get Criss Angel on the set pronto! or the deal was off.
Brenda called Dave. Dave called Criss. Criss called Brenda and told her he'd be right over ASAP. Within twenty minutes a sleek black Viper pulled up to the set. The director trotted up to him, relieved and grateful. "Criss! Thank God you showed up! Those ducklings of yours won't do anything, and I mean anything I tell them!"
"Where are they now?" Criss asked.
"They're under there," the director answered, pointing to a silvery Lexus. "They won't come out, not for nothing."
Criss strode over to the Lexus and squatted down. He saw the six ducklings near the muffler, huddled together in terror. "Hey, guys," he cooed to them. "It's okay, I'm here."
At the sight of their foster mother's face, the ducklings waddled out from under the car. The camera crew applauded; the director sighed with relief. "All right, now let's get this thing over with, shall we?" he growled. He turned to Criss. "Can you get them to cross the street over there?"
"Sure," Criss replied. "No problem."
"Okay, you and the ducks stand over there on the curb," the director ordered. "All right, places everybody!"
The drivers of the Lexus and two other late-model cars climbed into their assigned vehicles half a block away. An actor dressed in an EnerCon unform, safety vest and yellow hardhat took his place on the same side of the street as Criss and the ducklings, a couple of orange channeler cones under his arm. "Okay, roll 'em!" the director shouted. "Drivers!"
A cameraman signalled the drivers to move forward. "Jerry! Action!"
Jerry, the actor in the EnerCon uniform, trotted into the street, waving his arms frantically and setting down the channeler cones. The cars stopped immediatly. "Okay, Criss," the director shouted. "You're turn to move!"
Criss walked casually across the street. The ducklings automatically followed him. Behind them, Jerry was shooing them along, muttering, "Go, go, go!", hustling them safely to the other side of the street. "Aaaaaannnnd cut!" the director shouted. "Print that!"
Everybody burst into applause. Criss waved in response. "Hey, it was nothing, really," he said.
There were a couple more takes of the ducklings for closeups and different camera angles, then shooting wrapped up. "Good job, people!" the director cheered. "We got a winner here!"
Criss herded his brood back into the carrier. "Good job, guys," he said. "See? It wasn't that bad, now, was it?"
He carried the ducklings to the Viper. "I hope this will be the last time they appear in a commercial," he heard Brenda say to Dave. "I don't like the idea of exploiting these ducklings for profit."
"Look, Doc, this is Las Vegas," Dave argued. "Everybody and everything gets exploited for profit. Money's the name of the game here! Our little duckies are a big draw now. You just wait--they're gonna be more famous than Donald Duck at Disneyland!"
"Our little duckies?"
"Okay, okay, Criss' little duckies," Dave conceded. "But lemme tell you, people are falling head over heels in love with 'em! You know they even get their own fan mail? It's true! Everybody's nuts over 'em!"
"Mr. Baram," Brenda said patiently, "our goal is to raise these ducklings so they can be returned to the wild. Need I remind you that keeping migratory birds in captivity without a permit is illegal? We had to get special permission from the Department of Natural Resources just to raise them the way we are now, under the proviso that they be released when they're fully fledged. I consented to doing this commercial simply to raise money for Wildlife Rescue, though I still have mixed feelings about it--I still do, as a matter of fact. As for getting their own fan mail, well, I take it as a good sign that they're creating awareness to conserve wildlife. No, Mr. Baram, I'm not going to exploit these ducklings for profit, no matter what people say. Money may be the name of the game you're playing, but I play by a different set of rules."
Brenda turned and walked away. Criss walked toward Dave, carrier in hand. "She means well, Dave," he said. "At least the money's going to a good cause, right?"
"I'm a businessman, Criss," Dave said, "not a wildlife expert. The only 'green' I deal with comes from the US Treasury. Now, you'd better take your ducks home and get ready for your show. Me? I got work to do."
11-02-2011, 10:41 PM
Way to be surportive Dave
11-03-2011, 03:48 PM
Brenda's hopes of sparing the ducklings any more publicity were in vain. More offers for commercials and public service announcements came through to Dave Baram's desk. First was an ad for Downy fabric softener, then a cameo in a promotional video from the Nevada Tourist Board, followed by a PSA for the Department of Natural Resources. A producer from Animal Planet demanded exclusive rights to film a documentary about the Luxor ducklings, as the press dubbed them, even offering to outbid A&E, Criss' contracted station, to do it. Brenda insisted on turning them all down, save for the DNR spot which she said she would consider.
Meanwhile, the ducklings' fan mail kept on coming. There were more demands for pictures of them, with or without Criss (mostly the former); updates on their development; questions about their care and feeding; and who was that red-haired lady with the glasses? Criss' staff spent more time dealing with the duckling business than they did the show itself.
The online fanboards received post after post about the ducklings. Some sent photos downloaded from Google, YouTube, and other sites, while the more artistic types contributed original sketches and drawings, some with Criss in them. A lucky few who actually saw the ducklings downloaded blurry images from cameraphones. There were even a few fanfics about the six little ducks and how Criss Angel heroically saved them, only to be frustrated with their care (one story ended with Criss yearning for fatherhood and siring a child with his girlfriend; another had him founding his own wildlife preserve near Serenity so his ducks would always be by his side.).
Criss arrived at his office one day and found a large, flat package wrapped in duckling-print paper tied with a pretty yellow bow. To: Criss From: the Misfits Happy Mother's Day! the tag read. Sighing, Criss tore off the wrapping paper to see what his biking buddies had given him. It was Robert McCloskey's Caldecott award-winning book, Make Way For Ducklings. "Oh, you guys!" Criss groaned.
He opened the cover and saw it had been autographed by every member of the Misfits. I saw this and thought of you, wrote Sully Erna, lead singer of Godsmack.
Sully? Criss wondered. How the hell did he find out? Oh, yeah, the media. He set the book aside and sat down to work. I don't know how the hell I'm gonna live this down, he thought.
The next morning, Criss went to his secret warehouse to pick up props for the Lake Meade demonstration. As usual, he bought his ducklings along, this time in two carriers: the ducklings had outgrown the small cage by the end of the fourth week. He bought the small blow-up pool for them to swim in while he worked, along with a bag of duck chow to scatter on the bottom. "Don't hand-feed them," Dr. Gilchrist had instructed them. "They need to learn how to feed themselves in the wild. They'll never survive if they're too dependent upon humans."
Criss got out of his Jeep and carried the ducklings into the warehouse, the deflated blow-up pool and duck-chow bag tucked under his arm. He set the carriers down, took out the inflatable pool, unfolded it, inflated it with his own lung power, then fetched a hose from a nearby sink, hooked it up to the faucet, turned it on, and filled the pool with lukewarm water. Once filled, Criss took the bag of duck chow and scattered a handful into the water. He then opened the carriers and released his ducklings into the pool. "Have fun, guys," he said to them. "I got to go to work."
He turned and walked away from the pool. He had gone only a few yards down the main aisle when he encountered his cousin, George, his technician, Doug Malloy, his brothers, JD and Costa, Joaquin Ayela, and a few other members of his crew, all standing there laughing. A camcorder was focused squarely upon him. "What's the deal?" Criss asked.
George pointed to the floor. "Your little entourage there," he said, suppressing a laugh. "They've been following you all the way here."
Criss looked down and saw the ducklings huddled beside him. "Man," he sighed, "you guys just don't give up, do you?" He flicked his hands rapidly. "Shoo! Shoo! Go back to the pool!"
JD shook his head. "It's no good, Criss," he said. "They're gonna follow you no matter where you go."
"They want their mommy," Doug mockingly wailed.
More laughter. "Okay, guys," Criss said to the ducklings. "I'm gonna have to put you back in the carriers for now. Let's go."
He walked back down the main aisle. The ducklings followed him obediently, and the crew followed the ducklings, laughing all the way. The cameraman made sure the entire procession was fully documented on tape. Criss blushed furiously, cursing himself over his predicament. I should never have gotten involved, he kept repeating to himself, I should never have gotten involved in this.
He found the carriers and the pool right where he had left them. He knelt down, picked up each duckling and placed it in the carrier, naming them each as they went in. "Yolk-O...Omlette...Ducky...Downy...Ferdinand...and--hey, where's Quackers?"
The crew began to scour the area. "Quackers?" they called out. "Quackers, where are you?"
Criss grabbed a flashlight from a bracket on the wall and looked under the shelving units. "Quackers!" he shouted. "You in there?"
No sign. Doug jerked his thumb back down the main aisle. "He must've fallen behind somewhere," he said. "I'll go look."
Doug walked down the aisle, searching for the missing duckling. Criss began to grow anxious. "Where the hell could he be? He's never left the other ducklings--none of them did. They were, like, tight, you know? God, I hope nothing happened to him."
JD laid a hand on Criss' shoulder. "I'm sure he didn't go far, Criss," he assured him. "We'll find him."
"Hey, guys!" Doug shouted from down the aisle. "I found him!"
Criss dashed to where Doug was standing. "You found him? Where?"
Doug pointed down a large hole in the floor. "He fell down the drainpipe," he said. "I could hear him quacking, so I looked down, and there he was."
Criss shone his flashlight down the drainpipe. Quackers was floating in a small puddle of black water, quacking and flailing frantically. He flung away the flashlight, flopped down onto his stomach and stuck his arm into the pipe. It was a tight fit, but he strained with all his might to reach the trapped duckling. It was no use; Quackers was too far down to reach him. Criss withdrew his arm and sat up. "We gotta do something, guys!" he pleaded. "We can't just leave him down there! He'll die for sure!"
11-03-2011, 10:35 PM
oh poor quakers
11-06-2011, 12:31 AM
"Okay, okay, Criss, just calm down," JD said. "We'll get Quackers out, don't you worry about it!"
"How??" Criss demanded frantically.
JD grasped Criss by the shoulders. "Just get a grip," he said firmly. "Take a deep breath and relax. Get yourself under control before you get the situation under control. That's what Dad always taught us, remember?"
Criss drew a lungful of air, forcing himself to relax. "Okay," he panted, "I'm good." He looked around. "Anyone got any ideas?"
"Hey, you're a magician," George said. "Why don't you levitate him out?"
"Funny, George," Criss muttered through gritted teeth, "real funny."
Suddenly, Doug snapped his fingers. "Hey! I got an idea! Wait here!"
He dashed back up the main aisle. Criss squatted next to the drainpipe. "Hang in there, Quackers!" he shouted down the drainpipe. "We're coming to get you!"
Doug returned with the hose Criss had used to fill the duck pool. "Okay, everybody out of the way," he said. "George, you go over to the faucet and turn on the water, medium pressure--I don't want 'im to drown."
George did as he was told. Doug stuck the end of the hose down the drainpipe. "What the hell are you doing?" Criss demanded hysterically.
"It's okay, Criss," Doug placated him. "I've got it under control."
Water gushed from the hose down the drainpipe. Criss found the flashlight and shone its beam down the pipe to where Quackers was still struggling to get out. Slowly, gradually, the water level rose, lifting the trapped duckling with it. Soon, there was a gush of water spilling out onto the floor, and out popped Quackers, completely unharmed. Criss and the crew cheered and applauded the successful rescue while Quackers flopped and waddled about on the wet floor as he tried to regain his bearings.
Criss threw his arms around Doug, almost sobbing with relief. "Dude! I so totally owe you!"
Doug patted Criss on the back. "It's okay, Criss," he murmured. "Don't sweat it."
He turned to George. "You can cut the water now, George," he said, "before you flood the place."
George dashed back to turn off the faucet. Criss released Doug from his embrace. "But tell me," he said, "how did you know what to do in the first place?"
Doug laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Well, would you believe I saw it once on a Three Stooges short?" he explained. "Curley was working on a farm, and he saw something down a pipe, so he took a hose, filled it up, and out came this little duckling. When I saw Quackers down there, it just kinda clicked, you know?"
Criss shook his head in incredulity. "And to think people say the Three Stooges have no socially redeeming value!" he chuckled.
Joaquin stepped forward and handed Quackers to Criss. "Here's your little patito," he said, "safe and sound."
"Quackers!" Criss scooped the duckling and cuddled him close to his chest. "Thank God you're okay! I was so worried about you! We thought we were going to lose you, falling down that drain like that!" He turned to walk down the aisle. "C'mon, let's put you back in your carrier with your brothers and sisters."
"Uh, Criss?" George spoke up. "They're right there next to you."
Criss looked down and saw the other five ducklings huddled next to his foot. "They must've gotten out of the carrier when you went looking for Quackers," George said.
With a deep sigh of resignation, Criss set Quackers down to join the rest of the brood, then walked carefully back to the pool area. The ducklings trailed after him, quacking all the way, while the camera crew followed the ducklings with their lenses trained on their retreating backsides.
Criss secured the ducklings into the carriers, three to each, and secured the hatch. "It's okay, guys," he said. "I'll be back soon. Meanwhile, you just sit tight until I get back, okay?"
He positioned the carriers next to a radiator heater so the ducklings would keep warm from the circulating hot air. Once the ducklings had quieted down, he walked back up the main aisle to rejoin his crew. An intern was mopping up water from the floor with a rag mop and a bucket, while the puddle Doug had created slowly receded down the drain.
Criss stared at the hole in the floor. "Shouldn't that have a grating over it?" he wondered aloud, growing irritable by the minute. "I mean, why the hell was it open like that?"
He became agitated. "Didn't anyone realize how dangerous that is?" he fumed, almost yelling. "I damn near lost one of my ducks down there! Why the hell was that (bleeping) drain open in the first place? Huh?"
Again, JD grabbed Criss by the shoulders. "Criss, will you calm down--?"
Criss brushed his brother's arms away. "Leave me alone, will you? I'm fine, really I am. I just want to know why that drain was open, that's all."
"Well, you don't have to bite everybody's heads off."
"I'm not biting anyone's head's off!"
Suddenly, Criss realized he was shouting. "I'm sorry," he said in a ragged voice. "It's just that, well, when Quackers fell down that drain, I...well, I..."
JD drew his youngest brother to his side. "You were worried about him," he said. "You were worried because you loved him and didn't want him to come to any harm. You were willing to do anything to get him out of that drainpipe and bring him to safety, just like any concerned parent."
"I'm not his 'parent', JD," Criss protested. "A foster parent, maybe, but--"
"Christopher, I know you," JD said. "I know you better than anyone else in this room, save for Costa and George here. You've become attached to these little guys; you love them just like they were your own children. When Quackers fell down that pipe, you were all anxious and hysterical, pleading for anyone to rescue your child, just like any other parent would under the circumstances. No one wants to see their child in danger, not even you. Call it anything you want, but I say it's paternal instinct. I should know--I got a daughter of my own that I've worried about for almost eighteen years. If anything happened to Little Dimitra, I would be devastated."
He patted Criss on the back. "And now you know how Mom feels about your demonstrations," he added.
JD walked away. Criss stood there, stunned and bewildered over that last statement.
11-06-2011, 03:22 AM
WELCOME TO THE foster PARENT CLUB
11-06-2011, 09:13 PM
The fourth week passed. The ducklings were now in the juvenile stage of their development. They were no longer fluffy little balls of down, but skinny adolescents just developing their feathers. Their voices were still a cross between a squeak and a quack ("Hey! I think their voices are breaking!" Criss once quipped) but louder in volume. Their wings were still stubby armlike appendages, good only for flapping when startled. Though they still clung to Criss' side, the half-grown ducks were beginning to wander away from their foster mother and explore the world around them on their own for short periods of time, clumped together in a tight little group for safety and security.
These changes did not lessen their popularity, however; everywhere they went, cameras followed them, documenting every waddle and quack. They were especially appealing to children who were fascinated by seeing real live ducks in the hotel. The ducklings, by now accustomed to humans, would approach any child who squatted down to their level, curious but cautious. Whenever a child reached out to try to pet them, however, they would scurry away in fear, seeking refuge with their foster mother, Criss, who was always nearby. "It's not a good idea to touch them," Criss would explain patiently. "Since you're so big and they're so small, they think you're gonna try and hurt them somehow. It's okay to look, but not to touch."
The blow-up plastic kiddie pool was finally retired. Instead, the ducklings began using the fountain in the atrium and, later, the pool (Dr. Gilchrist stated that if the chlorine level was safe for humans, it was safe for ducks), to the delight of the guests and the consternation of the maintenance staff. The former enjoyed swimming with the ducklings, even taking underwater photos of their madly paddling webbed feet, or their heads when they upended themselves to search for food. The pool staff, however, were more concerned about duck droppings contaminating the water and creating a health hazard, despite Dr. Gilchrist's assurances that the pool's filtration system would take care of that.
Meanwhile, the housekeeping staff kept busy mopping up little puddles of duck droppings off the floors of the production office, the atrium and the lobby, the entrances and the sidewalk. The smell became so bad that every square foot of carpeting had to be steam-cleaned. By the end of the week, the ducklings' had worn out their welcome at the Luxor as far as the staff was concerned; on Friday morning, Criss received a memo from Luxor's president, Felix Rappaport, urging him to come to his office. Re: DUCKS was scrawled in the message section.
With a lump in his gut, Criss went to the president's office. He knew it wasn't going to be pleasant, but he resolved to put on a brave face. Felix was a good friend of his, so he was confident the situation would be handled amiably. Still, he could not shake the feeling of foreboding churning in his stomach.
Felix greeted Criss in his usual familiar manner and invited him into his spacious office. "Have a seat," he said, offering Criss a chair. "Coffee?"
"Uh, no thanks," Criss replied. "So, what's the deal?"
Felix's friendly smile dropped a couple of notches. "We got a notice from the Department of Health," he told Criss, "and they're not too keen on you allowing your ducks to wander around the hotel like this. They keep polluting the pool with their, you know, poop, and it's all the staff can do to clean up after them. They say they're creating a health hazard for our guests."
"Gee, I'm sorry, Felix," Criss apologized. "It's just that I can't leave them alone at home, you know? If I do, Hammie'll have them for breakfast. Besides, they're still too young to be on their own."
"I understand that, Criss," Felix conceded, "and those little duckies of yours are a big draw here at the Luxor. Any hotel would give anything for that kind of publicity, but I got the welfare of everybody in this hotel to consider." He sighed as he leaned back in his chair. "I'm afraid you and your friend, Dr. Gilchrist, are going to have to make other arrangements."
Criss sighed as well. "Okay," he said, "I'll talk to Brenda and see what we can come up with. Meantime, I'll try to raise them at home." And try to keep Hammie at bay, he added mentally.
Felix smiled. "Thanks, Criss."
"And thank you for being so patient during all this," Criss said, shaking Felix's hand. "I'm surprised you didn't blow your top about them when I first brought them here."
"Well, when you've been in the hospitality business as long as I have, you learn to take these things in stride," Felix said, shrugging. "Kinda reminds me of what my dad used to say: 'Always be like a duck--keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath.'"
Criss laughed at that. "That's funny," he said. "I gotta remember that."
A pat on the shoulder, a quick good-bye with a promise to take care of the duckling situation, and Criss was on his way back to the production office. Or, rather, producktion office, as some clown had scrawled on a piece of paper taped to the glass door. Scowling, Criss pulled down the crude sign and crumpled it in his fist. Ha, ha, funny, he grumbled inwardly. Everybody's a comedian.
He saw the ducklings paddling around in the large plastic pool by the window. A few children watched them through the observation window. He recalled Felix's words: those little duckies of yours are a big draw here at the Luxor; any hotel would give anything for that kind of publicity. It saddened him a little to think that he would disappoint his younger fans when he had to take the ducklings away from the hotel for good, but he had no choice in the matter--the health department decreed they had to go.
He tossed the paper into the nearest wastebasket and headed for his office, where a brown paper parcel waited for him on his desk. Probably another duck-related gift, he guessed as he casually tore off the wrapping.
It was another duck-related gift, but quite an extraordinary one: it was a finely carved wooden Mallard duck decoy, expertly hand painted in green, grey and black. Criss turned it over and over, admiring the workmanship. "Wow," he murmured, "this is nice. I wonder who sent it?"
He began to search the wrapping for the name of the donor. He found a small card inside that read Thought this might help--Tom.
Criss smiled. Tom, his assistant, was always looking out for him. He didn't know how a wooden decoy was going to help himm but he made a mental note to thank him all the same, and ask him where he got it in the first place.
A sharp knock startled him. He looked up and saw Lucas "Big Luke" Macaffey, the Luxor's chief of security, standing at the door. Criss's stomach tied itself into a knot at the sight of him. He knew from hard experience that whenever the hotel's top cop showed up, bad news was sure to follow. He also knew that it was bad policy to keep him waiting. "Come on in, Big Luke," he said, hiding his distress.
Big Luke stepped into the office. "Morning," he grunted by way of greeting, then he got down to business. "The boss tell you about your ducks?"
It was not so much a query as a veiled threat of the consequences yet to come. "Yeah, the boss told me about the ducks," Criss replied, refusing to be intimidated. "Dr. Gilchrist and I are gonna take care of it, I promise."
Macaffey seemed satisfied. "Good," he grunted.
He was about to turn around and leave when he spotted the decoy in Criss' hands. At the sight of the magnificent piece Macaffey's whole demeanor changed. The gruffness fell away, and his coarse face brightened like the sun. For the first time since Criss had been at the Luxor, he actually saw him smile. "Say!" he exclaimed. "That's a fine looking decoy you got there! Where'd you get it?"
"Can't say for sure," Criss replied. "I just found it on my desk a few minutes ago. My assistant gave it to me as a gift."
Macaffey took the decoy and examined it. "Hmph! Wood. You don't see many wooden decoys these days; the ones they got today are all made of resin." He handed it back to Criss. "Fine thing to put on your mantlepiece," he said. "Whoever made it sure knew his stuff. Damn good craftsmanship, I can tell you that."
Criss took the decoy and followed Macaffey to the main door. Outside, the children giggled and pointed at the ducklings frolicking in the water. Criss allowed them inside the office for a better view, knowing this would be the last time they would see them. The children circled the makeshift duck pond, still giggling and laughing. Macaffey quietly took his leave, deciding that now was not the best time to talk about the duck hunting trip he went on with his father up in Oregon twenty-five years ago.
11-07-2011, 02:56 AM
Good idea Macaffery
11-09-2011, 10:15 PM
"So that's the deal," Criss said to Brenda. "We can't keep bringing them here to the Luxor anymore because of the health laws. But if I leave them at home, Hammie's gonna kill them for sure. You got any suggestions?"
Brenda thought it over for a minute. "Well, they've already reached the halfway point in their development. In another month, they'll be ready to learn to fly--that's when they'll be fully fledged adults. They can find their own food and all, but in the meantime, they're still dependent upon you for protection. I think I have an idea on how we can solve the problem of where to raise them outside the hotel and your home, but I'll need your help."
"I'm going to need a few items from you to make the transition easier: the nest you made for them, a large photo of your face, shoes you've worn around them, and a recording of your voice."
Criss smiled. "No problem. So, where are you gonna take them?"
"The closest semi-natural body of water in Las Vegas," Brenda replied. "Baja Golf Course."
Criss smacked his forehead with the back of his hand. "Aw! Son of a (bleep)!" he exclaimed. "Why the hell didn't I think of that?"
"Well, I just thought of it myself yesterday," Brenda said. "I made a few phone calls, and they said they'd welcome the ducklings at their pond off the fifth hole. There aren't any ducks there, so there's no danger of them being attacked."
"Wait a minute, wait. Danger of being attacked by other ducks? I don't understand."
"Duck families are very close knit; orphaned baby ducks will be attacked as outsiders by other ducks. They don't exactly believe in adoption, you know."
Criss muttered something about La Cosa Nostra and shifted in his seat. "So, when do we make the big move."
"Tomorrow morning around eleven AM. Get all the things I need and the ducklings ready to go by then."
"They'll be ready, Doc," Criss promised. "No problem."
It was indeed no problem gathering the required materials and preparing the ducklings for transport. It was informing the public in general and the fans in particular that proved to be difficult. Though the majority understood the reason (or claimed they did), the disappointment was obvious. The Loyals especially were vocal in their disapproval of the forced move:
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > WE LOVE CRISS' DUCKLINGS!!
Moderator Nae: Just got word that Criss' ducklings are no longer allowed to be at the Luxor Hotel for health and safety reasons. The health department says they have to go, so we'll no longer be seeing Quackers, Ducky, Downy, Omlette, Yolk-O or Ferdinand around the Luxor.
Curlye: awwwwwww that blows
MzMystery: I'm gonna miss those little guys and Suggie will too. She loves the ittie duckies Criss has.
KrisLee: It's sad to see them go, but health laws are health laws. Besides, Criss says he was going to return them to the wild once they grew up. They had to go sometime.
Veritas: *sighs* It was fun while it lasted, but it's all for the best. Good-bye, duckies, we'll miss you.
Greekgoddess: Hey we got a pond out back of our house maybe they can stay there
RoseRed13: what the health dept says I WANT THE DUCKIES BACK!!!!
A huge crowd assembled in the lobby of the Luxor on Saturday morning with cameras, camcorders and cameraphones to take final photos of the Luxor ducklings. Parents held up their children, or jostled for a front row spot for a better view. There were tears, there was laughter, there was grief, there was cameraderie, all to bid farewell to the six little ducks Criss Angel had rescued a month ago.
The media, armed with more sophisticated equipment, took their positions along the red-carpeted pathway the ducklings would walk to the main entrance where a special transport van would take them to the Baja Golf Course. Every foot of the red carpet had the best visual coverage possible, lighted with five-hundred watt overhead lights that practically simulated sunlight. If not for the fact that it was eleven AM, the event would have been mistaken for the Acadamy Awards or the Grammys.
A loud trumpet fanfare echoed throughout the lobby. The crowd cheered, knowing this was the moment they had been waiting for. Criss appeared at the far end of the red carpet, holding up his hands in acknowledgement and to bid the crowd to be silent. "Thank you!" he shouted over the din. "Thank you very much!"
The cheering died down. Someone handed Criss a microphone. "Thank you," Criss repeated into the mike. "I just want to say I appreciate all of you coming out today to say good-bye to my little ducklings. As much as you enjoyed seeing them in the window and having them around the Luxor, I regret to say they have to move out because the health department says we can't keep them here."
There were some boos and razzes. "I know, I know," Criss went on. "I'm not too thrilled about it myself, but the law's the law. Anyway, they'll be moved to a more natural setting--if a golf course can be said to be natural. And now, I'd like to introduce the lady who helped me raise my little brood, so to speak. She's an orthinologist from Wildlife Rescue of Nevada who's dedicated her time to helping our little ducklings get ready for life in the wild. Please welcome Dr. Brenda Gilchrist."
Brenda stepped up to Criss' side to the sound of polite applause. Criss gave her the mike. Brenda murmured her thanks, nervous as she was about speaking in public. "I just want to say, uh, thank you for your support in making this, uh, this cause of ours public. We ask that you continue to help us rescue Nevada's wildlife, in the air, on land and in the water, so that future generations will be able to enjoy it as much as we do today. Thank you."
She handed the mike back to Criss, her face almost as red as her hair. "Let's give it up for Brenda!" Criss crowed. "And now, the moment you've all been waiting for!"
A foot-wide spotlight zeroed in on a small box draped with a red velour curtain like a theater stage. There was a drum roll, the curtain parted, and the first duckling waddled out. "Here they are!" Criss said. "Say hello to...Downy!"
Cameras flashed as Downy trotted toward Criss, who called out their names as each duckling emerged from the box. "Omlette!...Quackers!...Ducky!...Yolk-O!...aaaaannnnnd Ferdinand!"
The ducklings huddled around Criss' boot. Criss walked toward the main entrance, urging them on. Instinctively, the ducklings followed, waddling up the red carpet as fast as they could to keep up with him. People cheered and waved at them as they passed. "Good-bye, duckies!" they shouted. "We're going to miss you!"
A little girl, no more than three years old, squatted down on the carpet close to the ducklings. "Hi, ittie duckies!" she called out, reaching out to pet them. "Hi, ittie duckies!"
The ducklings ran away from the little girl, getting as close to Criss as possible. The child's face twisted into weeping. "I wanna see the duckies!" she wailed. "I wanna see the duckies!"
Her mother picked her up and held her close. "It's okay, sweetheart," she said, holding her daughter close. "We can go see the duckies in their new home."
Meanwhile, the ducklings had reached the main entryway. A ramp had been set up for them to climb up into the van. One by one, at Criss' urging, they waddled up the ramp and into the large cage inside. As the last duckling stepped into the cage, the door slammed shut behind them. Criss trotted to the side of the van and climbed into it, waving as he went. A couple of security guards waved the crowd back into the lobby as the van started its journey to Baja.
The media reporters wrapped up their broadcasts and began to disperse while the public milled around a while longer, chatting and comparing digital photos of Criss and his brood. The little girl plastered her face against the window and sobbed inconsolably as she watched the van carrying the ittie duckies drove away. Not even the promise of an ice cream cone could tear her away. "I want the duckies!" she kept repeating between sniffles. "I want the duckies!"
11-10-2011, 02:47 AM
awwww me miss duckies too :(
11-11-2011, 11:36 PM
Criss sat in the back of the van with his ducklings, all six safe inside the cage. It was mostly to keep them calm and quiet, but deep down he knew this would be the last time he would be with them; after they were released, Brenda would be in charge of their upbringing. In a way it was a relief, but Criss could not help but feel a tinge of sadness over losing his little brood. He had rescued them, raised them, taught them to swim and dabble for food, and used them to raise money for Wildlife Rescue of Nevada. They were now half-grown ducks, but they were still unable to fend for themselves. This must be what it's like to send your kids off to kindergarten, he thought. Or to college.
He tried to keep a brave face, speaking encouraging words to the ducklings, but mostly to convince himself that it was all for the best. "You're going to love your new home, guys," he said with false cheer. "You got a great big pond to swim in, fresh bugs to eat, and no one's gonna take a shot at you like they did your folks. Dr. Gilchrist is gonna take good care of you. And I promise to come visit you whenever I can, okay?"
He lowered himself to their level. "You guys be good now, and mind Dr. Gilchrist," he admonished them. "Quackers, you stay out of any drainpipes, you hear? I don't want to have to fish you out again like last time, okay? And that goes for the rest of you, understand? You gotta fend for yourselves in the wild. I won't be there to protect you like when you were babies. You're almost grown up ducks now, and you're gonna have to live out there on you own. I did the best I could to bring you up, but there comes a time when, you know..."
It was no good. His throat tightened, and the tears welled up in his eyes. "I won't forget you," he said, swallowing his sobs. "I swear to God, I'll never forget you, any of you."
The ducklings huddled together in the cage, dozing away the trip. Whether they heard Criss' heartfelt promises or not, they showed no sign of acknowledgement. Criss wiped his eyes and pulled himself together. He had to be strong, if only for appearance's sake. God forbid he should break down in public over a bunch of baby ducklings, even if they were his own.
The reception at the fifth hole of the Baja Golf Course wasn't as formal or as spectacular as the departure from the Luxor, but it was no less well attended. The media were there ahead of the van's arrival, of course, as well as fans, friends, a few members of Criss' crew, including his cousin, George, and some golfers who suspended their game to see what the fuss was all about.
"What the hell's going on here?" one old duffer demanded. "The US Open or something?"
The van rolled through the main gateway and up to the clubhouse. A parking valet trotted up to the driver's side but was waved off; his services were needed around the back, they told him. Meanwhile, Criss got out of the van and opened the rear door. With the help of the valet he removed the cage from the van and carried it to a waiting maintenance cart parked nearby. They loaded the cage onto the rear bed of the cart and closed the tailgate, making sure it was secure (God forbid it should fall out on the way to the pond), then Criss and Dr. Gilchrist climbed into the two rear seats. A groundskeeper drove the cart to the fifth hole, escorted by a bevy of golf carts carrying photographers and cameramen.
Cheers broke out when the cart convoy arrived at the fifth hole. "Here we are!" Criss shouted as he climbed out of the cart. "We're here to free the duckies!"
George trotted over to the cart with a large board to use as a ramp. He wedged the board just under the cage on the cart and opened the door. "C'mon, guys," he said. "Out. Out of the truck."
The ducklings refused to budge. Criss nudged his cousin aside and tapped the board. "It's okay, guys," he said encouragingly. "Come on out."
One by one the ducklings waddled out of the cage, down the ramp and onto the grass. "Duck," George said, pointing to each little duck disembarking from the cart. "Duck...duck, duck...duck...duck...duck..." When the last little duckling landed on terra firma, George straightened, pointed at Criss and said, "Goose!"
Criss sneered at George's little joke and headed for the pond. The six little ducklings followed him, stumbling through the grass as they tried to keep up with his pace. Halfway there, Brenda stopped him. "I need your boots," she said. She held up a large yellow mailing envelope. "I got the rest of the stuff I need right here."
The heavy combat boots came off without protest. Brenda set them down on the grass and slid them on. She then pulled out an eight-by-ten glossy photo of Criss' face and held it up to her own face like a mask. Then she pulled out a metal duck caller and blew into it. Immediately the ducklings followed the sound of the quacking and the sight of Criss' face. Brenda clumped toward the pond, leading the ducklings to the water. They slid easily into the pond, making themselves at home within the space of a minute. Brenda waded into the pond, still hiding her face behind the photo and blowing the duck caller, keeping them distracted enough for Criss to take his leave.
Quietly, Criss returned to the groundskeeper cart. His cousin, George, accompanied him, if only to keep some nosy reporter from trying to cop a quick interview by commandeering the passenger seat. George could not help but notice the look of sorrow on Criss' face. "You okay?" he asked.
Criss looked up. "Hm? Oh, oh, yeah, I'm fine, really," he mumbled.
"You seem kinda depressed."
"No, really, I'm okay," Criss insisted.
The cart pulled away from the fifth hole. "You miss your little duckies, don't you?" George pressed.
"Well, yeah, kinda, sorta."
"Seems to me you're going through a case of empty nest syndrome."
Criss looked at George. "Is that supposed to be a joke?"
George wrapped his arm around his cousin's shoulder. "No, not really. Moms go through it all the time: devoting their lives to raising their kids, and then when they leave, they don't know what to do with themselves. But they're ducks, not kids. Yeah, I know it's tough at first, but you had to let 'em go sometime, y'know? They weren't meant to be kept as pets. It's against the law--you said so yourself. Like they say, if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, you can keep it. If not, it was never meant to be yours."
"I get it, I get it," Criss said impatiently. "Thank you, Dr. Phil."
"All I'm saying is--"
"I know what you're trying to say, George. You're telling me to put this all behind me and get on with my life. Well, that's what I fully intend to do. I mean, I got my career to think about; my plate's full enough as it is without a bunch of ducks under my feet. Besides, Brenda's gonna take good care of them; I trust her for that. I'm happy for that."
"So, why the long face?" George pressed.
Criss thought long and hard about how to respond to that, but ended up blurting out the truth. "You ever become so emotionally attached to anything that it hurts to part with it? It's like when Dad died: a part of you just gets ripped out of your soul and all there's left is a gaping hole that you think will never be filled in. True, losing the ducklings isn't like losing a loved one, but you get the picture, don't you?"
George nodded, fully understanding what he had just said. "Sure, Criss, I get it," he said sympathetically. "We all experience a sense of loss in our lifetimes, whether it's a death in the family or the loss of a family pet." He hugged Criss' shoulder. "You'll get over it, I know you will. Just keep busy--that always helps."
The cart stopped by the clubhouse. Criss and George climbed out of the cart and into the van, brushing away all the reporters and cameramen. Criss didn't feel like staging a press conference at the moment; he just wanted to return to the Luxor and his career. Brenda was in charge of the ducklings now. He had kept his promise to her and to the ducklings to provide them with a new home, free from poachers and predators. There was no need for him to be there anymore.
(to be continued).
11-11-2011, 11:39 PM
When Criss and George returned to the Luxor, the former discovered that he wasn't alone in his grief over losing the ducklings.
There, peering tearfully through the observation window where the duck pool had once been, stood a little girl of about three years of age. A young woman, presumably her mother, stood beside her, trying to comfort her. The disconsolate look on her chubby little face told Criss everything.
Pitying the poor child, Criss walked up to her and squatted down beside her. "Hey, sweetie," he said softly, "what's the matter? What's wrong?"
The little girl turned her tear-streaked face to him. "I miss the duckies," she whimpered.
"You miss the duckies?" Criss echoed.
"She's been this way ever since this morning," the woman explained. "She really loves those duckies."
He took the child into his arms and cuddled her. "Aw, don't cry, honey," he cooed. "It's okay."
The little girl sniffled loudly. "Why'd they take the duckies away?"
Criss knelt on the floor and took her onto his lap. "Well, you see, uh, what's your name?"
"Kara." Criss smiled. "That's a pretty name. Well, you see, Kara, the people from the health department said that we're not allowed to keep the duckies here at the hotel."
"Why not?" Kara asked.
"Well, you see, they didn't like them going to the bathroom all over the floor, or in the pool, or in that fountain over there. They said their poop would make everybody sick. You don't want to get sick, do you?"
Kara shook her head. "So, we had to take the duckies somewhere where they won't go pooping all over the place," Criss continued. "We found them a nice home with a great big pond where they can swim and eat bugs and all the stuff that duckies like to eat. That way, they'll be happy, and everybody at the hotel won't get sick from the duck poop. Understand?"
"I think so," Kara replied, "but I wanna see the duckies again."
"Well, if you ask your mommy and daddy, they can take you to see them at their new home."
"Will they come back to visit?" Kara asked hopefully.
Criss laughed a little at that. "No, honey," he replied, but you can go visit them."
Kara looked longingly through the observation window. "I miss the duckies," she moaned.
An idea suddenly popped into Criss' head. He lifted Kara off his lap and stood up. "Wait right here," he told her.
Kara watched as he went into the production office. He disappeared into the back for a moment, then emerged again, carrying something large and flat. He came out of the office and presented her with the Make Way For Ducklings storybook. "Here you go," he said, giving her the book.
The little girl took the book with wide-eyed wonder. "Duckies!" she cried enthusiastically.
"Duckies!" Criss echoed with mock enthusiasm.
"What do you say, Kara?" her mother prompted.
"Thank you," Kara said dutifully. It came out dank you.
"You're welcome," Criss said.
Kara and her mother left with the book. George, who had been quietly leaning against a wall during that tender scene, looked at Criss. "Seems everyone misses the little duckies, don't it?" he said.
"Yeah," Criss replied. "I guess they do."
"Wasn't that the book Sully gave you?" he asked casually.
"Well, yeah, it was," Criss admitted. "But, hey, it cheered her up, right?"
George shrugged. "I suppose so. Gotta admit, you handled it pretty well, considering. Especially the part about the health department. I'm surprised Felix didn't throw them out sooner because of all the messes they made on the carpeting."
"Well, those ducklings were a pretty big draw while they were here, duck poop or no duck poop," Criss said. "They were good publicity for a while, what with all the people crowding around the window there, taking pictures and stuff like that. He would have kept them here indefinately if it wasn't for the health department."
George nodded a little. "Yeah, I guess."
"Well, they're gone now," Criss said with a sigh. "Now we need to get on with our lives."
The two cousins went into the production office. Though the furniture had long since been moved back into place, the receiving area seemed bare without the plastic pool centered by the observation window. Criss gave it a brief but longing glance, then retired to his private office. Outside, a member of the housekeeping staff had stopped to wipe away the smudges Kara had made on the windowpane.
(stay tuned, there's more to come)
11-11-2011, 11:59 PM
me miss ducks :(
11-12-2011, 11:57 PM
The ducklings were out of the Luxor, but the duck jokes kept on coming. On the morning of the fifth week, as he sat in his home office at Serenity, Criss opened his personal e-mail inbox to find cartoons of himself and the ducklings: one caricatured him as a mother duck, complete with long black hair, heavy pendants, and shades, leading six ducklings in tandem. Another drew him walking with the ducklings while they called out "Mama! Mama! Mama!" behind him. Another cartoon, this one from the op-ed pages of the Las Vegas Sun, showed the half-grown ducklings paddling around the pond on the fifth hole (the flag with the numeral 5 prominant in the background), dodging flying golf balls. The caption below was quoting one of them, saying, "God, I miss the Luxor!"
Criss could not help but chuckle at the cartoons he saw on the monitor; some were embarrassing to be sure, but they were actually quite funny. He moved them into a specially created folder and filed them away in his computer files. It surprised him that six baby ducks would have such an impact on his life and career. In fact, they had practically upstaged him in popularity; more people came to see them than they did him. He couldn't blame them: they were babies, they were tiny, they were cute, and they had been discovered by a major celebrity. Within a month after birth (hatching, rather) they had already made their debut on national television. They had received their own fan mail from all over the country, if not the world. Nearly a hundred videos about them had been downloaded onto YouTube and other sites. They even had their own thread on the Loyal fanboards. Yolk-O, Quackers, Downy, Ducky, Omlette and Ferdinand had become official members of the MindFreak family.
Now they were gone, living at Baja, learning the skills they would need to survive in the wild. They were in the adolescent phase of their development, Brenda had told him. They were no longer cute, fluffy little babies but half-grown teenagers, gangly with newly sprouting feathers. In another three weeks or so, they would be ready to learn how to fly. The minute they took to the air, they would be full fledged adults, ready to seek out mates and raise young of their own (Criss cringed at the thought of being called "grandma" to a new generation of ducklings by his friends and family), flying south for the winter, then coming back in the spring to begin the process all over again. Circle of life and all that.
Would they remember him? Ducks had only a certain amount of intelligence, granted, but they still remembered things, didn't they? Would they remember the tall, dark-haired human whose face they saw above their nest and thought of as their mother? Probably not, Criss thought sadly. They would grow up, become independent, and concentrate on raising their own families. No memory of their foster mother would remain in their conscious beings, if they had one. Perhaps it was all for the best, he rationalized. They were ducks. He was a human and they were ducks. They had their lives and he had his, and never the twain shall meet.
No, he thought, that last statement was wrong. Those ducklings had become a part of his life whether he admitted it or not. They had changed him in ways that he himself was not sure of yet. Perhaps in time he would discover those ways, but at the moment the answer lay shrouded in mystery...
A woman's laughter shook him out of his reverie. Criss got up from his desk and strode out of the office, curious as to see what was so amusing. A man's laughter came next, followed by a high soprano giggle that he recognized as Eliza's. He trotted down the wide, circular staircase to the patio. "Okay, what's the deal here?" he wanted to know.
Quite the little crowd stood by the large pool in the back of the mansion, all laughing and pointing at the water's surface. There was his mother and brothers, shaking with laughter while Costa snapped pictures with his digital camera; his staff, pointing toward the pool; and, surprisingly, his friends and fellow Misfits, Sully Erna from Godsmack, Doug Malloy, and the Amazing Johnathan. "Surprise!" AJ cried out.
Criss pushed his way forward and stared at the pool. The scene was funny, all right: it seemed that overnight the pool had been taken over by dozens of little yellow rubber ducks, all cheerfully bobbing around in the water. "Oh, my Gahhhhhhdd!" Criss groaned.
The laughter grew louder at the sight of the anguished expression on Criss' face. "Rubber duckeee, you're the onnnne," everybody sang. "You make bath time lots of fuuuunnn!"
Criss waved his arms to silence them. "Okay, okay, okay! Whose bright idea was this?" he demanded. "Sully? AJ? Anybody?"
AJ raised his hand. "Guilty as charged," he admitted, still laughing. "We heard about your little duck thing, so..."
"First of all, I don't have a 'little duck thing'," Criss said. "And second of all, where the hell did you get all these rubber ducks?"
"It wasn't easy," AJ replied.
"Okay, okay," Criss said, raising his hands in resignation. "I can take a joke as well as anyone. Fun's over. Now, let's get these things out of the pool, okay? I got taping to do today."
"Why?" Sully protested. "They look cute in there."
Realizing he wasn't going to get any co-operation, Criss took a long handled pool skimmer and began sweeping out the rubber ducks. AJ picked on up and began squeezing it over and over again, creating an annoying squeak. Irritated, Criss snatched the toy out of AJ's hand and flung it into the pool. "Will you cut that out?" he snapped.
Not to be outdone, AJ shoved Criss into the pool. The remaining duck toys bobbed crazily among the waves. Criss emerged, sputtering. "You are so dead, AJ," he threatened. "You are so (bleeping) dead."
Laughing, AJ extended his hand to help him out. Criss crossed the pool and took it, but instead of allowing himself to be pulled out of the water, he yanked AJ into it. Johnathan tumbled into the pool with a huge splash, sending rubber ducks washing up to the sides. AJ rose to the surface, coughing and spitting out chlorinated water. "I'm gonna get you, Criss!" he bellowed. "I'm gonna kick your ass!"
The two men began to wrestle in the water. They cursed and pelted each other with rubber ducks. From that moment it became a free-for-all: family and male member of the crew jumped into the pool to join in the fray. Arms, legs and yellow ducks flew everywhere. Mother Dimitra could only stand by and watch, shaking her head in amusement and disbelief. "Boys will be boys," she sighed as she retreated back into the mansion with the rest of the women present. Having raised three sons of her own, she knew from experience that they would tire of their game soon and all would be normal again; they just had to wait it out, she told the others. Until then, she would bide her time in the living room with her needlework. "Have patience," she told the younger women, "and plenty of towels ready, too. They'll need them."
Dimitra settled down to her needlework, ignoring the tomfoolery by the pool. Outside, Criss, his crew and the Misfits pelted each other with rubber ducks as they splashed and cursed each other to exhaustion.
11-13-2011, 08:57 PM
The sixth week had passed before Criss had the opportunity to visit his little brood at Baja. As he drove to the golf course, he kept wondering how much the ducklings had grown since he had left them in Brenda's care. Would they recognize him when they saw him? Would they still follow him around as they always had since the day they hatched, or would they be more independent? Brenda had told him that they were in the adolescent stage of life; in two weeks they would be ready to learn how to fly, graduating into full-fledged adults. In the meantime, however, they were the equivalent of teenagers.
The image of teenage ducks made him laugh. I can see them now: wearing low-rider shorts, caps on backwards, iPods stuck in their ears listening to Eminem or whatever. Texting their friends, tweeting other ducks, going on Facebook, downloading tunes--God, that's hilarious!
He began recalling his own teen years back in Long Island: muddling through high school, trying to score with girls, hanging out with his friends, jamming to heavy-metal bands like Motley Crue, all the while honing his magic skills and putting a band together. He had yearned for independence like any other normal adolescent, but he had been still dependent upon his parents for support until he turned eighteen. He remembered the day he got his driver's license at sixteen. He had felt a sense of liberation then, as if set free from parental restrictions--he was ready to spread his wings and fly! Only when his father laid down the rules for using the family car did he come crashing down to earth.
Maybe that was what his ducklings were going through right now, he thought. They were growing, developing into adults, but they were still children needing guidance. They wanted to spread their wings and fly, but they were still too young to do so; they still depended upon their mother for support, just as he had depended upon his own mother, Dimitra. In a way, he still depended upon her for support, if only in spirit. Without her encouragement, he felt lost, abandoned, unable to go on doing the things he had been doing for the past ten years or so--even if those things almost gave her a heart attack at times.
As he turned up the drive to the golf course, Criss' thoughts went back to the ducklings. What kind of a foster parent had he been to his six little charges? he wondered. Would they be able to adjust to the wild as he and Brenda intended? Or would they be psychologically handicapped from too much human contact? He admitted to himself that he hadn't been the greatest dad in the world, or the greatest mom in this case, but he had tried to do his best. Brenda Gilchrist was better qualified than he was to bring up those ducklings--maybe he should have just handed them over to her in the first place.
He drove up to the parking valet kiosk and handed the attendant the keys. He rented a golf cart and drove it down the paved pathway to the fifth hole. He could see Brenda by the pond, her face hidden behind the photograph he had given her. The ducklings--no, they were nearly grown now, well past the duckling stage--were waddling around the greenery, pecking around in the grass and nibbling whatever they found there. He also spotted a woman who looked somewhat familiar to him. He couldn't recall her until he saw her little girl come trotting up to her side. He recognized them as Kara, the little girl at the Luxor to whom he had given the storybook, and her mother. Kara was throwing tiny handfuls of feed down onto the ground and giggling as she watched the ducks gobble it up. So, she finally got to see the duckies after all, Criss thought.
"It's time to go home, now, Kara," he heard Mommy say. "Say bye-bye to the duckies."
Kara waved a chubby hand in farewell. "Bye-bye, duckies!" she called out. "Bye-bye!"
Criss waited until Kara and her mother had left the green. Slowly, he drove the cart toward the pond, keeping an eye out for stray ducks. Brenda spotted him but remained where she was standing. He got out of the cart. "Hey, Brenda," he called out. "How's it going?"
Immediately the six half-grown ducks fell into line and headed for Criss, who squatted down to greet them. "Hey, guys," he said, smiling. "How ya doin', huh? Brenda taking good care of you? Huh?"
The ducks still looked alike, though the feathers of the two females, Yolk-O and Omlette, were more developed; Criss could see traces of blue on their wings among the brown and white plumage. Only the colored bands they wore on their legs distinguished one from the other. "They seem to be doing okay," he commented, "but I thought Mallards had green heads and black and grey feathers. These guys are all brown."
"Only the drakes have those features," Brenda explained, "but they won't be showing that for a few more weeks. The hens are brown, black and white for camoflage."
Criss nodded in understanding. "Shows what I know about ducks." He rose and faced Brenda. "So, how've you been? Doing okay?"
"Oh, everything's fine, really," Brenda replied. "The ducks are progressing nicely in their development. I predict they'll be flying within a couple of weeks at the earliest. Oh, by the way, I'm going to need your help with that."
Criss was startled. "Me?"
"You want me to teach them how to fly?"
"Well, as their foster mother, so to speak, you're the one who has to teach them."
"How the hell am I going to do that?" Criss asked helplessly. "Flap my arms and jump off a cliff or something?"
Brenda laughed. "No, it's nothing like that," she said.
"Then what do I have to do?"
"Just come here in a couple of weeks, and I'll have everything ready for you. By the way, do you have any insurance?"
"Good. You may need it."
"For flying, what else?"
"And how, may I ask, am I going to do that?"
"I got all the equipment you need, Criss," Brenda told him. "Leave everything to me. I know what I'm doing."
"Well, that's good," Criss retorted, "because I sure as hell don't!"
11-14-2011, 06:44 PM
Criss stared at the computer monitor while Manny, the editor, screened the "rushes", or the initial takes of scenes for the latest episode of MindFreak. The Lake Meade demonstration had not yet been taped, a fact that had Criss on edge: he had to get it out of the way and on tape before the deadline for airing on television. Caring for the ducklings had taken up too much production time. Now that they were at Baja, he had time now, but very little time remained; he was under the gun to get the episode taped and ready for broadcasting.
"Okay, that's your fountain illusion," Manny said, pointing to the screen. "You like that angle, or the other one?"
"That first one's good," Criss said. "Save that."
Manny saved the scene and moved on to the next one. "Here's one with your ducklings," he said. "You got a ton of footage of those little buggers,you know that? I'd say you got enough for an entire episode in itself."
Criss liked the idea immediately. "Yeah, let's go for that!" he said eagerly. "It'll save time taping the next episode, and we can tape my teaching them how to fly as a finale!"
"How are you going to do that?" Manny asked.
"I don't know yet," Criss replied, "but I know Brenda's got something planned. After all, she's the duck expert."
"So, what are you going to call it?" Manny asked.
"The duckling episode. We got to give it a title."
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe 'Make Way for Ducklings' or something like that."
"That might be a copyright infringement," Manny pointed out. "I was thinking more in line of 'Criss' Peeps'."
Criss laughed out loud. "Oh, God! That's perfect! Manny, you're a genius!"
"So, when are you going to teach 'em how to fly, anyway?"
"Brenda's shooting for Memorial Day," Criss replied. "Depends on when the ducks are ready."
"Well, they got two weeks to get ready," Manny said. "So do you, for that matter, so I suggest taking some flying lessons or something."
"I got to find out what Brenda's got in mind, first," Criss said. "I mean, I can levitate, but I can't actually fly."
"Well, you'd better find out soon if you don't want to crash and burn."
"I'm not going to crash and burn, Manny. I'll be fine, really. Nothing's going to happen, I promise you."
"Famous last words." Manny mumbled under his breath.
"You say something?"
"No, nothing, nothing at all."
The two weeks went by practically unnoticed. Criss remained busy with his live shows and taping his series. The highlight was the Lake Meade demonstration, an homage to Houdini's underwater trunk escape. Shackled and sealed in a burlap sack, Criss was locked into a large steamer trunk similar to the Master of Escape's and lowered into the lake by a large crane. Cameras focused on the single spot where it had submerged, turning away only for brief pans of the anxious faces of friends, family and fans crowding the shoreline. After the longest five minutes in recorded history, Criss emerged triumphant, free from all constraints.
Cheers broke out among the crowd. JD and Costa embraced each other, relieved that they once again did not have to bear the bad news to their mother (who was mercifully absent from the scene) that her youngest son had gone to an early grave. Their relief did not mitigate the overwhelming urge to strangle him, however. God only knew how many times they had stood by while they watched their brother, Christopher, attempt stunt after dangerous stunt, their guts tied in knots with anxiety, worrying that he would finally meet his doom, breathing again only when they saw him emerge unscathed. What would it take to stop this madness? they would always wonder.
Criss stumbled to the shore, dripping wet and smiling. His assistant, Tom, handed him a large, fluffy towel to dry off. The cameramen taped the customary spectator comments for the end credits of the episode, then began to pack up their equipment. Costa and JD hustled Criss into the RV dressing trailer to rest. "I just thank God Mom wasn't here to see this," JD grumbled. "God knows what you got planned for the next one."
"You'll be happy to know that the next episode is going to be all about the ducklings," Criss announced. "We got so much footage, we can do a whole show about them."
JD heaved a hugh sigh of relief. "Good!" he exclaimed. "That would be a welcome change of pace."
"Speaking of the ducklings," Costa began, "I've been meaning to speak to you about them, and you."
"What about 'em?"
"Well, I got a lot of photos of you and your little brood. I was thinking of putting together an album in book form, publish it maybe. You wouldn't mind, would you?"
Criss could think of nothing objectionable about Costa's project. In fact, he liked the idea very much. "I don't see why not. Sounds like a good idea, actually. I think you should go for it."
Costa smiled. "Thanks."
"I want to see it before it goes to press, though," Criss insisted. "I don't want it to be too embarrassing, know what I mean?"
"Just hold off on it until they learn how to fly, that's all."
Costa agreed. "When will that be?"
"Brenda's shooting for Memorial Day at the latest," Criss replied. "Depends on whether they're ready to go or not."
"So, how's she gonna teach them to fly, anyway?"
"Not her, me."
Costa was taken aback. "You?"
"Hey, I'm their mom, remember? I'm the one who's gotta teach them to fly, not Brenda. They follow me, no matter what."
"And how in God's name are you going to do that?" JD demanded.
Criss waffled a bit. "Well, I got to see what Brenda's got planned. She's the expert after all."
"Well, okay," JD said with a sense of foreboding. "I just hope it doesn't involve risking life and limb like you usually do."
"Don't worry, guys," Criss said assuringly. "I'm sure Brenda's got it all planned out. She wouldn't let me get hurt in any way--she's a naturalist. She wouldn't allow anything to happen to me."
"God, I hope so," JD murmured. "The last thing I want is for you to break your neck jumping off a cliff or something."
"I'm not going to jump off a cliff, JD," Criss protested. "I'll be at Baja, remember? There aren't any cliffs there."
"Just be careful, Christopher," JD pleaded. "Don't do anything stupid, okay?"
"Hey, you know me!"
"That's what I'm talking about!"
"I'll be fine, I promise! Nothing's going to happen to me!"
Famous last words, JD said to himself.
11-15-2011, 04:49 AM
11-15-2011, 04:50 AM
need insurance-call Alfac :D
Couldn't resist the pun
11-15-2011, 01:49 PM
As is the case with so many celebrities, hardly anything can be kept a secret from the public; press leaks are a constant hazard in the entertainment world. Two days after the taping of the Lake Meade demonstration, word got out that Criss Angel was going to teach his ducklings how to fly on Memorial Day at the Baja Golf Course. Who leaked the information remained a mystery, but it put the club's directors on high alert. They couldn't bar their own members from playing on one of their most profitable weekends, of course, but they needed to limit the number of people that were certain to show up to see the Luxor ducks make their maiden flight. In the end, the powers-that-be decreed that only MindFreak crewmembers and those with specially issued passes would be allowed on the fifth green on what they termed Flight Day.
When the board's order was made public, thousands of Loyals voiced their disappointment and outrage. Baja's receptionists had to deal with hundreds of phone calls from desperate fans pleading for access to the club on Flight Day. No matter how gently they tried to let them down, the operators were forced to endure whiny pleas, offers of bribes, hissy fits, petulant cries of "It's not fair!". Even outright threats failed to gain access, forcing instead a tightening of security around the course's perimeter for the duration of the entire holiday weekend.
Three days before Flight Day, Criss went to Baja to visit his ducks. Before he left, Brenda handed Criss a plain white envelope and told him to study it carefully. "It's how you're going to teach them how to fly," she said.
Criss thanked her and returned to his Lambo. He left the envelope untouched until he returned to Serenity, his private estate. He changed into his pajamas, opened a bottle of fruit juice, and flopped into bed. Hammie, his cat, curled up beside him. He stroked Hammie with one hand while he opened the envelope with the other. He took out the single sheet of paper and read what Brenda had written upon it. As he studied the diagram and read the instructions that went with them, a smile crept across his face. "Oh, this is gonna be so cool," he murmured with anticipation.
Flight Day had arrived. The temperature hovered in the mid-eighties under a clear blue sky. A slight desert breeze wafted through the trees, stirring the flag marking the fifth hole. Perfect flying weather, everyone seemed to agree.
Banned from the course but still determined to see their idol and his brood of ducks, stalwart fans gathered as close to the site as security would allow by congregating by the fence. They bought field glasses and cameras with magnifying lenses for close-up shots. They hoisted paperboard signs protesting their love for Criss and his ducklings: GO DUCKS! CA RULES! WE LUV THE DUCKIES! LUV U CRISS! GOOD LUCK DUCKS YOU FLY ON ANGELS WINGS!! Local police patrolled the entire length of the fence on the lookout for troublemakers, but there were no incidents since everyone was focused on the fifth green's pond where the ducks swam peacefully.
The ducks had grown to adult size, fully feathered and ready for flight (the distinguishing characteristics on the males--the dark green on the neck and head, the black and grey breast--would not appear for another few months). They glided gracefully over the surface of the pond, plunging head first to dabble for breakfast, oblivious to the frantic activity of the humans around them.
On shore, video cameras were set up at strategic points to catch the momentous occasion at every conceivable angle; sound technicians tested their audio equipment and adjusted the volume where needed; a small pavilion shaded by a white canopy usually reserved for tournaments and weddings sat off to the side, under which two rows of linen-covered chairs sat just close enough for viewing. This was the VIP area, reserved for the special guests invited by Criss himself: his family, a few friends, his manager, the Luxor's president, Felix Rappaport, and the golf course's board of directors who had been so gracious as to allow the ducklings to reside on the fifth green after having been evicted from the Luxor Hotel by order of the health department.
The centerpiece for the occasion sat in the very center on the green: a large motorized contraption that looked like a cross between a hang glider and a go-cart. It had a single bucket seat that seemed to have been salvaged from an old muscle car and welded onto the metal frame. Behind it was a large propeller powered by what looked like a motorcycle engine. Over all were the glider wings, a large canvas kite stretching ninety feet from tip to tip. Brenda had borrowed it from a friend and fellow employee at Wildlife Rescue, and she was now going over it with a fine-toothed comb: adjusting the tension on the glider straps, testing the throttle and the brakes, making sure the tires were properly inflated, filling the two-gallon fuel tank. Then she turned on the engine to make sure it was functioning properly. The sound of it almost sent the ducks into premature flight: they flapped their wings frantically and swam halfway across the pond, startled by the loud growling noise of the engine.
Brenda killed the engine, satisfied that everything was in order. She then slipped on the crash helmet Criss would wear so as to test the built-in radio communicator for proper reception. She turned the knob and murmured "Testing, testing, one, two, three. Testing, testing."
The receiver picked up her voice clearly. Brenda turned off the communicator and removed the helmet, placing it onto the bucket seat of the glider. Everything was ready; all that was needed was for Criss to show up.
Criss did show up, in style as always. He arrived in his customized Rolls Royce, along with his mother, his brothers, and his girlfriend, Sandra; his assistant, Tom, served as chauffeur. Behind him, in a black Cadillac, rode the president of the Luxor, Felix Rappaport and Criss' manager, Dave Baram. Ahead of him, providing an escort of sorts, was that gang of idiots known as the Misfits: Sully Erna of Godsmack, the Amazing Johnathan, and the rest, all riding their motorcycles. They had somehow finagled passes for Flight Day and were now leading the parade, reveling in the attention from the cheering crowd lining the sidewalk around the golf course.
Police fenced in the pressing crowd to allow the procession to enter the course unobstructed. As soon as the Caddy passed the gate, the entrance was closed. People groaned in disappointment and went back to peering through the fence as they did before. Security or no, they were not going to miss Flight Day, not for anything.
The motorcade was swapped for a train of golf carts to the fifth green. Criss' family, especially mother Dimitra, were in a holiday mood, enjoying the summery weather and the cool breezes from the pond. Dimitra, charming in her pale blue sundress and wide-brimmed white hat, her eyes shielded with a pair of designer sunglasses (a gift from Criss after her heart surgery a few years ago), kept commenting on what a lovely day it was, and how so fresh and green the course looked. She was especially impressed with the VIP tent set up nearby ("It's almost like a wedding," she commented), and the courteous service she received from the clubhouse staff. It was only when she saw the glider did she feel a sense of impending doom.
While everyone else took their seats under the canopy, Criss had disappeared into the clubhouse to change into more suitable attire for the flight: leather jacket and pants, combat boots and black leather gloves. He emerged back onto the scene to a cacophany of duck calls from the Misfits, ending with howls of laughter. The ducks recognized him immediatly and trotted over in a group to see him, creating more laughter. Criss was annoyed, but it did serve as comic relief as far as Dimitra was concerned. He wanted to offer the Misfits a middle-finger salute, but refrained from doing so in front of his mother and the television cameras--it would not have been dignified. He just walked over to the glider where Brenda was waiting. The ducks followed him as was their habit.
"Are you ready?" Brenda asked him.
It was a simple question, but Criss could not help seeing the irony of it all. Are you ready? was his customary line which he spoke whenever he performed his demonstrations. "I'm ready," he replied, suppressing a laugh.
Brenda handed him the crash helmet. "Give yourself a running start," she instructed him, "and when you get to the edge of the pond, pull up on the throttle bar. That'll get you airborne."
Criss pulled on the helmet. "Got it."
It was his mother calling him from the pavilion. Criss excused himself and trotted over to her, again with the ducks in tow. "Hey, Mom, what's up?" he asked casually.
Dimitra wrapped her arms around her youngest son. "You be careful, you hear me?"
Criss hugged her tightly. "I'll be fine, Mom," he said, "don't worry." A burst of good humor came out of him. "Hey, compared to a lot of other things I've done, this is a piece of cake!"
"All the same, I want you to come back safe," his mother insisted. "Promise?"
"I promise," Criss said, giving her a peck on the cheek. "Love you."
"I love you, too, honey."
"I love you more."
He let go of his mother, shook hands with his brothers and his friends, and herded his brood back to the glider.* He settled himself into the bucket seat, fastened his safety belt (the original from the muscle car), lowered his visor, and started the engine. He released the throttle and rolled across the green. The ducks ran after him, flapping their wings in their effort to keep up. Just as he reached the edge of the pond, he pulled up on the bar just as Brenda instructed, and felt himself rising up, up, up, over the pond's edge and soaring over the heads of the cheering crowds below. The ducks flapped their wings harder than they ever did, tucked in their webbed feet and flew right behind him.
"He's doing it!" one hysterical girl screamed. "He's doing it! He's FLYING!"
Indeed, Criss was flying, and he was in pure ecstacy! "WHOOOOOO! MY GOD!" he howled, "HOLY (BLEEP!) OH, MAN, I HAVE GOT TO GET ME ONE OF THESE!"
He flew around the green, swooping down just low enough for the Loyals to get a glimpse of him. Cameras flashed, voices screamed his name, hands reached up to touch him. Their Angel was flying, and their spirits were flying with him. Oh, to be soaring the heavens beside him, free from earthly constraints, to reach up and touch the face of God!
The ducks flew behind him, rising with the air currents, getting a feel for their newly developed wings. They instinctively went into a V formation for better aerodynamic control. Criss glanced into the small rearview mirror and saw his brood flying behind him. "WAY TO GO, GUYS!" he shouted with pride. "I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!"
"Base to Angel," Brenda's voice crackled in his ear. "Base to Angel, do you read me?"
Criss reached up and turned on his headset. "Angel to Base, I read you loud and clear."
"You're almost out of fuel. Return to Base. Repeat, return to Base."
Criss looked at the fuel gauge and saw the red needle hovering over E. "Angel to Base," he spoke into the headset. "Coming in for a landing."
"Roger that, Angel. Clear for landing. Just make sure your seat belt is buckled and your tray table is in the upright position."
"Roger that, Base," Criss laughed. "Over and out."
He pushed down on the throttle bar, lowering the glider gradually to earth. He bounced a couple of times on the green before rolling to a stop. It wasn't a perfect three-point landing, but he did manage to land on the green with minimal jarring of the glider and his bones. He exhaled loudly, unbuckled his seat belt, and climbed out of the glider, shaken but triumphant. He removed his helmet and tossed it onto the bucket seat just in time to receive an enthusiastic welcome from his relieved mother and brothers and his estatic friends. "Way to go, Criss!" Sully Erna shouted, extending his hand for a high-five. "That was awesome!"
Criss slapped Sully's hand. "Awesome is an understatement," he said. "I'm tellin' ya, it was the most incredible experience of my life! Oh, man, it's better than doing a hundred and twenty in my Lambo!" He pointed to the glider "I have so got to get me one of these!"
JD grabbed Criss by the lapels. "No, you're not," he growled through gritted teeth.
"Hey, come on, man--"
"It's bad enough we gotta watch you drown, burn and blow yourself up day after day after day," JD went on. "You want us to watch you die in a plane crash? No way, little brother! Your feet are staying on the ground!"
Criss disengaged himself from JD's grasp. "We'll talk about this later, okay," he said calmly. "Right now, we gotta check on the ducks."
Placated for the moment, JD backed off. Criss walked over to Brenda. "So, how'd they do?" he asked.
Brenda was beaming. "They did splendidly!" she crowed. "They took off just as you did! They even went into V formation! That was impressive in itself!"
"So, where are they now?" Criss asked, looking around the pond.
The beaming faded a few watts. "They're gone, Criss," she said gently.
"Once they took off, they flew north," Brenda explained. "They're fully fledged now. They don't need us anymore. Oh, they might come back here for food or rest, but from this moment, they're on their own."
Criss looked up at the clear blue sky and burst into tears. "So long, guys," he choked. "And good luck. I'm gonna miss you."
*(cue Riding-the-Dragon theme from Shrek)
11-15-2011, 10:45 PM
11-16-2011, 06:02 PM
Brenda Gilchrist loaded the last of her equipment into her Jeep and closed the door. She turned to Criss standing nearby. "Well, I guess this is it," she said, trying bravely to smile. "It's been nice knowing you, Criss."
Criss shook her hand. "Same here, Brenda. Thanks for all your help. I couldn't have done it without your help."
"And thank you for the donation to Wildlife Rescue," Brenda said. "Thanks to you, we got some land near the Oregon state border for a nature preserve. Who knows? Maybe our ducks'll settle there next spring."
"That'd be nice."
Brenda looked down at her feet for a moment. "Well, I guess this is goodbye," she said, adjusting her glasses. "I got to get back to Valgado and file the report on this. I've been gone way too long."
Criss nodded. "Sure."
"So long, Criss."
"So long, Brenda."
They shook hands again, then hugged each other. They parted, then Brenda climbed into the loaded Jeep and started the engine. "Hey!" Criss shouted. "Lemme know what's going on, okay?"
"Just subscribe to our newsletter online!" Brenda shouted back. "It'll tell you everything you need to know."
Criss waved goodbye as he watched her drive away. As the Jeep vanished over the horizon, he felt the last link to his ducklings go with her. He was a free man once again, no longer burdened with the care of six baby ducklings. So why did he feel so sad?
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > CRISS ANGEL FLIES OVER VEGAS!!
ModeratorNae: Criss Angel flew in a motorized glider on Memorial Day at Baja Golf Course. He was teaching his ducks how to fly for the first time. Hundreds of Loyals came out to see him on Flight Day.
***photo of Criss Angel in glider with ducks****
RoseRed13: OMG!! That must have been awesome!!! I wish I had been there to see him!
KrisLee: Our angel has finally taken wing! Go Criss!!
Greekgoddess: Oh god i wish i had been there to see him fly i wanted to so much!!
Rachel121967: OMG THAT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME!!
angelkiss23: I was there when he took off. It was so awesome I cried! Seeing him fly like that, I could tell he was having a good time up there. I even saw the ducks fly right behind him. His mom was there, she looked really pretty in her blue dress, and I could see that she was worried about him as ususal.
BlueSkye: god i hope they show it on tv on the show they got to they just got to
loyalcat: What happened to the ducks?
"So, what happened to the ducks?" Sully asked.
Criss sat in the living room of his home with his friends the Misfits, and his family, his cat Hammie on his lap. It was midafternoon, barely three hours after the glider flight. Criss had been high on the rush flying in the glider had given him, but the moment Sully Erna posed the question, his spirits deflated like a balloon. He took a swig from his bottle of Heineken and sighed. "They're gone," he replied simply. "As soon as they took off they headed north or somewhere. Brenda says they might come back, but, well, I don't know."
"They go where the food is," JD said. "Where's there food and water, that's where they'll be. They probably wanted to stretch their wings a little farther, that's all."
"You miss them, don't you?" the Amazing Johnathan asked almost accusingly. "You miss your little babies, right? Right?"
As much as Criss wanted to fire back a two-word response, he had to admit AJ was right. He did miss his little brood despite the inconvenience they caused him for the past two months. "So what if I do?" he replied. "If you raised something from birth and saw them grow up and leave you, you'd miss them, too, wouldn't you? I mean, I saw them born, for godsakes! I taught them how to feed themselves--although it was pretty disgusting, I can tell you that--and I made sure they were kept warm and safe, especially from Hammie here." He stroked his cat's sleek head affectionatly. "Didn't I, Hammie?" he cooed.
Hammie purred and rubbed himself against Criss' body, glad to be the center of attention again. "But, anyway," Criss continued, "the thing is, those ducklings kinda grew on me. You remember when Quackers fell down that drain in the warehouse? I was worried sick! I thought I had lost him for good that time! It was like your kid falling down a well and you can't get him out of it. I was ready to call nine-one-one until Doug came up with the hose and floated him out of there. Man, I can't tell you how relieved I was when I saw him! It was, like, 'Thank God he's all right' and stuff like that."
"Well, now you know," Dimitra said.
"Say what now?"
"You finally know what a mother goes through when she sees her child in danger," she said. "And you know what I go through when I watch you do your escapes and other stunts that have almost killed you. You worried over one little duckling; I've been worrying myself sick over you for years, what with burning yourself alive, burying yourself alive, nearly drowning yourself in the back of a car--"
Criss held up his hand. "Mom, you don't have to relate my whole career to me."
"All I'm saying is that maybe after raising your little ducks you finally learned what it is like to be a parent," Dimitra said. "Your father and I spent over thirty years of our lives raising three sons: feeding them, clothing them, teaching them how to live until the day they were old enough to spread their wings and fly, so to speak. And I worried over them." She stared directly at Criss. "Especially my youngest, who likes to risk his life for the sake of his art."
Everyone was amused at the flush of color rising in Criss' cheeks. "I don't think it was an accident you found those ducklings when you did," Dimitra went on. "I think it was God's will. I have often prayed that one day you would realize just how much worry you've caused me over the years. I think He sent those ducklings to you to teach you a lesson."
"You think so, huh?" Criss said.
"I know so," Dimitra said confidently. "Admit it, Christopher, those ducklings have taught you something, haven't they?"
"Hey, every experience in life is a learning experience," Criss said, shrugging. "This is no exception."
"So, what has raising those ducklings taught you, Criss?" JD asked.
"Well, I did learn a lot about ducks, that's for sure!" he laughed. "What they eat, how they grow, stuff like that."
"And what else?"
Criss thought about it. "Well, for one thing, you shouldn't tamper with the natural order of things. I mean, taking those eggs out of the nest was a bad idea; I should have just left them there and let the authorities handle them."
"That's what I told you in the first place," JD said.
"Well, you had to admit my heart was in the right place when I tried to rescue them!"
"Oh, yeah, your heart was in the right place, all right," JD conceded, "but, as usual, your mind was out to lunch!"
Criss muttered something that sounded like screw you. "And what else did you learn?" Dimitra pressed.
"What else did I learn? Well, I learned that it's tough to be a dad--or a mom. I mean, it's total dedication, you know, twenty-four-seven. You can't just leave them alone, not when they're that young. Now I know why you need two parents to raise a kid--it's a helluva lot of work! I thought my art was hard work, but parenthood is a lot harder, whether it's ducklings or human babies."
"Tell me about it," Sully mumbled. "I got kids of my own, you know."
"And I'll tell you something else," Criss went on. "This planet of ours is a pretty special place, but we're tearing it up all to hell in the name of progress. Ducks and other wildlife are losing their habitats, and you got people like those idiots who shot that mama and papa duck just for the hell of it. That's why I agreed to help Brenda with Wildlife Rescue, at least financially. I want my ducks to grow up in natural surroundings, safe from poachers and developers. I leaned we gotta save the earth for future generations: yours, mine, and the ducks."
AJ looked around the sumptuous surroundings of Criss' mansion. "What about this place, Mr. Born-Again Environmentalist?" he charged. "You tore up some, what, couple dozen acres of desert to build this mansion of yours, using up more water and more electricity than a small town. That pool of yours has more water in it than the annual rainfall of this whole area! What do you have to say to that?"
Criss glared at his friend and rival. "I'll have you know that before I shoveled one ounce of dirt on this place, I had to file an environmental impact statement claiming I was not disturbing any natural habitats, nor would I be upsetting the ecosystem in any way. And, yes, I do conserve as often as I can, whether it's water or energy. I'm not a total hypocrite."
"No," AJ said, "just a partial one."
Criss rose to his feet. "Now wait a minute--"
AJ stood up to face him. "No, you wait a minute--"
JD got up and stood between his brother and AJ. "Guys, will you just settle down a second? There's no need to get into a fight. Now, just sit down and chill out, okay?"
Criss and AJ retreated, still glaring at each other. "Now I know that living in this mansion isn't the most environmentally correct thing to do," JD said, "but I know that Christopher here has done his best to do his part to conserve our natural resources and save energy." He turned to AJ. "Besides, what have you done to save the planet, AJ? You call Criss a hypocrite--what about you?"
AJ said nothing. A few awkward moments passed until Chef Ed entered the room to announce dinner was being served on the patio. That broke the tension, and everyone headed for the patio to eat. As the party made their way outside, Criss wrapped an affectionate arm around his mother. "Know what else I learned?" he asked, smiling.
Dimitra looked up at her youngest son. "What?"
"Just what a great mom you are," he replied, kissing her on the brow, "If you were a mama duck and I was a duckling, I'd follow you to the ends of the earth."
Dimitra laughed and hugged him. "At least ducklings don't go around trying to escape from trunks and things like that."
"Quack, quackquackquack," Criss quacked. "That means I love you."
"Quack, quack, to you, too," Dimitra laughed.
"Quack, quack even more."
Mother and son laughed as they walked out to the patio together, arm in arm, quacking all the way. Under their feet, a single yellow rubber duck floated in the pool, unnoticed.
The "Criss's Peeps" episode aired on the last Wednesday of September. It became one of the most popular episodes of the entire MindFreak series. Thousands of fans downloaded every photo of the ducklings in existance for screen savers or avatars. It was especially popular in the city of Boston, where the citizens were celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the publication of Make Way For Ducklings, the city's official storybook.
Dr. Brenda Gilchrist was appointed director of Wildlife Rescue of Nevada's new preserve. Thanks to her efforts, several species of wildlife had been relocated from urban areas to the preserve unharmed. A book about her experiences with Criss Angel and the ducklings came out the following year.
Costa Sarantakos's portfolio book, Criss' Peeps, named after the episode, came out just before Christmas. Criss insisted that profits from the book be donated to Wildlife Rescue of Nevada. As of this writing, one hundred thousand dollars had been raised from the sale of the book.
Summer turned into fall, then fall gave way to winter, then winter melted into another spring. Along the shore of Lake Meade, a pair of Mallard ducks searched for a suitable place to nest.
They had first met swimming in a lake somewhere in southern Oregon late last summer. She was a fine female, healthy and strong. He was a handsome drake who had courted her in an impressive manner, and within a day they were mates for life. He did not seem to mind the yellow band around her leg when he first saw her walk on land. Indeed, he barely noticed, much less cared. He courted her, she accepted him, they mated, and now they had flown south to find a suitable nesting spot for their young to hatch.
They found a grassy knoll about half a mile from where Criss Angel had performed his last demonstration. The hen, named Yolk-O by her human foster mother, settled herself into the knoll and began plucking down from her own breast to provide a soft bed for the eggs she would soon lay. Except for the yellow band around her leg, she blended in perfectly with the desert grass. The male, more distinct with his hunter green neck and head and black and grey feathers, stood guard.
In time, eight white eggs appeared in the nest. Yolk-O incubated her eggs with her own body, turning them every once in a while to distribute warmth evenly. She instinctively knew how to care for them, even though she had no adult duck to teach her. Whether she had any memory of her human foster mother would forever remain a mystery.
In a month's time, the eight eggs hatched. Yolk-O nuzzled each new arrival affectionatly. The newborn ducklings looked up at her and recognized her as their mother. For them, there would be no cameras, no publicity, no red carpet leading to a cage to be carried who knew where. They would be free to live their lives as Nature intended, without human interferance.
Author's note: No ducks were harmed in the writing of this story.
11-16-2011, 08:19 PM
Aww Criss went through empty nest syndrome and now he's a grandfather to boot. That's my favorite story Veritas
Totally into Tommy
11-22-2011, 09:13 PM
What a great story. This is the first time that i heard this when I read it here. Very well written, and funny. Kudo's to the author:)
11-27-2011, 12:02 AM
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