Thursday, April 18, 2024

Mrs. Ducket's Adventure

[Stockton's] most famous fable, "The Lady, or the Tiger?" (1882), is about a man sentenced to an unusual punishment for having a romance with a king's beloved daughter.

Hi folks! Happy Poetry Friday! I am continuing with my National Poetry Month project, writing poems inspired by short stories. I lucked out the first two weeks because it didn't take me long to find stories that I wanted to write about. This week, however, I read a bunch of stories that fell flat. Finally I happened upon The Widow's Cruise by Frank Stockton. Stockton wrote a juicy part for a woman, which I appreciated :)

In "The Widow's Cruise," four elderly sailors stop by the Widow Ducket's house for dinner and a rest stop on their way down the coast. After dinner, they take turns telling stories. The Widow Ducket has asked for true stories, but the sailors tell one fantastical tale after another. Once they are done, she asks if she can share a story of her own. Hers is the most outlandish of them all, causing the men many a yawp of surprise. ("Madam!" exclaimed Captain Bird, and the other elderly mariners took their pipes from their mouths.") The Widow Ducket may have been annoyed with the men for stretching the truth in her own house after she had fed them so well, but in the end, she felt like she evened the score.

My poem for "The Widow's Cruise" is a retelling of her tall tale, as it needs no embellishment from me.

Mrs. Ducket's Adventure

As Mrs. Ducket had oil and love for lit lamps and safe husbands,
when her sister-in-law had a dry lamp and a dark window,
Mrs. Ducket set off to cross the bay. She had no oars or sailing
knowledge, just a rudder and her own hands to spin it.

She was spinning her way along the water when a mighty storm
rose before her and behind her and crashed into itself atop of her,
so she poured a bit of oil on the water and calmed it like a mother hen
getting an angry chick to unruffle its feathers. Smooth the bay was then,
in a boat-shaped space.

Mrs. Ducket looked down, calculating that the oil could not flatten
a path across the bay and still light the dry lamp. Below her,
she spied a crack in the boat's bottom. The water underneath
-- while full of sharks -- was calm. Placid enough to walk across,
drawing air from her oil tin? She thought about it, until she
abandoned the plan for fear of running into vicious turtles.

Maybe electricity would do the trick. Mrs. Ducket rubbed the soles
of her shoes back and forth on a dusty seat until she fairly crackled
with electricity. Fully charged, she swam through the storm to shore,
buoyant with current. She might not have even needed oil to light
the lamp at journey's end with all the sparks she ferried.


My Juicy Little Universe has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Heidi!


Bridget Magee said...

Thank you for embarking on this NPM project journey, Tabatha. You've introduced me to many interesting new-to-me short stories - The Widow's Cruise my favorite so far. The fact that Mrs. Ducket contemplated shark infested waters as viable way through the storm only to rethink the route because of the "vicious turtles" struck me funny. :)

Rose Cappelli said...

Thank you, Tabatha. Mrs. Ducket's story is intriguing to say the least.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

What a tale! I feel certain that your word choices improve upon the original story...just those first two lines bring rhythm and tension, mood and conflict. Excellent!

Linda B said...

Thus, Mrs. Ducket's story topped the old sailors. She's a woman who knows how to solve problems like us all! I love that line "until she fairly crackled", Tabatha! This challenge you've taken is wonderful! I'll have to look for the story!

TraceyKJ said...

I admire how you were able to convey the 1880’s tone of the piece through your poetic word choices, Tabetha. Your poem fairly crackles with electricity!

jama said...

Fascinating to read Mrs. Ducket's tale! Glad she put those sailors in their place. :)

Janice Scully said...

It was fun to imagine her crackling with electricity which helped her swim across the water. No wonder the tale made the sailors "yawp."

Carol Varsalona said...

Tabatha, this is a tall tale indeed. Mrs. Ducket could spin a whopper of a tale just like the sailors. The last line of Mrs. Ducet's Adventure ended with humor (quite a bit of it). Thanks for a good story.

Patricia Franz said...

Storms and sharks and electric turtles, oh my! Thanks for the smiles, Tabatha.

Linda Mitchell said...

Ha! That Widow Duckett, she's got pluck. What a great yarn, Tabatha! I'm in awe.

Denise Krebs said...

Tabatha, what a fun story, Widow Duckett tells. I love your summary! "Smooth the bay was then, in a boat-shaped space." Glad you found a good short story this week.