Mark Saba

Sylvester and His Polka Dots




In a hole by the bank of a pond, where the ground was dry and the ground was the roof, there lived a duck named Sylvester.

He took no food inside his house, no guests, no chickens, no mice nor geese nor swans, nor swallowtails or rocks.  Only one thing Sylvester kept inside his house, and that was his sack of polka dots. 

The grasses growing on Sylvester’s roof have never been able to remember all the colors of Sylvester’s polka dots—they say there was a different color for every blade of themselves.

Sylvester, however, was white, with orange feet and beak.  He was not the cleanest duck at the pond, but he was the most secretive.

Mornings he would stick his bright orange beak (sometimes muddy) out from his house to check the morning air.  If it was raining or snowing or hailing or blowing Sylvester would not come out with his sack of polka dots.  No, Sylvester loved his sack of polka dots too much to have them rained on or frozen or thundered or blown.

But nice days, yes, Sylvester came out tail-first, dragging the sack out by his beak.

And what a loud thump it made on the ground!  So much that the grass blades would awaken and stretch, the pebbles by the pond scramble into place, and the mice scurry back into their holes.

The sack was at least as big as Sylvester, and days when he felt tired he would load it into the brown wagon he kept behind the mound that was his house.  Then, Sylvester spent the day pulling his polka dots around the world.

In places as far as China, peasants stopped hoeing their gardens and merchants stopped selling their ducks to watch Sylvester go by.

In Hungary, little girls and boys with curious, round faces would want Sylvester to play with them.  But play he could not:  he had to guard his polka dots.

In the Laplands of Norway and Sweden Sylvester trudged on through mounds of snow.  One day a Lapp asked him:

“Where are you going with that bumpy sack?”

Sylvester answered:  “Quack! Quack!” and kept going, forgetting the tiresome snow and thinking only about his polka dots.

Why did Sylvester love his polka dots?  It is hard to say, but some say Sylvester loved his polka dots because with them he had every color in the world.  And as he passed by the world daily (never stopping to see it) he knew in his heart that he owned the whole thing, and it was only his, because he owned the polka dots with all their worldly color.