A creative writing piece by Rory Maucione, sophomore Forensic Science and Biology Major
The plants around the porch danced wildly in the breeze as I stood frozen in the center, eyes squinted in challenge. The enemy was mere steps away at the bottom of the wooden stairs, staring back with what appeared to be the same demeaning glare. I wanted to leave, but I had unfinished business, and I wasn’t going to let this adversary win this battle. As the vegetation continued to sway, only a single thought crossed my mind:
There is no way I’m losing to this stupid swan.
It all started when I decided to do what most high school students did and try to make some extra cash before school was back in session. Fortunately, one of my neighbors recently left for an international vacation, and they needed someone to take care of their two cats: Charlie and Whiskers. Seizing the opportunity, I volunteered to take care of the cats in their absence.
The incident happened on one of these trips. I had completed all my tasks, from refilling water bowls, to scooping litter. But just when I was about to leave, I suddenly remembered one last job that I had nearly neglected: watering the plants. My neighbors were in the process of trying to grow various vegetables on their backyard porch, and it was my duty to properly nourish them while they were away.
As I crept out the back door, I ran down the stairs into the grass and towards the spout on the house. The attached hose, however, lacked any sort of control or nozzle whatsoever, so as soon as the spout turned, it was a race to the porch to prevent the water from mindlessly going everywhere. With a quick twist, water began to shoot through the rubbery tube, and I sprinted back to the porch. Snatching the hose, I let the water hit each pot individually, leaving each one with its own area of newly dampened soil. Almost time to head home, I thought. Or at least I initially believed that right up until I finished the last plant and turned to head down the stairs. Before my foot landed on the first step, I heard it.
“Woah there!” I muttered in shock before I immediately froze. Standing a few feet away from the base of the stairs was a
large, beautiful swan. I had always seen a few in my neighborhood, especially around the large man-made ponds, where they would mindlessly float around. But I had never been this close to one, and I couldn’t help but stare in disbelief at its smooth, snow-white feathers, and the quirky yet mesmerizing way it waddled around the small backyard. It was a solid minute before I remembered the running hose, and before long I was back to my senses, and retrying to head down the stairs.
The swan immediately turned back towards me, but this time, it didn’t seem very passive. Its large white wings unfurled to increase its size as it began to waddle towards me.
I slowly made my way back up the stairs and decided that maybe it would be a good idea to give the swan some space to move away before I made my move. Yet, I felt like I couldn’t wait around forever, as without any nozzle, the hose would simply spurt water wastefully all over the patio. At first, I decided to spray some of the flowers planted around the deck. It was completely pointless, as their roots were deep in the earth rather than in a pot, but at the time it felt like a good way to pass the time. Minutes ticked by, and the swan seemed to return to a passive state. It was the perfect time to strike, and I began to creep down the stairs to the grass. But as soon as my foot grazed the first blade, the swan whipped around and looked me dead in the eyes.
It didn’t waddle this time, but rather it charged at me with outstretched wings. I quickly dashed back up the stairs to safety, as it slowed down towards the base, its dark black eyes meeting mine in challenge. I didn’t know it then, but I had accepted this challenge as there was no way I was leaving this hose on, and there was no way I was going to let that swan win now. I began to form a plan of action.
The next half-hour consisted of intense experimentation. At first, I attempted to spray some water from the hose near the swan to push it away, but it easily dodged the water by walking in the other direction. I put my finger over the area where the liquid shot out to give it some extra distance, but the swan dismissed that too. After a while, I moved onto plan B: bargaining. I’m not sure why I thought this would work in any feasible way, but the conversation essentially went like this:
“Hey, is it cool if I just, like, walk around you real quick?”
“Okay, I’m just gonna take a small step forwa-“
“OKAY okay jeez! What do you want from me dude!?”
It merely stared back, which I assumed at the time probably meant “your soul” in some foul swan language. I stepped backwards and stood still, watching as the swan once again returned to its normal waddle patrol once more. I concluded again that it would likely be for the best to wait, and I leaned over the patio to
watch its movements and analyze the situation for an opening.
At this point, it started taunting me, pecking at the flowers around the deck that I had just watered as if to say “see this? Your face is next!” I looked back in dismay, before deciding to hide myself from view completely back inside the safety of the house, hoping that my lack of presence would cause the swan to become disinterested in its assault and wander away. As I lay inside, playing with the cats in wait, I began to realize something that I had never even considered. If I attacked from the side of the house, where it couldn’t possibly predict I would show up, I could catch the swan off guard and get the upper hand, shutting off the spout and heading home triumphant.
I crept around the house, and sure enough, the swan was a good distance away. I sprinted to the spout before the swan even realized I was there, quickly swiveling the spout to its closed position. With a triumphant grin, I turned to run in the opposite direction, but then I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Three eggs bunched together in a makeshift nest. I only got a glimpse before I ran off back in through the front door, only stopping to catch my breath and pet the cats one last time before running back out to my car, and heading home, happy to be alive.
At the time, I thought I was Nick Cage in National Treasure, only the treasure was the spout, the antagonist was a swan, and generally things were just a lot less cool. But as I drove home, I realized fully what had happened. In my eyes, I was in the right, trying to save some water by confronting the evil swan. But really, the perspective I had failed to see was that the swan was simply following its instincts, protecting its eggs from no good predators like I had appeared to be. We both thought we were right, and that led to confrontation until one of us was able to come out on top. Soon enough that confrontation led to different attack strategies, but I was so set on going directly through my enemy that I never considered a secondary, much safer route to my goal. Thinking back now, there are a plethora of different ways I could have diffused that situation, but that one crazy swan taught me that lacking proper understanding can lead to conflicts that could have otherwise been easily avoidable.