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!"