First-person story, the narrator is forty-two years old and while working as a security guard at a university he takes courses for free. He's taking a writing class. We learn that he and his wife, Fanny, had lost a child but we never learn the details or age or anything except that "You know, I had a girl once. My wife, Fanny. She and I had a small girl one time."
He has to save a suicidal student twice, once in a snow blizzard and once in a rock quarry. For his class assignment he writes a persuasive essay titled, "Ralph the Duck" in which a mother duck tries to keep the baby duck warm. The teacher gives him a grade of "D." It's heartbreaking to think what "Ralph the Duck" means for the narrator. He later tells his wife that he wrote "Ralph the Duck" and she says, "'You did?'"
Fabulous, fabulous story. I'd read it before but re-read it today when I ran across it in Alice LaPlante's book, The Making of a Story. A man has a chance to save a girl when he couldn't save his own "small girl." And for the narrator's sake, I hope the doctors at the hospital will be able to save the suicidal college girl.
New York Times article from 2013
Wikipedia page about Busch
Fiction Writers Review about "Ralph the Duck"
25 July, 2009
Frederick Busch, "Widow Water," Stuart Dybek, "Arf," Ron Carlson, "Sunday in the Windy City," Dorothy Allison, "Jason Who Will Be Famous," and Cheryl Strayed, "Munro Country" essay
Went to the William Kentridge exhibition at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth today.
Still on a mini-break from "Woodie Hart."
In the last couple of days have read, Frederick Busch's "Widow Water," Stuart Dybek's "Arf," Ron Carlson's "Sunday in the Windy City," Dorothy Allison's "Jason Who Will be Famous," and essay "Munro Country" by Cheryl Strayed.