the negotiation


ARTHUR: A middle-aged bureaucrat. He wears unstylish glasses and a suit one size too big.

BERTRAND: A talking duck.


An unremarkable conference table in an unremarkable conference room in the depths of the FDA. ARTHUR and BERTRAND are sitting on either side of the table, surrounded by piles of paper and groups of assistants.


ARTHUR: I have to say, you seem remarkably calm about this agreement.

BERTRAND: Well, we are prey animals as much as predators. One gains a different perspective about life when one is a member of such a species.

ARTHUR: Hmm. (Scratches head) I guess I would have expected that to change once you gained sentience.

BERTRAND: Perhaps in time, but our instincts are deeply ingrained.

ARTHUR: It’s still a bit mystifying to me that you’re negotiating with us voluntarily.

BERTRAND: You must remember that you are one of a handful of species that is an apex predator. You are not used to being eaten. This negotiation is to our advantage as much as yours.

ARTHUR: True. I suppose I never thought about it that way.

BERTRAND: Why would you? It is a privileged position.

ARTHUR: Ok. We’ve had a chance to review most of the agreement, but there were some items you wanted to clarify, right?

BERTRAND: Indeed. First and foremost, we ask that each member of our species be allowed to make the Great Pilgrimage at least once before being consumed.

ARTHUR: The Great Pilgrimage?

(BERTRAND consults with his assistants. Quacking ensues for a few moments.)

BERTRAND: We believe you call it “migration” in your language.

ARTHUR: Uh huh. What guarantee do we have that you’ll return?

BERTRAND: Well, some of us will be eaten I suppose. Some will undoubtedly be injured, and others could become lost, as well. However, those of us who survive must return in order to complete the cycle of the pilgrimage.

ARTHUR: I see.

BERTRAND: We have no choice. It is what defines our existence.

ARTHUR: Ok. (Writes on notepad.) I don’t think that will be a problem. What is your next term?

BERTRAND: We must be allowed to roam free throughout the day and also be allowed to swim and fly for at least one hour.

ARTHUR: I’m not sure about that.

BERTRAND: Well, in exchange, we agree to return to cages of no smaller than four feet square each evening.

ARTHUR: Why would you agree to that?

BERTRAND: Once again, you forget that we can be preyed upon by others. A cage is a safe, secure place to slumber.

ARTHUR: That makes sense. I think we’ll need to discuss the dimensions of the cages, but we can work that out offline.



BERTRAND: That we be allowed to choose our mates freely. We do not wish to be selectively bred.

ARTHUR: Ah. Hmm. (He quietly consults with his own assistants.) That might be a sticking point.

BERTRAND: Well, if you agree to let us roam free during the day, it’s more of a formality anyway.


BERTRAND: Besides, we’ve had millions of years of evolution behind us. We know what will be best for the flock in the long run.

ARTHUR: I’ll have to take that back to my people, but I can probably make that argument.

BERTRAND: Finally, I want to note that while we agree to be eaten, we cannot guarantee that we will always come peacefully. We are not cows.

ARTHUR: (Chuckles) Yeah, they signed off on an agreement without any questions at all.

BERTRAND: Unsurprising, frankly. (Consults with assistants, briefly.) Very well, that exhausts our terms and conditions. I believe you had several items to address as well?

ARTHUR: (Shuffles through papers). Ah, yes. First, we will provide a diet consisting of eighty percent corn-based feed.

BERTRAND: Will this feed contain all of the nutrients that we would normally absorb from our natural diet?

ARTHUR: Yes, we’ve done extensive studies and feel that this should provide everything that you might need.

BERTRAND: We agree then. Our main concern is nutrition – it’s not as though grass and bugs are especially tasty.

ARTHUR: Why do you eat them if they don’t taste good?

BERTRAND: We eat them because they are abundant and provide the nutrients we need. Once again, you forget that your species enjoys a privileged position. You can afford to care for taste.

ARTHUR: I see. Second, we require that your species agrees to binding arbitration to resolve disputes.

BERTRAND: We are prepared to accept this, on the condition that the arbitration tribunal will be composed of one representative from both our species as well as a party of a neutral third species.

ARTHUR: We’re ok with that. Well, then – I think we’ve covered everything else.

BERTRAND: Excellent. My species is very pleased that we were able to come to an agreement.

ARTHUR: As are we. Say, if you have a chance, put in a good word to the turkeys for us, will you? They’ve been nothing but trouble.

BERTRAND: The domestic ones are entirely stupid creatures, I’m afraid. They simply don’t know what’s good for them. They’ll come around in time, I’m sure.

ARTHUR: Well, they’d better. Next month’s Thanksgiving.