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A large part of life at The Mom’s involves the care and feeding of what have become known as the ‘outdoor pets’. This is largely a flock of ducks, but can also include other birds, squirrels, and the loathsome chipmunks. They are a strange and irregular bunch, but with freakish regularity they’ve been The Mom’s breakfast and dinner guests for nearly 30 years now.

It seems completely normal to go outside and see a flock of ducks waiting to be fed. The neighbours even bring their children over to gaze upon the flock, such is its glory.

But apparently, the by-law people are getting excited by this habit of feeding the local wildlife and are clamping down on it. The Mom is suitably upset and somewhat terrified.

Whilst I was at home, numerous newspaper clippings on the subject appeared at my place — The Mom hovering nearby waiting for me to read them so we could discuss.

“You see? They want to stop me,” she said nervously.

“Yes, well, I think it’s about the other less delightful creatures people may be attacting. Like rats.”

“We don’t have rats!”

“We have ratty in the basement.”

“He’s largely imaginary,” she admitted.

“Then why do I call ‘Ratty I’m coming’, when I go into the basement?” I asked.

“No one knows dear.”

“I thought that’s what we were doing?”

She shook her head.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

She shrugged. “We’re going on rations.”

“Seriously? Have you told the flock?”

“It’s really only three Gerties now.”

(Side note: we refer, for reasons I don’t understand, to the female ducks as Gertie, and the male ones as Fred. And I’m the weird one in the family…)

“Huh,” I said. “Surely they can’t mean the little bird feeders for the little birds. My Facebook friends will be crushed. Someone’s finally got a woodpecker.”

“A woodpecker!?”

“Yup. Last winter. Gorgeous apparently.”

“This won’t do,” The Mom said.

Now I’m back in the UK, and she’s sending more and more emails about this and it’s leading me to wonder if this will be the thing that pushes her over the edge. I wouldn’t be surprised when I go home at Christmas to find she’s now running for city counsellor or some such, just to keep this madness from coming to her back door. In fairness, it’s a crowded place, what with all the Gerties…

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