Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 9

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Hopper finally finds some friends, but is still going the wrong way to find his home.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 9

 

Island of Penguins

 

 

In the distance he saw an island. He swam for it with all his might. He crashed through the surf and tumbled onto the sandy shore, shouting, “Yaaaa-hoooo! Finally I’m home!”

He looked right and left. Far down the beach he thought he saw a waddling form. He hopped and waddled as fast as he could, shouting, “Yo-ho, there! Hey there, cousin!”

Soon he was face to face with another penguin. It seemed like years since he’d seen one, although it had really only been a few weeks. Hopper, excited and out of breath from his long swim and hop, gasped, “Hi there! My name is Hopper. I’ve come home!”

“Well, hello,” said a young female penguin. “You are a different sort, aren’t you? There’s never been anyone named Hopper here, and certainly nobody who looked like you.”

“You don’t understand. My dad told me that he and my mom weren’t my real parents, and I must go find my real parents. He sent me here, to the Falklands, where the Rockhoppers live.”

His new acquaintance giggled, “You are a strange one, for sure. This place is not the Falklands. It is called Ballanero. And I’ve never heard of Rockhoppers before. We are Magellanic penguins.”

Hopper’s heart sank so low he felt it not only in his stomach, but also in his legs and his feet. It weighed him down, and he collapsed to the sand, crying out, “Oh, no, where is my home? Are you sure there aren’t any more like me here? Are there other penguins?”

She replied, “There are many, many of us, but none like you.”

“Can I meet them? Maybe there will be someone who can tell me where my home is.”

“Come with me,” she said. “I’ll take you to see my dad. He knows just about everything anyone needs to know to be a penguin in these parts.”

“Thank you very much,” said Hopper. “And what is your name?”

“My name is Magellee,” she said as she started waddling inland.

As Hopper followed her he began hearing a noise he’d never heard before, although in some ways it seemed familiar. It grew louder the farther they went on, and soon he could see that the source of the noise was many, many Magellanic penguins. It seemed they were all talking to each other at the same time as they stood around the holes in the base of a hill where they had their nests.

Suddenly they caught sight of Magellee and Hopper, and much of the noise turned into a braying sound like a donkey. Someone called out, “Hey Magellee, who’s your new friend? He’s a funny-looking fellow!” Many more sounded in agreement.

“His name is Hopper,” replied Magellee.

“Hopper! What a name!” came a chorus of penguin voices.

Magellee continued, “He’s looking for his home. He seems to have lost his way…”

“Well, this sure isn’t his home, is it!” shouted one belligerent-looking penguin named Magus, but was usually called Maggot. “The funny-looking fellow can’t even find directions. Hey Hopper, where did you learn to navigate, at a school for peccaries? Ha! Ha! Ha!”

They all laughed and continued shouting similar insulting remarks.

Normally a mild-mannered penguin, Hopper was growing angry. He’d had a long, tiring, and disappointing day, and now these penguins who didn’t even know him were making fun of him. The yellow crest above his eyes bristled, his eyes sparked, and he said, “I don’t know what happened, but I know this, my dad Emmett is the best navigator of all the Emperors. He taught me everything he knows…”

“Taught you everything he knows, and you still don’t know anything! Hooo hoooo heeee hah hah…”

Making fun of Emmett was about all Hopper could take. He was about to challenge them all to a fight, but his conscience reminded him that that wasn’t the way to handle it. He turned around and headed back toward the sea. Tears were starting to stream down his face.

Then Magellee called to him, “Wait, Hopper! Don’t mind them. They’re actually just a little afraid, because they’ve never seen anyone like you, and they don’t know what to do. Besides, we haven’t gotten to see my dad yet. He won’t treat you like that.”

Hopper began to calm down, and after a few minutes he said, “Okay.” They walked in silence for a ways down the beach. By the time they reached the burrow where Magellee’s family lived, the word was buzzing all over that a strange penguin had come. Most of the penguins were gabbing to each other as they stuck their heads out of their holes, but one distinguished-looking penguin appeared to be waiting for them, standing outside the entrance to his burrow.

“Hello, Magellee dear. I hear you’ve found a new friend.”

“Hi, Daddy. This is Hopper. He’s looking for his home, and he thought this would be it. He’s had a very disappointing day. Hopper, this is my daddy. His name is Magadon.

Hopper said, “Hello, sir. Magellee was telling me perhaps you could help me find my home.”

“Welcome, Hopper. For now, what you need is rest. Come on in to our home.”

As they went into the burrow, Hopper met Magellee’s mother, Magdalena, a kind and gentle sort who constantly tried to make sure everyone was comfortable. It seemed to Hopper she went out of her way to make him feel at home. She reminded him a little of Emily, and he missed his old home in Antarctica. He wondered if he ever should have left.

The remainder of the evening was pleasantly spent with Magadon telling stories of his adventures out at sea, not far from here in the Pacific waters off the coast of South America. Then he said, “Enough for tonight. We must all get some sleep. Tomorrow we will hear your story, Hopper, and we’ll see if we can do anything to help you along. Goodnight, all.”

With that he closed his eyes and began snoring.

The next morning as Hopper awoke he found he was alone in the burrow. He poked his head outside and saw a huge crowd of penguins waddling toward the sea. He was torn with the feeling of being left behind by his friends and wanting to join them and the feeling of fear that all the others would continue to ridicule him.

His disappointment came upon his heart again until he remembered that Magadon said today they would talk about his situation. But where were they going now? Anyway, he had to find out what was going on, ridicule or not, so he hopped out of the burrow after the others. Somehow he managed to find Magellee in the crowd and made his way toward her. “Hey, where are you all going?” he called.

“We’re getting our breakfast, of course,” she said. “Come join us. We didn’t want to disturb your sleep. We could tell you were exhausted.”

So Hopper swam out with Magellee and together they ate their fill of fish and krill. “Great fishing here,” said Hopper as they headed back to the burrow. When they got there, they found Magadon and Magdalena waiting for them. “I trust you had nice sleep and a good breakfast, Hopper,” greeted Magadon. “Now we must hear your story and see if there’s a way we can help you.”

Hopper then related his story—how he came to be born and raised in Antarctica, why he left and how he ended up here. He concluded, “Sometimes I think Emmett must have given me the wrong directions, but that doesn’t seem likely, because he’s the best navigator among the Emperors, except for his brother, Emp.”

“No,” said Magadon, “it’s unlikely he steered you wrong. Without doubt the storm threw you off your course, and you, being alone at sea for the first time, didn’t know how to compensate. Take heart, young fellow, you have a home. You’ll find it. For now, however, why not rest with us for a while? In a month we will be migrating north for the winter. I have heard of other types of penguins farther north than we go. Come with us, and we’ll help you on your way. You see, we are near what is called the Straits of Magellan, and that is why we are called Magellanic penguins. Around here I haven’t seen any like you, and I haven’t along the way where we’re going, but perhaps the ones farther north are your kind.”

 

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