Well, it had to happen. Mathilda has her first boyfriend. I heard the news after the show, when we were still in Memphis. His name is Steve. He’s a decent enough kid, I guess, polite, playful, a little precocious. Unfortunately, he’s also a good seven inches taller than me. And married.
“Why is he your boyfriend?” we asked Mathilda, when she sprang the news on us.
“Because I love him.”
“And why do you love him?”
“Because he’s my boyfriend.”
“That’s circular logic. It doesn’t make sense,” I said. “Seriously, why do you love him?”
“Because he’s nice.”
“I’m sure Steve’s wife thinks he’s nice,” I said, shaking my head. What a sad theater cliche. Actor-husband goes on the road for months, falls for a beautiful, younger girl.
So now Mathilda can add both “homewrecker” and “Duckmaster” to her list of titles–just before our departure from Memphis, she was sworn in as Duckmaster for a day at the Peabody Hotel. The ceremony was impressive. We stood in the luxurious hotel lobby, at the end of a long red carpet that led to an ornate fountain, while the hotel’s Duckmaster officially sanctioned the day. He presented her with a certificate and read the proclamation aloud. Just as he got to the part explaining how the honorary title was occasionally bestowed upon “esteemed individuals,” Mathilda stuck her finger in her nose. She then refused to remove it, despite some discreet parental pleading and the bright, unforgiving lights of the CBS camera news crew.
But it was all about the ducks anyway: the crowd, the red runner, the fountain, the music, the gift shop with its countless duck-themed items. And when we showed up to get them, they delivered: four plump, crossly charming ducks quacked and hurried out of their rooftop cage, waddled past a stunning view of Memphis and into the waiting elevator. The Assistant Duckmaster held the doors in place and we followed the ducks inside. He sternly motioned for us to be quiet. While the ducks huddled along the rear elevator wall, he counted out loud to twenty. Then, with a little twitch of his gilded, duck-headed cane, he hit the button. The doors closed and we dropped. It was a long, exciting, awkward descent. The ducks seemed annoyed by our presence, and kept turning away from me to avoid making eye contact. I felt like I was riding in the Conde Nast elevator again. When the elevator doors finally reopened, the ducks lunged past us and toward the fountain, hopping and flapping along the red carpet to applause and the flash of cameras.