Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 27

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Hopper injures his wing as he flees from the sight of the city of Seattle, and soon has his most significant encounter with people and  a dog.

To read from the beginning, click here.

 

Chapter 27

Attle and Friends

“Raccoons are interesting creatures,” thought Hopper as he swam along, catching his breakfast as he went. The water felt good, but he was still not feeling right. His wings ached and his whole body was sore. He kept wondering about that glow in the night sky and who or what Attle was. “Racky said I’d see it if I headed south,” he mused.
The further he went the more uneasy he became. Land covered with evergreen trees was on his right and left, the waterway being about 10 miles across. In the distance he could hear sounds he’d never heard before, and the level of noise in the air seemed to be growing.
Then he noticed along the shore things which he knew belonged to people. He’d seen them around Port Angeles. They were, in fact, houses, but he didn’t know what they were. The sight of them shook him to the bones. Then he saw boats in the water, and before long there were many boats, some small and some big. Their waves began to jostle him around. The water became choppy.
“Help!” he called. “Help, this is too much. I can’t take any more.” A little further south he caught sight of it to his left around a bend. All he could do at first was yell, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaa…Help! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…,” as he swam west, away from it.
What was it that he saw? It was the city of Seattle with its buildings towering up to the sky. This is where the noise was coming from. He knew this must be where the glow came from also.
He swam and swam and found that instead of running into the shore, there was a narrow passage of water that allowed him to continue to the west. After a while it headed in a more southerly direction. To his left was a fairly large island called Bainbridge and on his right was the mainland of the western side of Puget Sound, although he had no idea of where he was.
Fear had totally gripped him. He swam like a mad penguin. His only thought was to get away from that city and all the boats and all the people.
Then suddenly he felt a snap in his wing, followed by great pain as he tried to use it. He was done. He couldn’t swim anymore. All he could do was let the current take him, and now it was flowing in the direction he was heading. He could paddle and steer some with his feet, but this was slow going. At this rate he’d never make it home. He just lay there in the water and let it take him.
Gradually reason returned to him, and he lay there, weakly saying, “Help. I can’t get anywhere like this. How can I ever get home if I can’t swim? And how can I catch my food?”
Now as he drew near the western shore, he noticed the current was slowing down. Soon it would be flowing back the other way. He decided to get on land before that happened. He slowly paddled his way to shore, hauled his sore body out of the water, and waddled slowly over the rocks to a grassy bank covered with trees.
He found a resting place under a tree that was leaning out over the beach. He sat there in silence for a long time, feeling sorry for himself and very miserable. Then the silence was broken by that familiar voice, which said, “What are you doing here, Hopper?”
“Well, I’ve been swimming and swimming, and I hurt my wing, and I want to go home, and now I can’t swim, and I can’t catch my food.”
“What are you doing here, Hopper?”
“Well, I’m trying to get away from that city with all those people and boats and…”
“What are you doing here, Hopper?”
“Well, I uh, I guess I don’t know, but will you help me?”
“Have I ever failed you? Why are you so afraid?”
“Well, there are people there, lots and lots of people. Who knows what they might do to me? They might even try to make me talk. I might not be able to resist talking if they say something stupid. Then you won’t be pleased with me.”
“Don’t fear them so much. They are my creatures too. Remember your purpose. You are here to glorify me before their eyes. Through you and all the other animals, I am creating a longing in them for the way things could have been, the way it used to be in the Garden.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“In the morning, ride with the tide.”
The next morning Hopper saw the current flowing to the right, in the direction he had been heading. He slowly made his way to the water and let himself float along with the current. He felt so helpless. He couldn’t dive or porpoise. All he could do was float along and paddle his feet.
Then he saw a log a little ways ahead of him. Paddling as fast as he could he caught up with it, and then using his good wing and his beak, he crawled on top of it. He let it carry him south and then west with the current.
He just stood there on the log as the beach went slowly past him. He began seeing more and more houses, although he didn’t know exactly what they were. He knew they had to do with people. This place happened to be the eastern part of the city of Bremerton.
The fear tried to grip him, but he remembered the words, “Don’t fear them so much.” Then he relaxed a little and kept riding his log.
He also began seeing more boats. Some were big, and some smaller ones carried only one or two people. Some boats were long and thin and cut through the water quietly. Others were quite noisy. One huge white one with many windows went by in the distance and then disappeared around a corner, heading mainly east. It was hard for him to keep from shaking, but he stood on his log, waiting to see where all this would take him.
Now the log was slowing down. Soon the current would head back the other way. He considered going ashore, but he figured he’d better “ride with the tide.”
He stood on his log with his wings outstretched. He was about a hundred yards from the beach in front of a brown house. He saw two people come out of the house, and then it looked like they were looking at him.
The fears once again welled up within him. What could he do? He couldn’t swim away or dive. “Help!” he said.
The two people still were looking at him and talking excitedly to each other, but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. Then they went inside the house and came back out with three more people. Now they were pointing at him and talking very excitedly.
All Hopper could do was stand there saying, “Hellllllllp, help, please helllllllllllllllllllllllllllllp!”
Now three of the people were walking toward the beach. They dragged a little rowboat down to the water, got in and began rowing out toward him. He stood there calling for help.
Soon the boat was about 10 yards away, and Hopper heard one of them say, “Yeah, it looks like a penguin, all right! How could a penguin get here? He’s thousands of miles from home.”
Another said, “He doesn’t exactly look like the penguins I’ve seen pictures of. Look at those yellow feathers sticking out above his eyes. He’s kind of a squatty little fellow, isn’t he?”
Now the yellow feathers bristled. Hopper wanted to tell them a thing or two, but resisted the urge. He decided he’d better at least try to get away, so he dove into the water and paddled furiously with his feet.
The people rowed after him and easily caught up with him. Soon he felt strong hands grab him firmly but gently. He tried to struggle, but his wing hurt too much. He was captured, held firmly in the lap of a man while a young boy rowed the boat toward the shore, and a little girl watched him and asked her daddy questions.
“This little fellow must be hurt,” said the man, “or we couldn’t have caught him so easily. I think it’s a good thing you saw him out here. He wouldn’t be able to live very long if he can’t catch his food.”
“Daddy, can we feed him? Can we keep him?”
“I’ll have to find out what penguins eat. Sure, we’ll feed him, but we can’t feed him dog food. We’ll keep him until we can find out the best place to take him.”
“Then can we take him to his home? He must be lonely.”
“I’ll have to make some phone calls to some people who will know what to do with him, but I think his home is a very long ways away from here, and I don’t think we’ll be able to take him there.”
When they got back to the shore, the man carried Hopper over the rocky beach, up some steps to the top of a bulkhead, and on to their grassy yard. He put Hopper down in the middle of the yard. He was now free to hop around a little, but he just stood there for a while trying to get his wits together.
Suddenly there was a great “WOOOOOF!” from up on the porch of the house. Hopper instantly headed for the water with thoughts of his first landing in the Galapagos Islands running through his head, and thinking things like, “Arg, they’ve brought me here to give me to the dogs!”
Now the boy was cutting him off. His escape was blocked. The dog was charging from the porch. The man was shouting instructions to his daughter. Actually, he was saying, “Lizzie, take Goldie into the house,” but Hopper thought he was telling the dog to “come and get it now.”
Soon the man and the boy had him trapped again and they grabbed him. He expected to be handed over to the dog in short order, but the man said, “You don’t have to be afraid of Goldie. She’s probably afraid of you!”
Then the man said, “Ezra, you be in charge of our little friend while I make him some new quarters.” Then Lizzie came out with their little brother, Enoch, who was very excited to have a penguin visiting them. They all sat around Hopper on the grass.
Hopper thought about trying to escape. He figured it was his duty. It was expected of him. He was a wild and free animal. He should at least look like he was trying to escape. Actually, he wasn’t sure he wanted to escape. They had said they would feed him, and he couldn’t catch his food.
He stood still for a while, and then suddenly darted for the water. He had caught them off guard. He was by Enoch, and freedom was in sight. Then there was Ezra standing in front of him. Hopper darted left. There was Lizzie. He darted right. Enoch was almost there. Hopper sped up to pass by him, but there was Ezra again. After darting back and forth a few more times, he could see that he had made a good enough show of trying to escape and gave up. They gently grabbed him and brought him back to the yard.
In the meantime, the man and his wife were setting up a pen for Hopper on the big porch of the house. They put up a fence to keep dogs out and Hopper in. Inside the fence they put a large metal tub and filled it with water from the bay. Beside the tub they put a little platform for Hopper to stand on, and some makeshift stairs for him to hop up to the platform. From there he could jump into the water to keep cool. On the floor of the pen they put newspapers, even though Hopper couldn’t read.
When all was ready they put Hopper in his pen, and then they brought him some fish to eat. After watching him for a while, the woman said, “Okay everybody, we better leave him alone for a while. Let’s go eat.”
They all went inside, and the dog came out, saying a mild, “Rrrruff!”
“Well, if it isn’t the friendly cur!” said Hopper.
“Well, it’s my job to warn the family when strangers come.”
“Do you think I wanted to come here? Couldn’t you see that they brought me here?”
“Well, I thought maybe you were trying to hurt them. I had to let you know you have me to deal with here.”
Goldie was a big, black dog with a white spot on her nose. Hopper asked, “Did I hear them call you Goldie? You don’t look too gold to me.”
“I’m part Golden Retriever and part St. Bernard, so they call me Goldie.”
Then Hopper asked, “How can you stand living here? Aren’t you afraid all day long? After all, we’re supposed to be afraid of people.”
“Well, I’m not terrified. I fear displeasing my master, but I’m not really afraid of him anymore, because I know he loves me, and I love him.”
They talked for a while, and actually began to like each other, but tried not to show it much when the people were around.
Hopper stayed there for many days, and gradually his fear of the people began to fade. He could see they weren’t going to hurt him. They were always gentle to him and kept him fed, and they were careful to keep his pen and water clean. They also visited him often, and talked to him, even though he never talked to them. He only talked to Goldie, and only when the people weren’t around.
One night after the people had gone inside for the night, Goldie strolled up to the pen. Hopper greeted her with, “Here she comes, the Cur of curs and Dog of dogs!”
Goldie replied, “You know, if I could get in that pen, I would probably take you in my mouth and whip you around, back and forth, and then tear you in pieces. Then I’d probably gobble you up. But if I did that they’d call me a ‘bad dog’, and I hate it when they call me that, so I probably won’t.”
Hopper said, “I appreciate that. You’re a fine dog for a cur.”
They talked into the night, speculating what the people were planning to do with Hopper, who was starting to get a little bit tired of being confined. However, his wing was getting better.
Then Hopper said, “Hey Goldie, did you ever notice that you smell like a dog?”
She replied, “It’s a lot better than smelling like a penguin.”
Time and space would probably allow for the telling of the adventures of Goldie the dog. However, it probably wouldn’t have much interest for most readers, consisting primarily of eating, sleeping, and begging at the dinner table.
Around this time of his stay here, Hopper began to molt. Perhaps the reader is now speculating that the heat in this mild climate was too much for a penguin, and now he was slowly turning into a blob of black and white jelly. That word is melt. Or perhaps one might think green fungus was growing on him because of his inactivity in this humid environment. That word is mold.
Neither of the preceding schools of thought is true. Penguins molt annually. That means they lose their feathers and then grow them back again. During this time they don’t swim, and they don’t feel their best. And of course, Goldie let him know how ridiculous he looked.
So Hopper stood around looking miserable until his feathers grew back. Then he felt better than he had in a long time. His wing was usable again, but still not as strong as before. He needed exercise.
The man began to see he was looking a bit anxious. One morning the family was visiting Hopper, and the man was saying, “I think we can’t keep our little friend much longer. He needs a bigger place with more room to move around and other penguins.”
“Can we take him to his home, Dad?”
“Well, that’s a long, long way from here. Rockhoppers live in the islands of the southern seas, like the Falklands. We can’t afford a trip there right now. But maybe we could find a good zoo to take him to, where they’ll take good care of him, and he’ll be happy.”
“Do you think he’ll be happy in a zoo?”
“It will be better than being here.”
A few days later the kids came to Hopper’s pen with sad faces. Lizzie said, “Well, Mr. Penguin, I guess, you’re going to be leaving us. You’re going to Chicago to live in the Oceanarium there.”
“Oceanarium?” thought Hopper. “What’s that?”
“You’ll like it there. There’ll be other penguins, even some Rockhoppers. You’ll have a nice place to swim around, and rocks to hop on. There are dolphins and whales and sea otters and seals.”
“Seals!” thought Hopper.
“But they can’t get at you, of course. They have their own swimming area.”
Ezra added, “But maybe if you’re bad, they’ll dangle you by your feet over the seals’ pen for a while, heh-heh.”
“Oceanarium,” thought Hopper. “I don’t know if I’ll like this place.” But he was excited about the idea of meeting some other penguins, and especially about meeting some Rockhoppers.
A few days later the man brought a little cage with a handle on it to Hopper’s pen. He grabbed Hopper and put him in it. Hopper, of course, had to struggle. It was expected of him, even though he liked this family and knew they wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.
“It’s time to head to Chicago, Mr. Penguin,” said the man. “It’s been great having you here, but it’s time for you to move on to better things.” He put a cover on the cage, and all was dark for Hopper. He heard the man say, “And now you’ll finally get to fly.”
“Fly?” thought Hopper. “What does he mean?”
The man carried him to their car, and the whole family rode rather sadly to the airport, a drive of about fifty miles. There they checked him in for his flight to Chicago.
He heard each member of the family say something like, “Goodbye, Mr. Penguin.” Hopper couldn’t see them as they sadly returned to their car. He was left in the dark of his cage, not really understanding where he was or where he was going.
“Bye,” he said, but not loud enough for them to hear, of course.

 

 

 

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