The Duck Who Quacked Bubbles*

© 1993, 2000 by Neta Jackson


“Do everything without complaining or arguing,
so that you may become blameless and pure” (Philippians 2:14).


The space under the farmhouse porch was cool and shady. The straw in the old blueberry box was clean and sweet-smelling. So why did Grumble feel all hot and squashed?

            The duckling opened her eyes. All she could see was fuzzy yellow feathers in her face.

            “Cuddle!” she quacked loudly. “I can’t take a nap if you’re laying on top of me!”

            Grumble’s sister wiggled over in the nest. This woke up the other ducklings in the blueberry box.

            “Mama,” yawned Noodle. “Grumble’s complaining again and waking us up.”

            “Shhh,” hissed Mama Duck. She wasn’t ready to get up, not yet.

            But by now all six ducklings were awake and falling out of the nest—Noodle, Puddle, Waddle, Cuddle, Dawdle, and Grumble. Mama Duck sighed and waddled out from under the porch into the bright sunshine.

            The six ducklings followed close behind her. They all looked exactly alike. But Noodle liked to eat. Puddle would rather swim...

            “I saw that bug first!” Grumble quacked. “Mama, Noodle ate the bug that I was going to eat!”

            ...And then there was Grumble. Mama Duck pretended not to hear Grumble’s complaints and marched toward the cheerful sign that said, “Patty’s Blueberry Patch.” Beside the fruit stand were rows and rows of blueberry bushes. Nearby was a pond. The water sparkled in the sunlight.

            “Let’s go swimming, Mama!” said Puddle.

            “Yes! Yes!” quacked the other ducklings.

            “Yeah, sure,” muttered Grumble. “Puddle wants to go swimming so he can splash me again, just like he did yesterday.”

            “Let’s visit the fruit stand first,” said Mama Duck. “Patty might have some berries we can eat for a snack.”

            Just then Waddle bumped into Grumble and knocked her over.

            “Waddle!” quacked Grumble. “Watch where you’re going! Can’t you walk in a straight line?”

            “Sorry, Grumble,” Waddle mumbled, and waddled off again.

            Patty was busy waiting on customers who had stopped at the Blueberry Patch. Mama Duck and the ducklings looked for stray blueberries that might have dropped on the ground.

            Grumble had just found a plump, juicy blueberry when she heard a child squeal, “Look! Duckies!” Before Grumble knew what was happening, childish hands smeared with blueberries had grabbed her up.

            Grumble kicked and squawked. “Put me down! Put me down!” she quacked. “You’re getting blueberries all over my nice yellow feathers!”

            The child giggled. Grumble’s complaints just sounded like, “Quack! Quack! Quack!” But pretty soon the child put the duckling down and ran to the car.

            “Just look at my poor feathers,” Grumble complained. The other ducklings tried not to laugh. But Grumble did look funny with purple feathers.

            “Come on, come on!” scolded Grumble. “I want to go swimming now. I need to take a bath.” She marched as fast as she could toward the pond. “Stupid children,” she grumbled.

            “Wait, Grumble,” she heard Mama Duck call. Dawdle was coming slowly, bringing up the rear.

            “Why do we always have to wait for Dawdle?” Grumble complained. “Wait, wait, wait. I don’t want to wait.” The duckling paced back and forth, grumbling to herself.

            “Noodle eats my bugs.

            “Cuddle leans on me in the nest.

            “Waddle is always bumping into me.

            “Puddle splashes me whenever we go swimming.

            “Dawdle is always making us late.”

            Grumble was so busy grumbling that she didn’t notice that the other ducklings had caught up to her and were listening to her complaints.

            Grumble started to go in the pond but Noodle and the other ducklings stood in her way. “Just go away, Grumble,” said Noodle. “You’re no fun. You’re always complaining.”

            “Yeah,” said Puddle. “We don’t want to play with you.”

            “Yeah,” said Waddle and Cuddle.

            “Yeah,” said Dawdle. “Go away.”

            Then the other five ducklings ran into the pond after Mama Duck.

            Grumble stared after her brothers and sisters. Well! she thought. They can’t tell me what to do. So she hopped into the water and wiggled and splashed until she had washed all the blueberry juice off her feathers.

            Then she looked around. The others were playing hide and seek among the lily pads. It looked like fun. But if they didn’t want to play with her, she could have fun all by herself.

            Grumble got out of the pond, shook all the water out of her feathers, and wandered back toward the fruit stand. A woman and several children were waiting in a car while a man was buying a big box of blueberries.

            Then Grumble saw something she hadn’t seen before. A big box-­thing made of wooden slats was also standing in the driveway. It had a wooden door in back that rested on the ground, making a little ramp.

            Grumble got an idea. The other ducklings had said, “Go away.” Well! She would show them. She would hide in the box and make them think she had gone away; then they’d be sorry.

            Grumble ran as fast as she could up the little ramp. The wooden box was full of sleeping bags and suitcases and sand pails and fishing rods. She squeezed between a sleeping bag and a sand pail and peeked out between the wooden slats.

            The man was coming toward the car with the blueberries. He set them inside the box-thing, slammed the wooden door shut, and got back in the car. The car pulled out of the driveway onto the road.

            All of a sudden Grumble was scared. The wooden box was moving too! The car was pulling it. She had hidden in a trailer by mistake, and the trailer was going away! The car drove past the pond where Mama Duck and the ducklings were still swimming. Grumble quacked and quacked. “Stop! Stop! I want to go home.” But Mama Duck and the ducklings couldn’t hear her.

            Grumble didn’t want to go away. She wanted her Mama. She wanted Noodle and Puddle and Waddle and Cuddle and Dawdle. She wanted out of there!

            But the car and trailer drove down the road until Grumble couldn’t see the pond or Patty’s Blueberry Patch any more.

            Grumble didn’t know what to do. “Quack,” she sniffed, as trees and fields rushed past. If only she could be home again, she would try very hard not to complain so much. She wanted to play with her brothers and sisters—even if she did get bumped or splashed or squashed in the nest.

            Then she felt the car slowing down. She looked out between the wooden slats. The car was pulling into a gas station. “Quack! Quack! Quack!” she said loudly. “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

            “I hear quacking in our trailer,” said a woman’s voice. “Whatever can it be?”

            The trailer door was opened. “Why, it’s a duckling,” said a man’s voice.

            “Can we keep it?” said children’s voices. “Please?”

            “I think it got into our trailer back at the blueberry stand,” said the man’s voice. “We’ll have to take it back.”

            “Awww,” said the children’s voices.

            Small hands reached for the duckling. But this time Grumble didn’t struggle. She sat quietly on a child’s lap as the car drove back the way it had just come.

            Soon the car and trailer stopped beside Patty’s Blueberry Patch again. Childish hands set Grumble gently on the ground.

            Mama Duck and the other ducklings came running. “Grumble! Where have you been! We’ve been looking all over for you. We were worried!”

            “We didn’t really want you to go away,” said Noodle.

            Grumble was so happy to be home that she couldn’t even quack.

            “Come on!” said Puddle. “Let’s go back to the pond and play hide and seek. Grumble can be IT.”

            The ducklings ran back into the water. Grumble paddled happily toward the lily pads. But just then Waddle bumped into her.

            “Waddle!” Grumble protested.

            Then she stopped. If she complained, maybe Waddle wouldn’t want to play with her. So instead of grumbling she dipped her head under the water and stuck her tail up in the air. Only bubbles came up.

            The ducklings had fun playing hide and seek. When Mama Duck quacked for them to come in, Grumble paddled lazily, letting the sun dry off her head and back. Just then Puddle beat his wings and shook water out of his feathers-and got Grumble all wet again!

            “Pud—!” Grumble started to say crossly. But instead she stood on her head in the water, and only bubbles came up.

            The other ducklings laughed. “Look, Mama!” they called to Mama Duck. “Grumble is quacking bubbles!”

            Mama Duck had been watching as Grumble tried not to complain. “Maybe Grumble isn’t a very good name for a certain duckling I know. Maybe we should call her Bubbles instead!”

            Noodle and Puddle and Waddle and Cuddle and Dawdle cheered. “Yes, let’s call her Bubbles instead.”

            Grumble was so happy that she stood on her head and quacked under water.

            Bubble, bubble, bubble.


The End


NOTICE: This story is protected by copyright (© 1993, 2000 Neta J. Jackson). You are permitted to print ONE copy for personal enjoyment. Any other copying, printing, storage, or transmission by any means without the written permission of the author is prohibited. That means it is illegal. DON’T DO IT!


* Neta Jackson, “The Duck Who Quacked Bubbles,” Loving One Another, Beginner’s Stories on Being a Good Friend (Sisters, Oregon: Gold ’n’ Honey Books, 1993).