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.