The Five Duc Brothers and the Flickering Flames

By Josh Shaine

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Once upon a time, there were five duc brothers: Dic, Mic, Ric, Lic, Pic and Nic. They live(d) in a farmyard near a large city, and they had lots of adventures.

One chilly evening, as they were huddled together in the hay, for warmth, Dic, who was the eldest of the five duc brothers, gazed aimlessly about the yard, not so much examining as appreciating all that was around him. He turned to his brothers and shared his meandering thoughts with them.

"We are the luccy ducs! We have had many adventures, and much fun, and we remain together, and alive. Our mother is just next door, and we have good, big strange things that help to look after us. We have each other. I think we should do something to celebrate our good fortune."

Mic, Ric, Lic, Pic and Nic all agreed that this was so, and, as they usually did, they deferred to Dic, knowing that he would tell them what they should do. They were all surprised when Dic wouldn't do that. He always took the lead! "But, Dic! How will we know what or how to celebrate?"

The question was a good one. While Dic knew that it was the right approach to take, he wasn't quite sure why, let alone how. "If each of you will think up something to celebrate, I will think up a way to celebrate it. I'm going out into the yard, to think for a while."

Each of the brothers was surprised - first by the idea of coming up with his own thought, and then by Dic's having left them alone. "What can I do?" they each thought. The hay stack was very quiet as they considered their lives.

Meanwhile, Dic was out and about, looking for an inspiration. He wandered past the barn, and past the house, where the big strange things lived. He walked around the puddles, in such contemplation that he didn't even splash in any of them. He waddled past the building where his cousin lived, and on down to the WHOOSH. Dic left the farm, and passed into the city, following the WHOOSH, as it twisted and turned. He noticed the pillow factory and went quickly past China. He saw dogs and cats galore, and lots of big strange things, but he didn't find inspiration. Glumly, Dic returned to the farm.

Dic noticed how quiet the whole farm seemed, not only compared to the city, but compared to its normal hustle-bustle - even for an evening. When he got back to the hay stack, his brothers were all excited. "What are we going to do?" "What did you come up with?" "This is hard!" "What did you see?" and "You were gone a long time. I went and got some help with the puzzle you gave us!" This last came from Mic, the second oldest.

Dic wondered how anyone could help on a question like that. He was feeling a little discouraged. He just replied, "I haven't done or thought of anything. As a matter of fact, I think it may be a dumb -"

He broke off in mid-sentence. Over at the house of the big strange things, something caught Dic's eye. "I'll be right back!" He went over to the house, and stared for a few minutes. Then he banged on the door, and held a brief chat with the female big strange thing. Then he came back.

"Let's go over to the big strange things' house." They all waddled over, with a little fluttering of wings, in the excitement of the moment. As they assembled under a window, the brothers noticed two flickering flames, one a little higher than the other. Ric yelled out "FIRE! FIRE!" till the others calmed him down. Then he noticed, as the others has, that it was a small, controlled fire, up on a wierd holder.

"Gaze upon the flickering flames, and see how pretty they are. These will burn each evening, until we each have told of something which we wish to celebrate." Dic continued, "As there are two flames tonight, two of us shall share our thoughts."

Pic spoke up. "As there are two of us," with a nod to Nic, "and two of them, we should go first."

Nic began. "During our first trip out puddle stomping, Pic and I stomped into a puddle that was bigger than we knew."

Pic picked up the thought. "We would like to reflect on how much life we have enjoyed since the day that Dic rescued us from the WHOOSH. We celebrate Life, and your role in ours, Dic."

Dic was silent as his brothers cheered for him. He had a large smile on his face, as they all went off to sleep.

The next day went pretty much as any day would. Pic and Nic treated Dic the way they always treated him - with maybe just a little more appreciation. At the end of the day, the five duc brothers gathered around the window with the flickering flames, to celebrate. A couple of the other farm animals joined them, to hear what was happening.

This night, there were three little flames, so Pic and Nic repeated what they had said the night before, and then Lic spoke up.

"Since there are three fires, and what I'm about to say happened when I was three, I go next. I would like to celebrate my life, and the role that Dic has played in it. When I took my trip to China, because I smelled and heard cousins, It was you, Dic, who got me out of hot water, and saved me from death."

The cheering went on longer, and the other animals joined in. Dic got a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

The next day was very windy, and little work got done around the farm, but that night the brothers gathered around the window, where four flames burned. The number of animals around them had increased. Tim Tom was there, and others with whom they had shared adventures.

After Lic, Pic and Nic had related their feelings, Mic put forth his thoughts.

"It was a windy day like this that I found myself on top of the barn, scared and without an idea of how to get down. Dic not only learned to fly that day, but spoke to the big strange things for the first time. I celebrate life and discovery, and Dic's role in them both."

He hopped over to Dic, and put a wing arounds him. The party, for that is what it had become, went on for a long time.

A night and a day passed, and again the animals all gathered before the window and what were now five burning candles. Tim Tom, Mama Duc, cows, horses, cats and dogs, hens and roosters, and others stood, listening to Mic, Lic, Pic and Nic retell of their sentiments. Ric then proclaimed that it was his turn to speak.

"Five weeks ago, a terrible thing happened to me, which I am just beginning to get over. As you all know, we almost had fried duc, when I was saved from the fire by Dic. I can think of no better way to celebrate my life, its continuation, and Dic's place in them, than through our observing how glorious life, and these flames, can be."

Mic, Ric, Lic, Pic and Nic joined Dic, in a giant hug, as the other animals hugged together, and everybody watched the flames burn, and noted how beautiful they were. The singing went on past the candles burning out.

Dic spent the next day trying to decide what he would say that night. His brothers had all spoken, and it would be his turn. Think all he would, Dic could not figure out what he wanted to say.

That evening, as the animals all gathered, another flame was burning, in addition to those that had been lit the night before. Just as Dic was about to arise to say that he had not thought of how to say what he was thinking, Tim Tom got up.

"As you all know, time and Tim Tom are almost one. Well, I would like to join the five duc brothers in their celebration of life, and this is the right time. A couple of years ago, I thought my time was up. The Pillow Man had siezed me, and was going to pluc me. My life was going down. As you know, this duc, too, was saved by Dic. I will forever feather my nest with memories of his work, this night, and those flames of life."

Cheers of "Tim Tom Tim Tom!" and "Dic Duc Dic Duc!" abounded, and the singing went into the night.

The barnyard was quiet early in the morning, and most of the animals slept late. Dic was amazed at the morning quiet, but not nearly so amazed as he'd been by the response to his idea of celebration. He spent the day reflectively, trying to guess what the night might bring.

As dusk fell, the animals hurried to the window, to watch the lighting of the flames, and to hear the ducs share their hearts again. Pic and Nic, then Lic, Mic, and Ric spoke again. Tim Tom told again of the Pillow Man. A hush fell over the assembled residents. Dic thought - now it's my turn, and I still don't know what to say.

Mama Duc arose, and cried out to be heard. "You all have heard me say 'Dic, you're an odd Duc' on many occasions. Well, I will remind you again that most of what you have been told these nights past would not have been told, except that Dic is an odd Duc. The lives of my babies would have either ended early, or not even begun, but for Dic. I celebrate every day, knowing that but for that oddly wonderful Duc, Dic, I should have few children indeed. I look at these flames, and see one for me and one for each of my children. And they are beautiful."

All the Ducs bursat into tears at Mama's speech. Dic led his brothers again - he cried the hardest. Slowly as composure returned, singing broke out.

The talk around the farm was of the night before, and of the night ahead. All the ducs but Dic had spoken, and the animals all anticipated what he might say when the candles were lit. Dic was trying to decide that same thing.

The animals gathered, as they had gathered each of the previous evenings. They didn't take notice of the stranger lurking in the background, so caught up were they in the goings-on. The flames were lit, and the tales were told. After Mama Duc had spoken, a hush fell over the crowd. Before Dic could pull himself together to speak, the stranger spoke up, and came to the window.

It was the female big strange thing!

"I have watched and listened to you all, for the past several nights, as you came to the window to tell your tales, and to appreciate the flames. I would like to join in your celebration. I have lived a long time, longer than any of you. I thought that all new things had gone from the world. I was caught up in day to day life, and didn't appreciate thebeauty of each day. Even these flames I lit each year had become symbols of things which didn't change.

"When Dic, and his brothers, were born, I didn't know how much I'd lost. On the day that Dic spoke to me, I realised that I had lost my appreciation for beauty and change. I come before you now to share that sense of beauty, and more, the sense of wonder that is alive in my world because of Dic, and all you animals. I see you as individuals, now. I wish to join your celebration, becuase we share this farm together. Let us watch the flames and revel in life's diversity."

The ducs and cows and sheep and horses and cats and dogs and other animals, and the big strange thing watched the flames in silence for quite a while, before somebody started a song. The harmony of the singing was pure and clean. The joy of the voices would have beenobvious to any listener. After the rendition of "Old MacDonald," the crowd broke up, to head to sleep. Dic's last thought before he dozed off was "Now, I know what I'm going to say!"

The next day seemed to pass both very quickly and very slowly. Dic felt as if the day would never end, and yet, he couldn't quite remember what he'd been doing. A lot of the animals seemed to be distracted, though all of them had smiles on their faces.

Before the day had quite ended, the crowd had started to gather around the window. There was an air of anticipation about them. The last of the farm's denizens had just pulled up to the group when the first two flames were lit. Pic and Nic, as they had each of the past seven nights, led off the presentations. After their talk about the Whoosh, more flames were lit, and Lic talked about China, and Mic talked about flying and discovery. As each one finished, the number of flickering flames increased. Ric shared again his experience with the fire, Mama Duc revelled in her children, and the female big strange thing talked of wonder. The tension built. After the last repeat, a ninth light appeared. And there was silence.

Dic waddled to the front, and the other speakers stood behind him.

"Behold the flickering flames. They are pretty, but they can burn. They have a limited time, even if all goes well, and if it doesn't, the flames can go out sooner. They are different from one another, but they have more in common than they have differences. They are precious, but you can not horde them. If you try to protect them from the wind too much, you lose their light or their heat. If you do not protect them enough, the same thing happens. The flames are life.

"Do not be afraid to explore, to adventure. Look at both similarities and differences. Protect your flame, but nurture it, don't cling to it until it loses meaning. If you count the moments of your flame, those moments will pass before you have enjoyed them. And, most of all, reach for the sky, and celebrate that you do so, as the flames dance while they reach for the sky."

He started dancing. They all started dancing. It went on all night.

And, in the days and years to come, if you looked on their faces, you would see that they danced forever.

For Susan