Surrounded by seals with no possible escape, Hopper and Quack find an apparently even greater peril, one which leaves Quack alone and Hopper gone.
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A Sad Surprise
At a leisurely pace Hopper and Quack headed to the north. Quack stayed close by because he didn’t want to attract the attention of any gulls that might be watching the skies.
They spent their first day laughing about their adventures of the past few days. They felt as if they’d just won a great victory, and were greatly relieved that they could finally rest. By the end of the day they reached the waters off the coast of northern California.
The next morning they were greeted with the calling of gulls, a sound they now realized had been conspicuously absent the day before. They tried to continue on as if nothing were bothering them.
The gulls continued to call and were now obviously flying over them. Hopper swam a little faster. Quack flew up for a view. He returned a few minutes later with a grim look on his face.
He said, “Well, old buddy, it doesn’t look good. They’ve got us surrounded. I see no way out of this one. The seals have left no route of escape. There are millions of them all around, all swimming toward us. Even the Big Fellow is with them.”
“Quack, you’ve been a good friend. You’d better fly out of here. I’m the one they’ve been after all this time. They can’t catch you in the air.”
“I won’t leave you. How could I fly away and leave my friend to die alone after all this? What meaning would my life have then? No, I’m with you to the end. Our tails will be together on that smelly ledge.”
“Thank you, Quack. You are indeed the best friend a penguin could have. Well, I think there are two things we should do. The first is to say, ‘Helllllllp!’ The second is to go down singing.”
So they sang their penguin and duck song as the great hordes of pinnipeds closed in on them. It was an awesome sight. There was no open water where they could hope to swim for safety. The Great White Seal was with those in the inner circle.
He said, “Like I said, penguin and duck, no one escapes from me. You will greatly regret that you tried. Today your tails will be sitting in a very special place of dishonor on my trophy shelf. And tomorrow I will begin making plans to expand my influence into the territories of the Rockhopper penguins and all other penguins. Also any Harlequin duck who enters my domain will end up in your condition. Now your life will end with that knowledge.”
The circle closed upon them. The Great White Seal, who was actually quite graceful in water, glided nearer with a look of vengeance, menace, and malice in his eyes. He no longer pretended friendliness. His mouth was wide open, revealing yellow teeth that had put an end to countless sea creatures.
Suddenly from the west, Hopper’s left, something was stirring up the water. The black bodies of seals seemed to be flying as they were thrown aside by something big, yet unseen. Then all that could be seen was a huge mouth, wide open, a mouth big enough to swallow many seals, including the Big White, but it gulped only Hopper, and then closed.
Quack reacted without thinking and flew just above the tumult. He saw a great Blue Whale swallow his friend and descend to the depths, leaving the Great White Seal and his servants with their mouths hanging open.
“Aaaaaaaaaarg! He ate my penguin!” yelled the Big White. “I wanted to eat him! I wanted his tail! Orrrrrrrrgh!”
Quack was in shock. He couldn’t believe his friend was gone. He flew north in a daze. He sadly sang:
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
He flew on like this for a while, his heart in agony. Then he became enraged against the whale. He determined to find the monster and take vengeance against him for taking his friend.
He took a higher route in order to get a better view of the ocean. He would look for the whale to surface, and then attack. Sure enough, he spotted him a short time later.
At top speed he bolted toward him, landed on the big blue back, and began pecking furiously with his beak.
The great voice boomed, “What are you doing, Duck?”
Quack replied, “You’re going to regret taking my friend, Whale. I won’t rest until you’re washed up on a beach somewhere. I’m going to stay here pecking on your back until that happens.”
“You shouldn’t do that. Don’t you know I’m an endangered species? But you’re wasting your time, Duck. You can’t hurt me. You know, I’ve never had anyone to scratch my back before. It feels kinda nice.”
“You swallowed my friend! What did you do that for? I thought you Blue Whales only eat things like plankton and krill, not penguins. Are you serving the Great White Seal too?”
“Me serve that little blowhard? Ha! Did you see the look on his face when I snatched the penguin?”
“But why did you eat my friend? He’s the one who was endangered. He’s always been fighting for his life even though he didn’t harm anyone, and now you come along and snuff it out for no reason.”
“Well, I saw the little white pinniped about to eat him, and I thought, ‘Hey, I’ve never had penguin before. Why not try it now and get one over on that little white fellow? He’s such a nuisance.’ So I swallowed the penguin. He went down really strange, tickled down my throat and in my belly. Still does. I don’t think he’s been digested yet. Sorry about taking your friend, Duck. Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends, anyway? Besides, there are many, many Rockhoppers in the world.”
“Well, there was only one Hopper who was my best friend!”
“Sorry about that, Duck. Well, I must go down now.”
The whale lifted his big tail into the air and dove underwater. Quack took to the air and flew slowly toward the north, the direction the whale was going. He watched for him to resurface, and when he did he continued his pecking on his great back.
Quack continued this attack for two days. Then the whale said, “Can’t you see you can never hurt me. You’re not doing yourself or the penguin any good. You might as well head home and find your family.”
By this time Quack could see his efforts were not hurting the whale at all. He said, “When I do find my flock, I’m going to become the leader of the greatest duck air force ever known. We’ll search the seas until we find you, and we’ll make sure you end up on a beach somewhere.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Quack, but if I were you, I’d head inland right now or you might miss your family again.”
The whale dove under again as Quack was about to ask him, “Hey, how did you know my name?” The whale was gone, and Quack determined to raise help to do him in later. He flew toward the coast of Oregon, and seeing mountains in the distance, sped there.
Soon he saw in the north the pointed snow-capped mountain he remembered from his youth. He was home. He flew faster into the mountains and found the little river beside which he had been hatched, the river where he’d learned to fish. He followed it upstream. Everything was looking familiar to him now, and soon there they were, the members of his flock.
“Hey ho!” he called. “About time you guys got here!”
“Hey hey, Quack! What did you do, fly north for the winter and south for the summer?”
After all the friendly ridiculing was over, Quack kept them spellbound as he recounted all his adventures with Hopper. When he mentioned his friend, he was interrupted with the comment, “Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends?”
He continued with his story, and by the time he finished, they all felt saddened to learn of the terrible end that befell Hopper. Their anger began to burn towards the whale. Yes, of course, they’d help Quack take vengeance on him, “but,” they said, “it will be a while before we’re ready for that. In a few days we head north for the summer (get that, north, Quack, heh, heh). We can start our training at our summer home.”
“That sounds great,” said Quack.
Now you, the reader or listener, are saying to yourself, “I thought this book was about the adventures of Hopper the penguin, not Quack the duck,” and if you’ve peeked behind this page, you’ve noticed there’s a long ways to go in this story, and now you’re thinking this book should have been called Die Like a Penguin or The Adventures of Hopper the Penguin until His Untimely End and the Continuing Adventures of Quack the Duck, His Friend. You might then think, “What if Quack also encounters an early demise? Will the story then take up with some new friend of his? What would the book be called then?” You will find the answers as you continue reading…