Once upon a time when Ladybird was on her way to work and just got off the train, she was stunned to see a mallard (Stockente in German) walking around on the other platform.
What the heck! She did not believe her eyes. What was the animal doing here in the middle of a very busy city quarter away from the lake and several meters below street level?
Ladybird stood still for a while watching the duck as people around her minded their own business. She soon realised that the duck was calling and immediately thought: “Oh my, this is mummy looking for her young ones. I’d better help her.”
Ladybird ran up the stairs and down again to platform 2, she looked around and there right along a mostly unused track and the wall going up to the busy road above she saw five fluffy ducklings, which were only about one week old and stumbling in the little green there was. How did they end up here, Ladybird wondered.
Mommy, however, was calling into the other direction and decisively walking away from the five towards the tunnel. Ladybird’s pulse had gone up by now and adrenaline circulated in her blood. As a matter of fact, high-pitched answer calls came from the tunnel.
Oh my word, some ducklings got lost in there. Two were walking out of it and seemed in sight of her mummy walking between the track and along it, but the platform was almost half a meter higher than the track. An obstacle a flightless duckling can’t overcome. The situation looked desperate, indeed.
Ladybird felt sad and frustrated that she could not just jump onto the tracks and get those little poor fluffy balls back to safety. For one thing it was forbidden and more importantly deadly as trains regularly rolled in. What’s more, mummy and her offspring surely were suspicious of human beings and could run away anyway.
So Ladybird ran to platform 1 again trying to see how many ducklings might still have been in the dark tunnel completely ignoring the german lessons she was meant to begin teaching in only a few minutes.
She stood at the very end of the platform only just on the safety lines gazing into the tunnel with her what felt like a prolonged giraffe neck, when on platform 1 a train arrived. People of all walks of life were rushing out of it and up the stairs to get to work.
Then the train driver honked three times. It was an ear-piercing noise that startled Ladybird, who was still focusing onto the tunnel. She looked to the train driver noticing that he was concerned about her safety and a bit upset. He obviously could not know why she was standing there. “What happens when the several-ton weighing locomotive started moving into the tunnel?” is all she could think of. She stepped back a bit and closed her eyes and ears…
Meanwhile, a man came standing next to Ladybird as he had also seen the ducklings and mummy mallard on the other platform. “It looks like they are not where they belong.” he said. “Sure enough.” Ladybird answered. “Oh, hopefully this does not end in a drama.” he added and left. “I will give my best and call for help now.” Ladybird convincingly murmured.
She new the man for she grew up watching his TV series “Das Spielhaus” (Play School) and listening to and laughing out loud while trying to read his very famous “Totemügerli” (sorry, translation is not possible, but think of it as a very creative play with words that mainly do not exist and sum up to an intriguing story all the same. You can, however, watch him perform it and see the words at the same time by clicking here). The man was Franz Hohler, a famous Swiss author and cabaret artist.
Ladybird now quickly called her employer to let it know she would be late due to a duckling emergency. Then she googled for organisations that help animals in trouble and made several phone calls. An animal rescue organisation finally told her they would come to the scene but needed some time as they were located out of the city and therefore would also inform the water police. Ladybird had left her phone number and asked for an update later in the day. There was nothing else she could do but hope there would be a happy end.
She arrived at school and taught the students some new words in German that felt essential at the moment: duck – die Ente, emergency – der Notfall, ducklings – die Küken, tunnel – der Tunnel, train driver – der Lokomotivführer, author – der Schriftsteller. They then heard an unusual and touching story and reacted with interest and compassion. Everybody wanted to know how this story had ended. In her heart, Ladybird, too, could hardly wait until after class when she wanted to check back on the rescue team and the duck family.
Later that day, she learned that it was the Zurich water police who arrived first on the scene and was able to rescue mummy mallard and her ducklings. Their city expedition was brought to an end and they got to set foot again in water on Lake Zurich.
Ladybird was very happy and joyful having a broad and contagious smile on her face. By all means, she wanted to share the happy end with Franz Hohler and the whole story with as many people as possible. She wrote the author an email with the good news and he promptly and surprisingly answered delighted with the outcome and a big thank you in the form of a little story spontaneously and especially written for the occasion. Ladybird was over the moon.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Listen to the story he wrote here (in German only):