Keeping up


“Where are we going, Dad?”

“We’re following Mum. Now, keep up, will you?”


“What now?”

“Why are Jeannie and I not pretty like you and Mum?”

“You are pretty. Look at yourself in the water.”

“Yeah, but you and Mum are all white and clean-looking. Jeannie and I are … I don’t know – dirty-looking.”

“That’s just how it is, Johnny. Mum and I were like you when we were young’uns.”

“Were you?”

“We were. And we were smaller, too. Don’t worry, you’ll grow up to be big and strong and beautiful just like me.”

“And what about Jeannie? Will she be like Mum?”

“If she eats all her food properly and does all the other things we’ve been teaching you both. Yes, she will.”



“Are you older than Mum?”

“No. Mum was hatched the year before me.”

“So how come you’re bigger?”

“It’s called sexual dimorphism—”

“Are you talking dirty, Dad?”

“Of course not. Sexual dimorphism just means that the adult male and female look different. Sometimes they’re a different colour—”

“Like the Mallard family?”

“Exactly like them; and sometimes they’re different sizes, like us. Daddy mute swans are bigger than Mummy mute swans.”


“What’s with all the questions? Just paddle and keep up with Mum and Jeannie, will you?”

“But Dad?”


“Why are we called mute swans?”

“Because we don’t make as much noise as some of the others.”

“But we aren’t mute, are we? I’ve heard you and Mum calling to each other.”

“Compared with the Bewick’s and Whoopers we are – you can hear them coming from miles away.”

“Daddy, you’re so clever. You know everything, don’t you?”

“It might seem like that now, Johnny, but when you’re older you’ll realise there are a lot of things we don’t know.”

“Can I ask one more thing, Dad?”

“Just one, then we really need to catch up. What is it?”

“Are we a family? Is that the word for a group of us?”

“Some humans talk about a bevy of swans. That’s when there are a lot of us together. Some say herd, but I don’t like that. Wedge or gaggle are used when a lot of us are flying together. Whiteness is one of my favourites – it says nice things about us.”


“What now?”

“Why do some humans talk about a box of swans?”

“Beats me, Son. Paddle away!”

This was written in response to Kreative Kue 287 published on this site.

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