Columns » Bob Lancaster

A burlesque, with ducks

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Bro. Huckabee assured the National Rifle Association last week that there would be duck hunting in Heaven.

This was in keeping with Bro. Billy Graham's edifying words to sports fans in a newspaper column some years ago that Heaven would have competitive athletic contests, both participatory and spectatorial, if such were required to guarantee that paradise is really all it's cracked up to be. If their immortal fan selves just had to have ball games, there'd be ball games, whatever it took. Tailgating too.

Bro. Billy also promised that there would be pets — passed beloved family pets returned to a kind of life; dogs, certainly, though perhaps not yippy dogs, or promiscuous crappers; but few cats; and no reptiles (I'm reading between Bro. Billy's lines here) — and it's comforting now that Bro. Huckabee has expanded by one noisy in-one-end-and-out-the-other family the presumed Beulah Land fauna list.

I assume that these ducks offered up for slaughter (only in a manner of speaking, of course) by hereafter erstwhile-human mainly-Baptist golden-wadered soul creatures would be wood ducks. The wood duck has an unearthly beauty that should as a credential for Pearly Gate admission, a providential Annie Oakley if you will, rank right up there with a heartfelt tent revival halleleujah strut amidships of the “Just As I Am.”

There are other pretty ducks to be sure — the lustrous mallard, the legendary pink-headed duck of the Brahmaputra — but you'd think that Heaven, being Heaven, would admit only the duck soup of known duckery. It's a democratic place insofar as the formerly human — John Calvin was simply wrong about that — but elitist insofar as the lesser creatures. (In that last respect, it's something like U.S. immigration policy.) Tightwad Scrooge McDuck types need not apply; nor spitter Daffy Ducks, lumbersome Baby Hueys, idiot gadwalls, or clock-stoppers out of Hans Christian Andersen.

If that lower order of ducks would cry unfair, would protest paradisiacal discrimination, it might behoove them to consider that the lordly wood ducks won escalation or preference in this Up Yonder scheme only on a contingency not previously disclosed to them — that is, they are apparently obliged to volunteer immediately on disembarkation as shotgun fodder for yeehah spiritii from Back Home who'd rather shoot ducks than cast down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.

They don't know what's in store for them, in other words, and wouldn't ever guess, being the fool ducks that they are, and strangers to true piety and its prospective rewards. If they only knew how to believe properly, and knew how to incant piously rather than just quack all the damn time, it might be them in the sidereal scatters shooting at quondam humans instead of the other way around.

Indeed, there are phenomenological or ontological problems here — difficult problems — in this prospect of heavenly beings whooming away at heavenly ducks. For example, you wouldn't want to introduce the notion of killing into a setting where even Satan and his cohort earned only exile for the highest of high crimes, even if there were on hand and in stock the flesh-and-blood materiality for the concept to make any contextual sense. You wouldn't want to and you probably couldn't even if you did want to.

Nor would you want to begloom the heavenly sunshine by introducing pity — and yet what other emotion besides the murderous or the pitying are you going to feel for a gaggle of naive wood-duck essences in the place that is supposed to know no sorrow?

And if both hunter and quarry have been pre-immortalized then the duck-hunting masquerade is bound to become a tiresome exercise for all concerned comparatively quickly — say, in a mere 100,000 years — drearing off to a “Groundhog Day”-type repetitive burlesque that will shortly amuse not a soul involved in it, much less provide the much-advertised inexpressible and inexhaustible delight.

Heaven wouldn't permit one of its marquee field-and-stream Wii-type attractions to become an obligatory bore, like on-deck shuffleboard, would it? No, of course it wouldn't. Heaven forbid that.

This leads into some truly heavy-duty ontological duck scat, with little chance in all eternity of resolving any of it unless by some huge-odded coincidence Martin Heideigger's shade turns up in the hunting party. He could get the job done but who else? Only one I can think of would be the giantess Emerald Em, who used to make the full-length glow-in-the-dark coats out of greenhead feathers — coats guaranteed waterproof if sometimes mitey or sheddy, that would prism sunlight better than an oil-slick the size of a stockpond — unveiling a new one annually at the big Stuttgart quack-off.

But let us return from those profundities to the world of the mortal and the ordinary — to what troubled me about Bro. Huckabee's moonsong on duck-shooting over on the other side. I wondered about the political practicality of it. Duck hunters are another of those much-disliked elites, and in that great nimrod gathering you could almost hear the NRA hoi mutter: All right, by God, if it has ducks for them, how about some deers for the little man?

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