''We need some pets,'' I told my wife the other day.
We were cleaning a winter's supply of fallen debris from beneath the front yard trees. She straightened with an armload of sticks. ''Oh, good. It's about time we got a cat.''
I parked the wheelbarrow by a flower bush. ''We can't get a cat. It might attack the pets.''
Terry gave me that what-is-it-this-time eye roll. ''What are you thinking? A wallaby?''
My eyes lit up. ''Wow. Do you think the zoo will let us have one?''
I slumped against a tree. ''That's what they said when I asked if I could bring home one of their extra elephants.''
''The zoo doesn't have 'extra' elephants.''
''Yeah, they said that, too. But an elephant sure would beat any ol' watchdog.''
I didn't like the way Terry glanced between me and the bundle of sticks. I scooted the wheelbarrow between us. ''I was thinking ducks.''
She stopped. ''Ducks? Why ducks?''
''Ducks are cool.''
She shook her head. ''What do you know about ducks?''
''I've watched all Daffy and Donald cartoons. Some of them 16 or 17 times.''
''Those are animated ducks.'' She hefted one of the sticks. ''Do you know anything about real ducks?''
''They quack. They lay eggs. They're friendly. What else do you need to know?''
''I know that real ducks need water.''
''Lots of water.''
''A pond, at the very least.''
Terry swept her stick in an arc that took in our whole yard. ''You might have noticed that we don't have a pond.''
I nodded. ''I just remembered something I wanted to talk to you about.''
''We don't have enough yard.''
''We could ...''
''We are not digging up the basement.''
I scratched my ear. ''Well, then ...''
''Not the bathtub, either.''
I felt my duck dynasty slipping away. ''What if I took them outside whenever we needed to take a shower?''
''Oh, sure. Ducks do great outdoors.''
Terry dropped her sticks into the wheelbarrow and kneaded her temples. It reminded me of another point. ''You know, studies show that people who have pets have fewer headaches.''
She closed her eyes. ''What do studies say about people who have husbands?''
''I dunno. Why do you ask?''
''No reason.'' Terry tugged at a fallen limb. Black and grey squirrels chased each other up the trees.
A chipmunk perched on a stump and chattered. A rabbit hopped into the bushes. ''Maybe we have enough pets.''
''It's spring. I bet the mice will leave the garage any time now.''
''And the squirrels in the attic?''
''I really should patch those eaves. If the zoo would have let me have an elephant, I could have reached it.''
''Or we could buy a ladder.''
I shook my head. ''I had a pet ladder once. I could never teach it fetch. It never once came when I called. Ladders make lousy pets.''
Terry's stick snapped. Finally, she spoke a single word: ''Quack.''
I think it means she's gonna let me get some ducks!
---- Cole's latest novel, ''Bash and the Chicken Coop Caper,'' from B&H Kids, is in bookstores. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.