Ducks and Drakes
Charlotte Pence

               Ducking Stool: A chair at the end of a plank, in which a culprit was tied and then
               ducked into water; a form of punishment, formerly used, as in New England, esp. for
               quarrelsome women.

               —Webster’s New World Dictionary, second college edition

A game of ducks and drakes 
is his suggestion, so he 
skims a sliver of limestone
across the creek. One, two, three...
four, five—Five rings! Another
diminution, I think. 
I worry I said too much 
at last night’s party, and now
my rocks plunk in the water
like a woman who is tied
to a ducking stool.  I replay:
November’s vote will not be
democratic; I don’t care
for the baby stage; and did
I say tapanâde instead
of tapanäde? Why this fear
of saying too much or not
saying enough, why this clench
in my stomach? Creek water
sprinkles my leg, our talk starts;
stops. In the overheated
afternoon, my life skips back
to junior high, to the drone
of science lectures, of toilet
flushes from down the hallway,
the rat-atap-tat of the
next-door teacher chalking up
her thoughts. As a girl I knew 
to speak with only learned facts, 
obedience preferred to
opinions. I flick my wrist,
fling another rock; it, too,
sinks.  His skips seven times.
Why do you always worry?
he asks. And I wish
I didn’t fester, fester.
Put me on the stool,
dunk me in with this rock lodged
in my throat. He interrupts
to say, try again; and hold
the stone as if it wants to fly,
as if you’re holding it back.
But again, plop. A single
bubble rises after it,
the way my breath
underwater would rush
to the surface, break open. 

Previously Published in Segue

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