Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 26

Hopper has another narrow escape as he passes by the city of Port Angeles and then begins heading south into Puget Sound.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 26

Puget Sound

Cautiously Hopper swam downstream, although the men who were fishing on the river were gone. He was feeling weak, tired, and scared, as well as lonely. He would have liked traveling with Meadowlark. He was a good friend. However, he could see it would have been difficult for them to travel together, because of their differences. Hopper was so much better at sea, and the lemming was more adept on land.
In a short time he was back to the sea. He turned right toward the east, swimming warily, and wondering what would befall him as he approached the city. In all his travels he’d had many encounters with creatures who could hurt or kill him, but he’d never been near a city of people. He was terrified. Still he knew he must go on. He could hardly even think of a good plan. All he could do was say a weak, “Help!”
He had swum for a few minutes when a thought hit him, and he said, “And please help Meadowlark. Protect him from the bears and whatever else is up in the mountains. Thank you.”
Soon he was approaching the city of Port Angeles. It was still early morning. There wasn’t much boat traffic, but the few little ones he saw struck fear into his heart. He figured his best plan was to swim underwater as far as he could, coming up for air briefly when he had to, hoping nobody saw him.
The problem was his weakened condition. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to go very fast or very far underwater, and if someone decided to chase him, could he get away?
Closer and closer he came to the city. He could see the docks and boats along the shore. So far no boats were near him, so he swam slowly on the surface a few hundred yards from shore.
He started thinking, “Well, this doesn’t seem so bad,” when from around a bend in the shoreline there emerged a huge boat, actually an ocean liner, but Hopper didn’t know what it was. To him it was just huge beyond his comprehension. He knew it was a boat carrying people, but it might as well have been an immense penguin-eating ugly monster. He was terrified.
The thing was gradually moving faster and faster and now it was turning right toward him! It made terrible vibrations that hurt his ears when his head was under water. It was getting closer. His only recourse was to dive under and hope it couldn’t dive after him.
Now it was about fifty yards from him. He dove as deep as he could and swam as far as he could, hoping it couldn’t follow. When he had to return to the surface for air, he could still hear and feel the vibrations of the ship. It was still near.
“Why me?” he asked. “I’m just a lonely, insignificant penguin. Why would you want to get me?” He surfaced, and there it was right behind him. The waves bowled him over. “Aaaaaa! Here I go! I’m done for! What a way to go!”
He tried to right himself and swim. “Aaaaaa! Swim, Hopper, swim!” He swam and swam. Waves washed over him. He kept on swimming. The waves grew smaller. His wings were sore. He kept swimming. Then the waves were gone, except for the gently rolling ones that had been there before.
Eventually he mustered up the courage to look behind him. The ship wasn’t chasing him. It was steaming away toward the north. “Whew, that was another close one,” he said to himself, and then he looked up and said, “Thank you, again.”
Other boats came out of the harbor, heading in different directions. None seemed to be after him, so he began to feel a little more relaxed. He swam slowly because his wings were growing a little more sore.
As the sun went down and darkness began covering the waters, Hopper swam on. He could see little lights along the shore and some on the water. Behind him the city lights of Port Angeles astounded him, but he gradually put more distance between him and the city. He didn’t want to stop for rest until it was out of sight.
He swam all night. When the sky began to lighten up he could hear sea gulls crying in the skies. “I hope those guys don’t know the California gulls,” he thought. But the gulls didn’t seem to pay any attention to him.
Then he saw land in front of him. To the right, which was south, was no more shore, but water. He could swim south! “The way home!” he thought. “Time for all penguins to turn right.” So that is what he did. His heart was a little lighter, though his wings were a little heavier, and his body didn’t feel quite right. “I’ve got to keep going,” he said. He swam on all that day.
As it grew dark he knew he needed rest. He couldn’t stop in the water, because the current would carry him backward. He headed for shore, to his right, and hopped out on the beach. He found a place to rest in some brush under a stand of fir and cedar trees.
Soon it was totally dark. The clouds overhead covered the stars and the moon. However, to the southeast a strange glow in the skies bothered him. He couldn’t figure out what it was, and it gave him an eerie feeling. It didn’t fit any of the descriptions of things in the world and in the heavens that he’d been taught by Emmett, Mendicule, or Galoppy.
He was too tired and sore to worry about it much and soon fell asleep. In the early morning while it was still dark, he awoke hearing a slight rustling of twigs not far away. He was stiff and sore and knew he wasn’t up for a fight or a flight. He sat motionless.
Then he saw the creature lumbering over the rocks to the water’s edge. It had a long, black tail with white rings around it, and it fished with its front paws. Then Hopper began to feel hungry and decided the creature probably wasn’t a penguin eater. Besides, he felt like meeting someone new. He emerged slowly from his bed and waddled toward the water.
“Hey there! How’s the fishing?” he called as he approached the creature, and now he could see a black and white, mask-like face.
The creature replied, “Well, not too bad. I’ve caught a few. Could use a few more, though. Hey, I don’t recognize your accent. You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No, I’ve come from a long ways away. I’m on my way home. I’m a penguin, a Rockhopper penguin. My name’s Hopper. Actually, I’ve never seen anyone like you before, either.”
“I’m a raccoon. Always been a raccoon. Always will be.”
“How do you like being a raccoon? I suppose your name is Racky.”
“Hey, how did you know that? Most folks call me Rocky. He was a relative of mine who looked a lot like me. He became quite famous, but no one knows where he is right now, and when folks see me I guess they think I might be him. Yes, I like being a raccoon. How do you like being a penguin?”
“It’s great, although I’m still pretty new at it. I hope I can find out what it’s like to be a penguin at home with other penguins before too long.”
Racky said, “Well, I haven’t heard of any penguins around here, and I have connections. I know these parts pretty well.”
“I was hoping to find my family a little further to the south. That’s where I’ll be heading today. Oh, by the way, what is that glow in the southeastern sky? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.”
Racky replied, “You don’t know? Seattle.”
Hopper said, “Who is Attle, and why do I have to see him? Can’t you tell me?”
“I already did,” said Racky. “But anyway, you’ll see for yourself if you go south.”
Hopper decided that’s what he’d do and plunged his sore body into the deliciously cold water. He quickly caught a fish and brought it back to Racky. “Here’s one for the road, my friend,” he said, and then dove back into the water, heading south.

 

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