Tom is early to the Denham Car Boot Sale to find a good spot. He pops the hatch on the silver Volvo and pulls out a folding table atop the many boxes neatly packed in back. There’s a quack at the front of the car, and Tom looks up.

“Mind yourself there, George. Lemme get the table up and I’ll let you out.” He says to the white duck in the passenger seat.

Once free, George wanders around as Tom empties boxes onto the table. There are crafts, mostly duck themed, as well as womens’ clothes and accouterments all of a common size and floral taste. George peers up over the edge of the table and quacks expectantly. Tom scowls back.

“You know, when I promised Ellie I’d take care of you, it didn’t mean catering to your every whim. I’ll feed you when I get settled and no sooner, you right chunk. It’s bad enough her burial has my pension up the spout without you eating us out of house and home.” Tom shoos George and George waddles away disapprovingly.

“This your duck?” A plump man hovers over George with his hands tucked into a white jacket and stares down through dark circle sunglasses perched on his nose. George’s black eyes glare back up at him, his white feathers ruffled.

Tom is straightening dresses on the table. “That’s George, he don’t bite. Belonged to my wife.”

The man glances at Tom. “Blimey, he’s a big one, innit?”

Tom grins at George. “Ellie pampered him on straight kippers and barley, said he was her little King George.”

The man looks down at George again. “He’s a Pekin, innit?”

“No, Aylesbury. There, his bill’s pink, not orange. They’re near endangered.”

“My wife would love this.”

“She like ducks? Ellie loved ducks. She made all these bits ‘n bobs if you’re looking for a gift.”

“How much?”

“Oh, I’ll take a fair offer.”

“I’ll give you a thousand quid.”

Tom stops fussing at the table. “A thousand quid? For these?”

“For the duck.”

“You want to buy George?”

The man nods and walks around George. George waddles backward to keep sight of him. “I’m up for it. How much he weigh?”

Tom squints at George. “About a stone, maybe. Look, I don’t think I can part with him. See, Ellie’s cousin runs a conservancy, and they borrow him from time to time.”

“Fifteen hundred and you can give me the cousin’s number. We’ll stud him out for you. Come on then, he’s a one off fine duck and I bet you don’t need the trouble.”

“You see, Ellie made me promise to take good care of George. It was her dying-”

“Two thousand quid, and rest assured he’ll be well taken care of.”

Tom looks down at George, then glances sidelong at the man. “Kippers and barley, twice a day? Any fish’ll do, but Ellie liked to feed him straight out the tin.”

The man grins. “Of course.”

Tom frowns at George, sighs. “Right then, you’ve got a deal, sir. Let me fetch his lead and a tin of kippers for the road. Name’s Tom.”

The man nods. “Gerald.”

Tom steps to the back of the Volvo and rummages through the empty boxes. Gerald wanders behind him.

“How old is he?”

“Nearly four years. Ellie got him as a duckling back during the pandemic.”

“Right, right, so he won’t be tough at all.”

Tom straightens and looks at Gerald, then George. “Tough?”

Gerald grins. “To take care of. He seems tame enough.”

“Right, yes, he’s a good boy, George is.” Tom steps around the car then, and fumbles through the glove compartment.

When Tom returns, Gerald is on his mobile, his voice low. “Right, right, it’s an Aylesbury. I’m thinking braised in butter with thyme. Start soaking the lentils.”

Tom clears his throat. Gerald pockets the mobile, and grins at the bundle in Tom’s hand.

“Blimey, it’s a little harness. He’ll just walk with that on?”

“Listen, don’t wangle me. Are you planning on cooking this duck?”

The man’s smile fades into a line. “Keep your hair on, mate. And what of it? I’m taking him off your hands. It’s a lot of money.”

Tom puts down the lead and scowls at Gerald. “Then, sir, you can keep your two thousand quid. George isn’t for sale.”

“But he’s a big duck. He’ll feed a crowd.”

“Then I say buy two at the butcher and have a good day.”

“Duck tease.” Gerald grumbles and storms off.

Tom sits at his table and watches Gerald waddle away disapprovingly, then pops open the kippers and fumbles one out. “Here you go, George.”

After the first disappears into the duck’s crop, Tom fishes out another and bites into it. George eyes the tin and quacks.

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