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Step Away From the Duck

Part 2 of Cellar Dweller

It was Pat Kirkwood’s idea that we should all get arrested for roasting ducks at the City Park Duck Pond in Fort Worth. “We’ll make it a celebration," he proclaimed. "Bring the kids.” Just one more example of Pat Kirkwood’s perverse talent for stirring up publicity for The Cellar (his already notorious night club) and at the same time, sticking it to the Boys down at City Hall.

On the record, the local Fort Worth politicians, the media and the police department all considered Pat Kirkwood’s lewd and lascivious little coffee house on Main Street to be a disreputable black eye on the downtown business community. Off the record, a lot of these same pompous pinheaded hypocrites came down there expressly to wallow in it. The Duck Pond Incident was just Kirkwood’s way of giving something back to the community.

The Duck Pond Incident was nothing more than yet another of Kirkwood’s many theatrical media scams. The actual ducks that were to be so blatantly violated there in the park were purchased by Kirkwood at a meat market, all cleaned and ready to cook. He also purchased a large bag full of assorted fowl feathers and one whole dead duck yet to be cleaned or butchered — its head, feathers and feet still intact. The idea was to attract a lot of attention (which was never a problem) and to horrify as many innocent bystanders as possible with Kirkwood’s drunken, “Night Of The Living Dead” crew stumbling about, making loud, lewd remarks, groping each other and chasing the resident ducks in and out of the pond.

Like some demented magic act gone horribly wrong, Kirkwood, standing out in full view, would vigorously ring the neck of the unprocessed, meat market duck, twirling it around like a baton while his scantily clad assistants discreetly tossed handfuls of feathers in the air to make the scene even more gruesome. And before the police arrive to haul us all away for public depravity, the other meat market ducks, cleaned and prepared, are roasted on a spit, their little carcasses ripped apart and their flesh devoured! It was a horror show so vile to this gathering of Sunday afternoon park strollers, dog walkers and ball-tossing, baloney-eating picnickers that blue haired ladies in orthopedic shoes fainted dead away and old men threatened us with their canes. Mothers grabbed their children and held them close to shield innocent eyes from the spectacle. Others just stood there dumbfounded in a slack-jawed stupor.

“For God’s sake! They're eating the ducks! … Somebody call the police!” a voice finally rang out. It was Kirkwood's voice trying to move things along. He had the scenario all mapped out: Publicly traumatize a few gullible chumps, get arrested, create a big stink with lots of news coverage. Then just before the humiliating "pictures & prints" procedure, expose the whole thing as an elaborate hoax and get even more publicity. What could possibly go wrong?

First, we had to get arrested. This was the part of the plan that a lot of us had a real problem with — getting arrested. Many very unpleasant things can happen to a person lost in that vague time warp somewhere between being taken into custody and hopefully, eventual release. And we all know how the police love a good joke, especially when it’s at their expense.

Acting on an anonymous tip from an hysterical informant, the police showed up at the park in full force, heavily armed and primed to face the complete breakdown of civilized society and perhaps even demonic possession. The media too was alerted by a suspiciously similar anonymous phone call from Kirkwood’s wife, claiming that a bunch of devil-worshiping cannibals had taken over the City Park Duck Pond and were sacrificing live animals in unspeakable ways.

“It’s a complete breakdown of civilized society and perhaps even demonic possession!” she screamed into the phone, then hung up and finished painting her toenails. Unfortunately, for Pat, the timing of this little pageant was a bit off. It took the media a lot longer to arrive than planned. So, there we were on that pleasant, sunny Sunday afternoon in the park with Pat, surrounded by cops, police dogs, ducks, and a police van plus a vengeful mob of Park People. It was perfect! But where were the newspaper reporters and the TV crews — the lights, the cameras, the action?

“They probably stopped off to cover a burning orphanage or a kitten in a tree,” Kirkwood grumbled. As the crowd of angry Park People whooped and cheered, the police herded us all together and one by one, we were frisked for anything that may later be determined illegal then loaded into the back of the van. Kirkwood, stalling for time, still hoping the media would show at any second, managed to hang back unrecognized until the last minute.

“Hold it," said the approaching officer in charge. “You’re Pat Kirkwood, right?”

“Yes, sir,” Pat answered stiffly.

“I thought so.” The officer was holding a soiled, crumpled paper bag revealing the name of a local meat market. He looked over with growing suspicion at the rest of us in the police van. Something was definitely up, he thought. “The Cellar, right?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Where’d you get them ducks?”

“Well, there’s a whole pond full.” Kirkwood explained, pointing toward the large gathering of flapping, quacking birds. “You want one?” Kirkwood’s stone face finally cracked into a sly grin. All of us in the police van began to snicker. The other officers too began to cough and clear their throats in an attempt to suppress any reaction.

"You think this is funny?" the arresting officer bellowed. He turned to face us, shutting everyone up with his cold glare, his fellow officers included. He rested his hands on his heavy leather gun belt and, shaking his head in disbelief, took another long look around at this ridiculous situation. Thirty yards away, the officer could see TV news vans pulling up, people with cameras climbing out, people in suits combing their hair, waving microphones and charging over the grassy slopes, heading his way. The officer stared at the ground for a few seconds then returned Kirkwood’s sly grin with one of his own.

“I don't think so, Kirkwood.” He chuckled, then walked over and held the van door open. “OK, everybody out! Show’s over!"

"But we're despicable people," Kirkwood whined.

"Not my problem," the officer said over his shoulder as he walked away.

Well, this wasn’t at all what Pat had in mind. Everyone was allowed to go free and Pat was issued a warning for disturbing the peace. Not even a fine! Just a piddly-ass warning on a little piece of paper. They didn't even run us off! The cops just left us there while they packed up their dogs and their tear gas and cruised over to the other side of the park to make sure nobody fucked with the petting zoo. The now not-so-angry mob of Park People, with no real leader, broke up and wandered off in total confusion, never really knowing what had happened in the first place.


This left Kirkwood and his merry band of Cellar Dwellers back where we started: roasting ducks, drinking heavily, attempting to mate and occasionally passing out from exhaustion after staying up on speed for several days. In the middle of this great non-event were the reporters and TV crews all running around like chattering monkeys, trying to find out exactly what it was that they'd obviously just missed.


Kirkwood’s latest attempt to gain local and possibly national notoriety as Fort Worth’s most outrageous, self-promoting entrepreneur had failed. Instead, what we saw that night on the local news was some brief, poorly lit footage of Pat Kirkwood lying under a picnic table, bleary eyed and drunk, gnawing on a charred duck leg and bellowing into the TV cameras, “Where were you guys when I needed you?”


George Rains © 2018

George Rains, has played drums with Willie Nelson, Jimmy Vaughan, Doug Sahm, Boz Scaggs and many others. He's famous for his Texas Shuffle.


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