Ducks skidding across the water, milling around as I approach. Not feeding or mating or playing, not struggling to stay warm. Just quacking continually, as if grumbling or making small talk. What else can ducks talk about? Some more dive down from the opposite riverbank, fanning out like falling fireworks. The noise they make as they land is an odd time-stretched splash. They all swim in my direction, not looking at me, but congregating toward some unknown center. Then they disperse, momentarily looking like shiny, teeming, slinking beetles in the water, turning slowly but sharply on unseen propellers. They are still quacking as if checking on each other. One has an odd whistle, as through a missing tooth. I can’t tell which one it is, so I turn and recede.