BY STEVEN JUPITER
BRANDON — The day started gray and drizzly, but by afternoon the sun was blazing. The gents from the Brandon Fire Department waded out into the Neshobe, just behind the Brandon Inn, with a tub full of numbered rubber duckies. Somewhere among that multicolored flock were the duckies that would ultimately vanquish their broodlings to snag the cash prizes of $100, $50, and $25 for first, second, and third across the finish line at the bottom of the falls behind Blue Moon Boutique.
The townsfolk began to line the riverbanks and fill Kennedy Park. The air was thick with anticipation and bug spray.
With little fanfare, the duckies were cast upon the waters at 3 p.m. on the dot. Almost immediately, a white duckie broke off from the pack. Whether propelled by a swift current or by some benevolent zephyr, the white duckie sped toward the falls. The rest of the field floated lazily behind, as if on a sightseeing tour rather than in a vicious contest.
The white duckie careened toward the violent precipice, a maniacal smile frozen on its rub-a-dub face.
Suddenly, the world dropped out from under it. The angry waters swallowed it whole. For a split second, it was lost to the eye, perhaps lost to the ages as well. Would it survive this aquatic assault? The crowd held its collective breath.
Huzzah! It sprang up from the depths! Victory seemed all but certain! The white duckie grinned cockily as it neared the finish line. But pride cannot go unpunished: the white duckie began to veer off course.
As if lured by an unseen Siren, the white duckie headed straight for the rocks, seemingly oblivious to the dangers of its new course. And there, alas, the white duckie met its fate, trapped in a greedy whirlpool, spinning in a vortex of eternal despair.
Meanwhile, the other duckies had begun their trip over the falls, a slothful procession toward a rapid descent. There was a blur of color – red, yellow, green, blue – as the brutish waters snatched the duckies up and spat them out below.
Dear reader, I must confess my own mistake here. I still thought it possible that the white duckie would free itself from the Siren’s spell and claim victory. I was foolish.
While I watched the white duckie flail and flounder, a little black duckie emerged from the chaos of the falls and drifted across the finish line. It was over. The white duckie was defeated, all its hopes dashed against the merciless rocks of the Neshobe.
All hail the black duckie, our 2022 victor!
Author’s note: No duckies were harmed in the course of this race, and all will return to race next year as well.