Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2007

He was in no way extraordinary.

His presence left no lasting impression and, try as he might, his conversations were far from engaging.

His eyes were set far back in his head and could only be seen through his thick glasses, provided one could achieve eye contact.

His shoulders seemed to slump from years of avoiding any semblance of the spotlight and were a natural outgrowth of his perception of himself.

He was somewhat overweight and had adopted that most common middle-age practice of choosing one’s attire to hide rather than accentuate.

It even appeared fate was his opponent as his unmarried Mom gave him the name Donald.

She later married Richard Sinclair Duck and Donald was adopted with the official name change being Donald Duck. It provided much material for those cruelest of school years, the Junior High.

Thus the nickname, “Quack” that seemed a natural course of events. So much so that he adopted the practice of introducing himself as such. His few attempts at invading the social world generally resulted in disaster. He was somber when the occasion called for gaiety, and his attempts at humor were both ineffective and ill-timed. People simply didn’t know what to do with him and vice-versa.

Thus, the building of his cocoon started at a young age. With time it became more complex and impenetrable.

His closest companions were his pets. They were predictable, affectionate and teased not. Though he yearned for some semblance of human companionship, he knew neither how to pursue it nor how to handle its attainment. Were it not for his clerical job at Freeman’s Inc., Donald would have had little contact with the outside world. But he had to eat.

Billy Simpson, recently hired at Freeman’s Inc., had noticed him during the breaks: often to himself and rarely sociable. “Probably wants to be left alone” he surmised. Week after week he had noticed this one called “Quack” come in, retreat to a corner engrossed in his crossword puzzles, and return to his cubicle.

He certainly didn’t appear to have much to offer.

He usually appeared somber, somewhat brooding, and kept a certain level of body odor, depending on the day. In fact, some office personnel suggested they could tell the day of the week depending on the “QOL”, or “Quack Odor Level.”

Friday’s were always the worst.

And yet, in spite of the general attitude of the office, Billy had a nagging spirit of inadequacy when it came to Quack. He had long pushed it down, but it always seemed to find a way to the surface.

Billy could think of a thousand reasons not to get involved.

And time went on. Until one day. Perhaps it was something he heard. Perhaps it was something inside he had to answer.

But one day, Billy approached Quack and reached down through the cocoon and tore down a small part of the wall and took a small but firm hold on Quack’s life and wouldn’t let go. Billy forgot himself and those around him and his limitations and his inadequacies and his fears and intruded into no-man’s land.

He stepped into another man’s world. And from that day forward neither Quack’s nor Billy’s life was the same.

Rex alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is rexalphin@aol.com.