Duck heads
Duck heads

   There is nothing like a bucket of duck heads to convince you that you don't know shit about the world.  Normally by 8:00 a.m., I am at my keyboard writing witty words, sipping Earl Grey tea, and nibbling on Junior Mints.  This woman, on the other hand, has chopped off the heads of fifty ducks by 8:00 a.m.  Of course, it's not 8:00 a.m. to her; it's just a little after she woke up.  The next thing she does that I have never done is collect all of the heads, put them in a big bowl, haul them to market, and attempt to sell them.  She does this for only one reason: there are people in Haiti hungry enough to eat duck heads.  Here is something even stranger to me: Poor as they are, they buy them in order to eat them.  And another something that is even stranger: They don't care that the woman never washes her axe or that she rinsed the bowl that morning in the same river she washed her crotch.  Why would that gross you out if a bucket of bloody, sticky duck heads with the feathers and eyeballs, and covered with flies doesn't? 
    The woman with the bag over her shoulder - let's call her Zeebo - is not thinking, "Duck heads.  How gross."  She's thinking, "Hmm.  I think I want duck head soup tonight."  Here are the next things I don't know: What does a duck head cost? How do you tell a tasty one from a not so tasty one?  More or less feathers?  More or less cloudy eyeballs?  (The Joy of Cooking is unhelpful.  It does recommend on page 438 cutting the head off, but, beyond that, it leaves the hard-to-gross-out reader in the dark.)  I can imagine there would be days in which the trade in duck heads is not brisk.  There might be a few extra available at a bargain price.  So what's a good deal on duck heads?  (I don't know about you, but I never buy duck heads more than a day old.)  And how many duck heads per serving of soup?  (Again The Joy of Cooking is useless.)  After buying duck heads, how do you transport them home?  Do you throw them into the bottom of your bag or do you put them in your pocket?  I do know that Zeebo's next stop is not going to be a vendor that will sell her boxes of Junior Mints.  I also know that Junior Mints cost $1.29 per box or about two cents per mint.  I'm not completely ignorant.  She is more likely to visit the stall that will sell her a handful of goat terds.  What else are you going to burn to cook duck head soup?  And now, how do you transport goat terds home?  Do you put them in the same bag as the duck heads?  In your pocket?
    Some how she gets everything home.  She puts the duck heads into some water with some herbs, cut up plantains, and salt.  While that cooks, she sits in the shade, listens to birds sing, and wonders if Americans have nothing better to do than come all that way to take pictures of duck heads, for Christ's sake.

    Whenever I show people the expensive fountain pens I own, they say, “Oh, I would never buy an expensive pen because I know I would lose it.”  Everyone says that.
    In the three years I have owned these pens, I have never lost one. Until today.  But I did not lose it in the way people fear they might.  Usually a lost pen just disappears and the bereaved has no clear recollection of when the pen went a different way.  But I knew the instant I lost the pen I had paid $55 for at a 50% off sale when Bertelson Brothers went out of business last spring.  I knew when I pulled the beautiful, red, chewed-up, enameled brass barrel of the pen out of the garbage disposal.  I had set that part on the counter by the sink when I had put the nib into a glass of water to clean it. The following morning, I stuffed the refuse of making my lunch down the disposal and turned it on. When the terrible clatter began, I snapped the disposal back off. In the handful of carrot peelings and broccoli stems, I found the barrel of my pen.
    Now I suppose people will start saying to me, "Oh, I would never buy and expensive pen because I know I would just accidently grind it up in the garbage disposal."