Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 20

Hopper and his friend Quack continue their northward travels, where they land on the Island of Guadelupe, and enjoy the questionable hospitality of the elephant seals who live there.

To read from the beginning, click here.

 

 

Chapter 20

Guadalupe

“Does it seem, Hop, my good friend,” said Quack, “that you’ve been holding out on me? I think you’ve been having more fun here than you’ve been letting on.”
As the two swam along the coast to the west, Hopper told Quack all about his error and the resulting predicament. He told him about the great sound and the rescue Hummer had provided.
Quack also told him about his excursion to the mountains and back. Nothing had looked familiar to him there.
A current flows west and north along this part of the Pacific coast. They found a log traveling with the current and decided to ride it for a while. This enabled them to rest and talk while they made progress in the direction they wanted to go.
Hopper found Quack’s company very enjoyable. The duck told great stories about his adventures on his trip to the mountains, about the legends his flock leaders had handed down, and about his days when he was with his flock.
He told why he became known as Quack, even though Harlequin ducks don’t really make a “quacking” sound, but rather a whistle. One day when some Mallard ducks were nearby, Quack heard them talking together and found them to be hilarious. When he tried to pass on the fun to his friends, he attempted to impersonate the Mallards’ “quack.” After that he became known as Quack.
During this ride on the log Quack also taught Hopper the Harlequin whistle. Hopper did it so well that only another Harlequin would be able to tell it wasn’t the real thing.
Quack also told great jokes and composed songs. One song went like this:

A penguin and a duck
You may think we’re down on our luck
But we know that we’ll survive
At least as long as we’re alive
A Quacker and a Hop
They say this friendship has to stop
But together we will stay
Until we go our separate ways

As they traveled like this along the Mexican coast, sometimes Quack would fly ahead to scout out the territory, and they would each take time to dive for food. Then they would return to the log. During this time they encountered no danger, and they didn’t hear the sound.
When the coast began to run more to the north, the current continued going to the northwest, out to sea. On his latest flight Quack had spotted an island to the north. With his directions they decided to leave their log and head for it. They were well rested now, and Hopper was able to swim at a fair speed while Quack flew some and swam some.
The next day Quack flew ahead to spy out the area a little closer. Hopper wanted to know if there were seals around here, and if they had heard of him. Quack should be able to approach closely without any seals being suspicious, because he wasn’t known to them, as far as they knew.
Quack circled over the island he’d seen before, which was called Guadalupe. He saw some big creatures lounging on the beaches. He descended for a better look and then landed in the water just off shore. Two huge elephant seals were fighting. First one shouted, “They’re mine!” and brought his teeth down on his opponent’s neck. Then the other said, “No, you old worn-out geezer, that harem is mine!” and he struck a similar blow to the other’s neck.
Quack decided to stay out of this quarrel. He went ashore, waddling among the huge creatures all over the shore. The males were especially big with exaggerated noses, which give them their name. The females looked more like regular seals.
Quack sauntered nonchalantly among the seals, saying, “Hi,” to any that noticed him. The female seals tended to react with a bashful smile. Quack was beginning to enjoy greeting them. Then suddenly a monstrous male lunged toward him, thundering, “What are you doing here, duck?”
“Well, heh-heh, just trying to be friendly?”
“I don’t like no ducks, or nobody else being friendly to my mates!”
“Oh, sorry. Forget the ‘hi,’ ladies,” said Quack with a slight smirk. The females tried to stifle some giggles, and Quack continued, “And that’s any ducks, big fellow.”
“Duck!” roared the big seal, lunging toward him in a cumbersome way. “I want you off my beach now, or I’ll flatten you like a flounder, or my name ain’t Elfert.”
“Isn’t Elfert.”
“Is too!”
“Well,” said Quack, “if you insist. But anyway, I saw two fellows down the beach fighting over a harem. I kind of like these females here. You want to have it out?”
“Duck! You can’t have my harem! You’re a duck!” The big seal was getting much closer. “One blow from me and you’ll be nothing but a pile of feathers on the sand.”
“You’re quite the poetic fellow, aren’t you?” quipped Quack.
Shouting, “Du-u-u-u-u-u-u-uck!” Elfert lunged with all his bulk, intending to land on top of Quack.
“Look!” shouted Quack. “A mountain! A flying mountain! And it’s going to land on me…A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a…”
“Oooof!” grunted the seal as he hit the ground. Then he began to grin as he backed up in order to see the flattened pile of feathers beneath him. He found one dark blue feather flattened into the sand. He dug underneath it expecting to find the rest of Quack, but found only sand. He jumped as a voice behind him said, “I’m glad you were only kidding about reducing me to a pile of feathers.”
Elfert whirled around yelling, “Du-u-u-u-uck!”
“As a matter of fact,” continued Quack, who was standing on a rock above Elfert, “I was only kidding about your harem. I’m sure I have some little duck mate waiting for me somewhere.”
“Duck! I don’t stand for nobody kidding about my harem! I suggest you move on from this island, or you’re going to find a thousand elephant seals looking for a chance to flounderize you!”
“That’s anybody,” said Quack.
“No, it ain’t! I’m talking about you. We’re going to flounderize you!”
“Isn’t.”
“Is too! We is too going to flatten you!”
“I’ll be moving on now, I guess,” said Quack, “but, oh, by the way, have you heard anything about penguins lately?”
The seal’s countenance changed suddenly, and looked almost friendly as he said, “Penguins? What are penguins? Why do you ask me about penguins?”
“They’re interesting creatures—birds that can’t fly. Really, whoever heard of a bird that can’t fly? But I hear they can really move in the water. Some say they’re even better swimmers than seals.”
“Oh no, they’re not!” bellowed Elfert.
“I thought you didn’t know about penguins.”
“Well, I er, uh, know that no bird could swim better than a seal.”
“Some penguins, so I’ve heard, have been known to outwit and out-swim the swiftest and smartest of the southern seals,” said Quack, somewhat certainly.
“He didn’t outwit no seal. He was just lucky, and if he ever sets a flipper on this island, he’ll be wishing he’d stayed in Antarctica!”
“Actually, I’ve heard that penguins are pretty nice fellows, once you get to know them.”
“I don’t want to know no little web-foot, flipper-winged, black and white bird with beady eyes and yellow hair.”
“I suppose you’d flounderize him pretty good if you saw him.”
“No, he’s too valuable for that. They want him alive. Hey, you’re not a friend of this penguin, are you?”
“Me? Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends? Well, I really must be going now. It’s really been nice talking with you, Elfert. You have a real gift with words.” As Quack took to the air he called out, “Goodbye, ladies!”
Behind him he heard that lovely sound, “Du-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-uck!”
Quack flew quickly to the south to find Hopper before he made it to Guadalupe. He spotted him far below, porpoising at near top speed.
“Ho there, Hop!” he called. “Better slow down a bit!”
Hopper slowed down and stopped, bobbing along in the current which here flowed southward. Quack told him the bad news that even the elephant seals knew about him and were hoping to catch him for a reward.
“Where can I go then?” complained a disappointed Hopper. “The whole world has turned against me!”
“Well,” said Quack, “I will continue to keep watch for you, and you will have to stay away from the coast. In these waters, especially along the California coast, seals are all over. From here I suggest we head out to sea and to the north. As we go I’ll continue to spy out the land, looking for seals and also my flock.”
Hopper agreed that this was a good plan. They headed west out to sea, and then to the north, staying well clear of Guadalupe.

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