The Muscovy duck is one unpleasant bastard. Feathers haphazardly drizzled in dishwater colors like some LeRoy Neiman painting, a bulbous wattle—something called a caruncle—hanging like a diseased scrotum from its bill. Oh, and they don’t quack. They hiss.
Around the feces-crusted docks and dinghies of this little inlet of Hawaii Kai, in fact, the Muscovy duck is better known by its informal name: shit factory. But a baby in any phylum is still, by definition, adorable. And when said baby is in distress? Well, even a waddling, hissing down pillow of excrement deserves to be rescued. Right?
Pacing cross-armed and fretful on her canal-front lawn one midnight not so long ago, Yessica Kumala answered, unequivocally, yes. Watching three motherless ducklings floundering helplessly in the dark waters that lead to Maunalua Bay—and eventually the Pacific Ocean—she bit her lip. She knew that their immediate future included one or all of the following: They would drown, be pureed by a passing motor, or get gobbled up by a barracuda.
“Baby,” she called through the patio door to her husband. “Get the boat.”
She wasn’t asking.
And so it was that Josh Holloway—a.k.a. Sawyer, the swindling, often shirtless redneck antihero of Lost—sprang (okay, stumbled; it was late at night) into action to do the most noble of things: save three ugly ducklings. With one hand gingerly guiding the motor of his eight-foot inflatable dinghy and the other shining a flashlight into the darkness, Holloway puttered through the bay as Kumala, crouched at the bow, scooped the baby bastards up with a tiny net.
Even today, three weeks later, retelling the story and soaking up a rare slice of sunshine in this, Hawaii’s monsoon season, Kumala can’t help but gush. Holloway bunches into a burly ball, all “Aw, shucks” and shrugged shoulders. Either he’s deep in the throes of love or he’s the most p-whipped man this side of Bobby Brown. Probably a little of both. Those ducks have names—Pecker Niblet, Zorro Cojones, and Sloppy Joe Scrawn—and a temporary residence in Holloway’s still-under-construction “man room” in the garage. Apparently they’ve also taken to doing that thing Muscovys are most famous for.
“Shit everywhere, man,” Holloway says, pointing to the polluted sheets of newspaper in the holding cell. Now that they’re grown, the plan is to take the trio out on a few test runs, let them mingle with the bigger ducks; you know, toughen them up before finally sending them back into the wild. Kumala is noticeably nervous about this. Holloway? Safely out of earshot he confides: “I mean, it’s ducks, man—in reality, they’re all dead anyway.”
Spoken—however quietly—like a true swindling, often shirtless redneck antihero.
And that’s the thing. As we untie ourselves from his dock and veer off into Maunalua Bay in search of rum and cigarettes (“Don’t say a damn thing,” he says, “or I’ll be back on the patch tomorrow.” Sorry, dude), the rough-hewn line between Holloway and Sawyer blurs. “C’mon now!” he whoops, revving the motor. This is his battle cry. There’s a North Star twinkle in his eye. I dig my feet into the boat’s rubber bottom and swallow. Hard.