Hopper’s search for the Galapagos penguin colony is interrupted by a hawk who intends to invite him to lunch with his hungry family.
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His heart was sinking lower and lower, just as he descended lower and lower toward the bay below him. “Why am I here if this isn’t my home?” he wondered. He thought about his journey and all the friends he’d met on the way—Del and Delphina, Hummer and Hummeressa, and Magellee and her family. And he thought of Emily and Emmett, and now Galoppy. They knew where they were supposed to go. “Why not me?” He looked up and said, “Help!”
He had a faint reassurance that all would be well. “Thank you,” he said.
Far above him a dark shape was circling, lower and lower. Hopper didn’t see it because he was looking down at the bay below him and wondering how he would swim that last little way without being caught by seals. Suddenly a shadow was on the ground in front of him and talons dug into his shoulders.
“Aha!” said the hawk as it lifted him off the ground. “Up we go, penguin! Want to see what flying is like? Ha ha!”
Hopper replied, “Well, I’d rather not. Maybe you’d like to do some swimming with me?”
“Not much chance of that, little flipper wings! Nope, no more swimming for you. No more fishing. You see, now I’ve caught you. You’re coming home with me—for lunch! Ha ha ha!”
Hopper was thinking, “Seems I’ve heard that one before.” In the meantime they were climbing up and up above the island and then over the bay, across the bay, and over Fernandina Island.
If it weren’t for the pain in his shoulders and the undesirable circumstances he was in, he would have thought this was a wonderful view. To the north he could see the strait where Galoppy said the penguins lived. The hawk was heading toward the crater of a volcanic mountain, and inside the crater was a lake. Soon the hawk, whose name was Hank, descended, saying, “Here we are!” as he landed on a pinnacle just inside the rim of the crater.
“Is this your home?” asked Hopper.
“No, this is my lookout. I can see the whole inside of the crater from here. I thought you might like to see it before we have our lunch together. Ha ha. Actually, you’re a bigger catch than I’m used to. My family’s nest is still quite a ways away. I’m going to get my mate and youngster and bring them here to join us for lunch. You might notice that it’s a long way down from my lookout.”
Hopper looked at the barren expanse below him. It was a long way down. The crater sloped away from him and eventually came to the dark blue lake. Behind him the pinnacle dropped 100 feet to a point not far below the rim of the crater.
“Yeah, that is a long way down,” admitted Hopper to Hank. “I think I’d rather be eaten by a family of hungry hawks than be dashed to pieces on the rocks way down there,” he said, but actually he was forming a plan in his mind.
“Yeah, that’s the attitude, my little flipper friend. Too bad you can’t swim up here, eh? Ha ha! I’ll be back shortly with my hungry family. Ha ha!” Hank soared off the pinnacle and over the lake.
Hopper watched him grow smaller and sighed another weak, “Help!” His shoulders were sore. He was thousands of miles from home in a hot and barren land. He’d had nothing to eat for a few days. He was getting to the point of being too weak to go on. He had to get back to water or he would die. “Help, please!” he said.
He knew he needed to find a way down from the pinnacle. Hank had obviously never met a Rockhopper before. On one side of the tower was a possible route down. He’d have to be very careful. If he misjudged it, he might end up being dashed to pieces on the rocks far below. But he had to try it. It would be better than being lunch for a family of hungry hawks.
The first step looked like the hardest. He had to hop down about ten feet to a narrow ridge of rock and then follow that ridge down to a place just below the rim of the crater.
“Well, here goes!” he almost shouted and hopped down, landing with a jolt on the ridge. He bounced over the edge that overlooked a great drop into the crater. “Well, here I go-o-o-o-o-o!” he thought as his claws and his beak were grabbing for a hold. He found a claw hold, and then he grabbed on with his beak. For a few minutes he stayed there shaking. Then looking around him, he clambered back up on to the ridge. From there it was fairly easy going to the bottom of the pinnacle, but he was very sore, tired, thirsty, and hungry.
He needed to get to water. There was the lake far below him. Probably even farther away was the sea he was used to, but it was just a little ways to the top of the crater. Then it would all be downhill to the strait where the penguins lived. “Home?” he wondered, and that made up his mind. Up he climbed to the crater’s rim. It was a struggle, but before long he was there, and there it was—the sea! Actually, it was a narrow strait, and beyond it was the island he was on not long ago.
A lazy iguana, basking in the sun, observed, “You don’t belong up here, penguin.”
“You’re right about that, sir. Excuse me, but do you know where I could get some water?”
“Down there,” said the iguana, looking at the sea, and then facing the lake he continued, “or down there.” Then he slowly slunk under a pile of rocks.
Instantly Hopper felt the pain in his shoulders again, and the voice, “Ar-har!”
Hopper’s heart sank lower and he asked, “Is that you, Hank?”
“Hank? Did you say, ‘Hank?’ Don’t even mention that thieving rascal’s name in my presence! I’m Hawrk, and I’m hungrier than Hank. Well, here we go, penguin—home to my hungry hawrklings!”
Hawrk flew over the lake, more toward the north than Hank had flown. Hopper, looking toward Hank’s home, saw three spots getting bigger.
“Here he comes now!” said Hawrk. “I’d better fly lower and hope he doesn’t see me. Otherwise he’ll come and try to steal you. He always was a thief.”
Hopper could see Hank and his family heading for the pinnacle. Then when he was still a good distance away—hawks have great eyesight—Hopper heard a screech of rage that echoed throughout the crater.
Hawrk dove lower toward the lake, and Hank dove toward him. His mate and child followed more slowly. Hank was screaming, “Hawrk! You no-good, thieving rascal! Steal my lunch right off my own pinnacle, will you? We’ll see whose lunch it is!”
Hawrk and Hopper were flying faster than Hopper could imagine, but Hank was rapidly closing on them. Hawrk and Hank threw insults back and forth as the two thieving rascals flew toward the north over the lake, not far above the surface of the water. Hank’s talons were about to grab Hawrk’s neck when Hawrk saw it was time to drop his load in order to defend himself.
Hopper splashed into the lake. It was warm, and it smelled of sulfur, but it was wet, and he was immediately relieved, except for the pain in his shoulders. He dove deep down. It was great to be in water again, even if it wasn’t the nice, cold, salty ocean. Finally he was able to be relieved of his great thirst.
To his surprise he found fish in the lake. “How did these guys get here?” he wondered, as he ate his fill.
When he poked his head out of the water again, he could see and hear the hawks squabbling far above the lake. They had apparently forgotten about him, at least for now.
“Thank you,” said Hopper. “Thank you for the water and the food, and for keeping me from being someone else’s food.”