Here’s Chapter 5 in the story of Hopper the penguin. If you’d like to read from the beginning, go here.
Heading for Home
Some time passed, and Hopper continued to grow, and then after a while he didn’t grow anymore. He was still a little fellow to the Emperors, and not just a little fellow, but a runt!
One day as he was hopping around on piles of ice near his place, he saw Emily and Emmett waddling in from the ice wasteland. To him they seemed to be waddling slower than usual, and their beaks hung down to their chests. He called out from the top of an ice hill, “Hi, Mom! Hey Dad! Where’ve you been?”
They each lifted up a wing in a weak sort of wave and kept heading for home. Hopper began to worry. This wasn’t like them. They were usually so happy. He wondered if they were sick or if something had hurt them.
He quickly hopped down and hopped and waddled to meet them. “Is something the matter?” he asked.
“No, not really,” replied Emmett.
“But something is wrong. What is it?” Then he saw the tears in their eyes. He walked between them with his wings on their backs and decided to keep quiet until they wanted to tell him.
When they returned home, they stood in silence for a long time. Then Emmett spoke, “Hopper, this morning your mother and I were called out to the ice wilderness to receive some instructions, and what we’ve heard has saddened our hearts, even though we’ve always known this time would come, and we also know it’s what’s best for everyone. Son, we’d like to hold on to you forever and keep you here, because you’re our only child, and we prayed for years for you to come, and finally you did. But now it’s time for you to go home.”
“What do you mean?” broke in Hopper. “This is my home. Where can I go?”
Emmett continued, “No, Hopper, there is a place called West Falkland Island which is your real home. There you will find your real parents, and many other Rockhopper penguins, for that is what you are. They need you there, so you must make that journey back there to your family.”
Then they told him the whole story of how he came to be born in Antarctica and how they were given the joyful privilege of raising him. After many tears Hopper realized what they told him was true, and he must prepare for a journey north to the Falkland Islands.
“Can’t you come with me?” he asked.
“We’re getting pretty old for that journey,” they replied. “Besides, we have a few things to do here still.”
Hopper spent the next day saying goodbye to all his relatives and his few friends. As he returned home, he knew this would be his last day in Antarctica. Now he just wanted to be with Emmett and Emily. She did her best to put on a happy face, but it wasn’t hard to see she was on the verge of crying, and she didn’t say much.
Emmett had words of instruction for the journey: “The way to the Falklands is due north. Remember what you’ve learned about navigation, and you’ll get there at the right time. You’ll know the place when you get there. You’ll know it’s your home. Beware of sharks. Beware of seals and their kin, especially those serving the Great White Seal. Don’t believe anything they say. They may look friendly, but they’d like to have you for dinner. Most importantly, call for help when you need it, and it will be sent to you from above. You’re starting a new life now, Hopper. You will find new friends, especially if you remember how to treat others. Remember the lessons you’ve learned here because you were different, and treat others like you would like to have been treated. You will find others who look like you in the end, those of your Rockhopper family. I hope you will remember your Emperor family here, Son, and know that you have been the joy of our lives.”
The next day they waddled with Hopper to the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. What needed to be said had been said, so they went on in silence. Finally they reached the edge of the ice where Hopper must take to the sea.
“Remember what we’ve told you, and especially remember the one who made you,” were Emmett’s final words.
“Goodbye, Hopper, dear son,” sobbed Emily.
He hugged them a long time, and then they all knew it was time to go. He looked out at the ocean before him, the seemingly endless blue broken up by countless white waves. “How could I ever find anything out there?” he thought, but he knew if he followed his navigating instructions, he would make it to his home.
Turning to them once more, he said, “Thank you for being my mom and dad. Thank you for teaching me so many good things. Thank you for always loving me and accepting me. I’ll always love you, too. Bye!” Then he dove into the sea and headed north for the Falklands.
Emmett and Emily watched him swim out to sea, becoming a smaller and smaller black and white spot surrounded by blue. Just before he was out of sight, Hopper turned around for one last wave and then was gone.
They slowly and sadly returned home, but glad they had done the right thing and glad they had had the privilege of raising Hopper.