Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 17

I forgot to post for a few weeks here. Anyway, Fly Like a Penguin continues with the story of Hopper and his newfound best friend, Quack the duck.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 17

Out of the Pit

Loud taunts and threats began coming from the hawks every day. Hawrk said, “There’s no way out of this place, you poor excuses for birds! You can’t even fly! You might as well give up now! We’ll get you in the end anyhow!”
And Hank added, “Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends? I’ll tell you what I’ll do, penguin—if you give me the duck, I’ll let you go free. Or you, duck—give me the penguin and I’ll let you go!”
Hawrk said he’d do the same, and they both flew over the lake, yelling out similar things, trying to demoralize Hopper and Quack. Each one of them hoped he’d be the one to get the penguin and the duck. As for Hopper and Quack, even though they had plenty to eat and were enjoying each other’s company, they didn’t like the feeling of being trapped, prisoners in this crater that could never be their home.
Finally the time came for them to put their plan into action. Once again they called out for help. They agreed that as soon as it was dark they would begin the ascent up the hill. They had spotted what looked like a good route up to the northeastern rim of the crater. The drawback to it was that it led right through Hawrk’s territory. They hoped they could sneak by him in the dark.
This morning Hopper went fishing a little longer than usual. After breakfast he swam around for a while, acting like he wasn’t watching the skies. Suddenly he heard, “Aha, penguin!”
Just before the talons grabbed him, Hopper was under water. He had been ready for the attack. He swam over to where some rocks poked out of the water and surfaced. Then he called out, “Hey, Hank, my old friend, does your offer still stand?” If I deliver the duck to you, will you let me go?”
“Why, of course, penguin. But I thought that duck was your friend.”
“If he was, what good would it be if I was dead? Like you say, you’re going to get us in the end anyway. But really, how can a penguin and a duck be friends? As for you, Hank, you were a pretty nice fellow for someone who was planning to eat me. I’d be glad to give you a good meal in exchange for my freedom. But that Hawrk, on the other hand, I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could sink him. He’d steal a meal from his mother.”
“You’re right about that, penguin. So anyway, how do you propose to deliver the duck to me?”
“Well, Hank, we’ve planned an escape after it gets dark tonight. I figure we could make it up to the rim in the dark, but we’d never make it down the other side without you hawks seeing us. So how about if I meet you half way down the other side just after dawn. The duck will be yours, and I’ll head for the sea.”
“Sounds good, penguin. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” Hank flew off, and Hopper swam back to his shelter.
The rest of the day passed slowly, and Hopper and Quack were fairly quiet. In the late afternoon Quack said, “What if our plan doesn’t work?”
“Well,” said Hopper, “we have to try. We don’t belong down here. All we can do is commit it to our maker, and if it’s our time to be someone else’s food, that’s what’s best.”
At dark they said one last, “Help!” and quietly slipped into the water. They swam most of the way under water to the other side of the lake in order to be quieter. On the shore they found their route up the hill, picking their way around and over large boulders. Quack had to risk using his wing and possibly re-injuring it as he jumped up on the boulders. He wasn’t able to hop like the penguin. It was very difficult, but as they went up the rocks gradually grew smaller.
As they neared the top they could see the sky beginning to glow slightly. “We’d better hurry,” they said. They made it over the top still in darkness. Then Hopper hopped downhill around and over rocks and boulders while Quack almost flew. Soon the light grew, and dawn broke out as they were about halfway down the mountain. Hopper said, “We’d better rest here awhile and keep a lookout for those hawks.” They found a shelter in the rocks where they sat down to rest with their eyes watching the skies.
Soon a dark figure appeared overhead and quickly descended. It was Hank, who landed in front of them on a little pinnacle. “Aha, penguin, you little traitor, I see you brought my duck!”
Hopper said, “Hi, Hank. Yeah, here he is, but I think you can have me instead…”
Quack nudged Hopper, saying, “Hey, what is this, Hop? You can’t do that…”
Hopper brushed him back with his wing, saying, “I’ll be all right.” Then to Hank he said, “I figured you probably have ducks all the time. You’ve probably never had Rockhopper penguin. I’ve known some seals who would love to have me for a good meal.”
“All right, all right, enough talk! Let’s get going, you foolish penguin!”
So Hopper slowly walked out of the shelter with the duck trying to stop him. Then as Hank leapt off the pinnacle to grab Hopper, a voice sounded from above, “Ar-har! Let go of my penguin, you thieving scoundrel!”
“Your penguin! Hawrk, you are the thieving-scoundreliest poor excuse for a hawk I’ve ever known! Penguin here and I worked out a deal. He’s mine!”
“Well, no deal is valid in my territory! Whatever comes through here is mine!”
“Not if I catch him first! Then he’s mine!”
And so the argument continued for an amazing length of time, each hawk dreaming up reasons why Hopper should be his. What they didn’t realize was that their penguin was no longer there, nor was the duck. They were far down the mountain, heading for the sea.
As the sound of the argument grew fainter and fainter, Hopper and Quack found themselves diving into the nice, cool, refreshing salt water. They laughed and frolicked in the waves and dove under for some good salt-water fish. Hopper even found some krill, which he hadn’t had for what seemed like years.
When they had eaten enough, they rested on the surface with their eyes on the skies in case the hawks decided to come after them. “That was a noble thing you did up there,” said Quack.
Hopper replied, “Well, I figured the only sure-fire way to escape was for them to start arguing over the same meal. I was almost certain they would. After all, we were going right through Hawrk’s territory, and I didn’t think he’d let anyone else take a meal from there, especially Hank. So it wasn’t really that much of a risk. But for now, let’s go find my home. You can stay with me as long as you like.

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