Fly Like a Penguin, Vol. 1, Chapter 30

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Hopper and Eudy travel with Emp until they reach Panama, where Emp goes through the canal to the Pacific. The Rockhoppers follow the coast of South America as they seek to reach their home in the Falkland Islands. Along the way they encounter peccaries, anteaters, monkeys, and manatees.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 30

Back to South America

Traveling with Uncle Emp was great, because he could guide them through these unfamiliar waters—around the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico past Cuba. At this point Hopper had a sense of familiarity about this place. Uncle Emp informed him they were off the coast of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.
“Aha, Guatemala!” said Hopper. “I have been here before, and I don’t think I want to stay. Let’s head south for home, wherever that is!”
As they swam along they had lots of time to tell each other their life stories. By the time each of them had had a turn, they could all see the great plan that had brought them here. Emp was free to travel the seas again, and Hopper and Eudy were free to find their home, and they could also see that they would find it together, and they would stay together to the end of their lives.
They didn’t do much sightseeing in these waters. Their desire for the colder waters far to the south drove them on. Also, they had to be on their guard, Emp warned them, against the possible attack of sharks or barracudas.
However, they traveled in safety for two weeks until they came to Panama. Here Uncle Emp surprised them by telling them it was time for him to go south and west, and for them to go east and south.
“What do you mean? I thought we were traveling together to the Falklands!” said Hopper.
Emp answered, “Well, I need to get back to the Pacific, but you can’t because you’re bound to be seen. It would be a shorter route to your home, but much more dangerous and actually foolhardy. They don’t care about me, and even if they did, I can out-swim the fastest seal. But I must go that way. I need to see some of my friends in the Pacific, and then I want to travel. I feel like I’ve missed so much.
“As for you, head east, staying within sight of this land, which is South America, and then as you follow the coast, you will go south. You have a long way to go, and much of it will be in the heat of the Equator. Stay near the coast until you get to Argentina. Then you are very close to home. Go straight south and you’ll find it.”
“I wish you would come with us,” said Eudy. “Don’t you ever go home anymore?”
“Well, I probably should go back some day, and I’ll give it some thought on the way,” said Emp. “I’ve really enjoyed your company. We may see each other again. Many thanks again to you and Gump, and especially to the one who made us. And remember not to forget him! Goodbye, little friends, and may you have many descendants who will grow up to be great penguins like you.”
Uncle Emp swam off into the Panama Canal. Hopper and Eudy, saddened by his departure, headed east along the coast of South America, following his instructions.
They swam for many days along the northern coast of South America, usually staying well away from the shore in order to be unseen by people and not an easy prey for fierce South American animals like pumas, peccaries, and snakes. The current was against them here, making their journey much more difficult, and sometimes they would come quietly ashore to rest awhile. If they rested in the water they would drift backward.
One time in the country of Suriname they found a river where they could swim upstream to find a place to rest. This was strange territory to them. It was hot, and they stayed by the river. However, they got out to stand on a rock with their wings outstretched.
They could hear all kinds of noises in the jungle around them, many creatures making animal or insect sounds, and there were plants blowing in the wind.
One particular sound was somewhat familiar to Hopper and made him uneasy. He wasn’t sure what it was at first, but then he realized it was a peccary snuffling around in the bushes for a good meal. Hopper wasn’t very fond of peccaries.
“Arg, a peccary,” he whispered to Eudy out of the side of his beak.
“A piggy-wig?”
“Yeah, that’s the fellow. I wonder if they’re all alike. If he’s like the ones in Guatemala, he deserves a good beak in the tail.”
“Well, Hopper, I don’t think that’s up to you to decide, and you know you can’t let things that happened in the past affect the way you treat someone else today. Besides, you said it was your own fault you got yourself into that mess. The piggy-wig just wanted a good meal.”
“Yeah, I know you’re right, but I’d still like to beak him in the tail. I’d say nose, but those tusks are too sharp. Whatever the case, we’d better stay out of sight.”
They got down off the rock and hid behind it, waiting to see what would happen. An animal with a long, curved nose came to the river not far upstream from them. She had a young one with her, and they took a drink.
A gruff voice came from the trees, “Hey, who said you Big-noses could drink out of this river. I’ll teach you to be more careful with your baby, Mama Big-nose. I’ll have to make him my breakfast! Ha ha!”
Mama Big-nose put herself between her baby and the taunting peccary, making sure he could see her claws, which were quite long.
“Those things you use to dig for ants don’t have a chance against my tusks!” he said as he began his charge.
Then a small voice from downstream said, “Hey piggy-wiggy! Hey piggy-wig!”
“What? Who said that?” he said, stopping abruptly.
“Hey piggy-wiggy! Hey piggy-wig!”
“Arrrrrr! I hate it when they call me that! Who said that? Where is he?”
“Piggy-wiggy!”
“Arrrr!”
“Piggy-wig!”
“Grrrrr!” said the peccary as he charged toward the voice in the river. “Come here and say that to my face!”
“Piggy-wiggy!” came the voice a little farther downstream.
Soon the peccary was charging downstream toward the ocean, yelling threats and other interjections as the voice kept leading him away.
A while later Hopper came swimming upstream to where Eudy was talking with the mama anteater and her little one. “That piggy is heading toward Venezuela,” he said. “Maybe he’ll join his cousins in Guatemala. Ha ha!”
The anteater, whose name was Tamady, said, “Many thanks to you, my penguin friend. And my little Jubady thanks you too. Where did you learn a trick like that?”
Hopper replied, “A friend of mine did it once to save my life.”
“Eudy has told me you two have come on quite a journey and have much farther to go. I’m not familiar with penguins at all. Where do you come from?”
“Well, I was raised in Antarctica originally, but I’m…”
Tamady interrupted, “Did you say, ‘Antarctica?’ I suppose you have ants there?”
“Well, yeah, of course. Lots of them.”
“Really?”
“Well, it’s like the whole colony, all the female…”
“A whole colony of them? How big?”
“It’s hard to count them, actually, because there are so many, or do you mean how big they are? Well, they don’t like to talk about their size much, but they’re about twice as big as I am.”
Tamady was visibly getting excited now and said, “Perhaps when my Jubady is grown, I could take a trip to Antarctica, do a little sight-seeing, a little eating…”
“That would be great! My mother would love to show you around, and my favorite aunt, Penny, would make your visit most enjoyable!”
“Well, if you don’t mind…even your favorite ant?”
“Of course not, and they’d love to have you!”
“Really?”
So Hopper and Eudy visited with Tamady and Jubady for a while and became great friends. Then they all realized it was time to go—the anteaters to find some ants and the penguins to continue their journey to the Falklands.
Hopper and Eudy continued their struggle against the current past French Guiana and into the waters of Brazil, arriving after many days at the mouth of the Amazon River. This is right at the equator and a very hot place for penguins.
They rested briefly here and befriended some manatees, but had to move on because of the heat. They knew eventually they would come to cooler waters if they continued on.
Now they swam southeast along the coast of Brazil. As they passed many towns and some big cities like Sao Luis and Fortuleza, they managed to keep out of sight of people.
About three weeks after leaving the Amazon they found themselves swimming up another smaller river. It was still hot here, and there was jungle on both sides of the river. They were tired and wanted to find a good place to rest.
Strange sounds were all around them. They heard voices saying, “Hoohoo hooo hah hah. Hey, look at that pair. Hoo hoo hah hah hah!”
“Yeah, look at them! Hoo hoo hoo…”
“I’m not sure about this place,” said Hopper out of the side of his beak.
Eudy said, “It only sounds like monkeys.”
Then a form was swinging on a vine from one side of the river to the other, then back again. It looked almost human. The penguins’ hearts beat faster. The creature swung back and forth across the river. It seemed to be doing it for fun, and they began to relax.
Then suddenly on the next trip it hung by its tail and passed over them, grabbed Eudy, and took off through the trees with her. Hopper could hear them shouting, “Hooohooo hoo hah hah hah…”
Hopper was stunned. They had just taken his companion, his mate, this penguin he would spend his whole life with and have little penguins with, and now they had taken her away and were laughing. Who were these creatures anyway? What did they want with her? He couldn’t let them get away with this. In spite of his fatigue he was spurred into action. He popped out of the river and hopped into the bushes to search for Eudy.
The jungle was thick, and the going was tough. Hopper couldn’t see much except green all around him. He thought he saw movement in the trees far above him, and he could hear laughter echoing throughout the forest.
The situation seemed hopeless and he said, “Help! Please don’t let them hurt her.”
Then he yelled, “Hey! Where are you guys, and where’s my Eudy? Hey! Why don’t you take me too?”
He heard a voice call out, “Say, that’s a good idea, boys. Let’s take him, too. He feels left out!”
Soon he was grabbed and taken quickly up to the top of a very tall tree and set there with Eudy on a limb. “You all right?” he asked her.
“Yes, I’m fine. How about you?”
“I’m a little perturbed right now, speaking of which, who are you, anyway?” This question he directed to the monkey who had brought him up there.
He answered, “I’m Monny, a mean monkey.”
“A mean monkey?”
“Yeah, I love playing mean little tricks on creatures who swim by our place here.”
“What are you going to do with us now?”
“Nothing. You can go. You’re birds aren’t you? Just fly away.”
“You mean you’re not even going to eat us or anything? You brought us up here for a joke? Ha hah hah, hoo hoo hoo. That’s a good one, and a great relief, except for one thing. We’re penguins. We don’t fly.”
“Don’t fly? Aren’t those wings on your side? What good are they if you can’t fly?”
“We fly through the water.”
“Did you ever fly in the air? They look like bird wings.”
“Some people say my ancestors flew in the air long ago, but actually our wings were designed from the beginning to fly through the water.”
Monny was simply amazed at these penguins, because of course, he’d never seen one before, and had never heard of the concept of “flying through the water.” He said, “Well I’ll be a human’s uncle!”
“That’s what they say you were. They look at your hands and the general shape of your body and say, ‘It is obvious that man, apes, and monkeys are related. They have common ancestors. The ancestors of man are the lower primates.’”
“Lower primates?”
“That’s monkeys and apes.”
“Do you think that my descendants some day will be people?”
“They might think that, but maybe, heh-heh, it goes the other way. Maybe they’ll become monkeys.”
Monny said, “Hey, now that makes sense! In fact I like that so much that I hereby appoint myself the monkey-in-the-know, and from now on this will be what is taught around here.”
“Can you do that?” asked Hopper.
“Of course! Once I’ve dreamed up enough evidence, all the while sounding like the great authority that I am, and telling them what they really want to believe, my name will go down in history as the father of modern monkeyism, the one who finally put together the great theory of our origins—that we indeed are descended from Adam and Eve!”
“That sounds kind of bizarre.”
“Does it matter? It will be what they want to hear.”
“Hmm…”
“Only kidding!”
Hopper laughed and said, “You monkey, you!”
Monny lifted up his chin and replied, “Yes, I am a monkey and proud to be one. Where would this world be without us?”
Hopper and Eudy made as if they would throw Monny off the branch, but he leapt up to the next branch and hung there by his tail and made stupid faces. Pretty soon the penguins and all the monkeys were laughing hysterically, and they became good friends.
Monny, his family and friends, and the penguins talked awhile, and then the monkeys gave them a few rides on the swinging vines before setting them back in the river. Here they rested for a day without fear. The mean monkeys made sure nothing could harm them.
The next day Hopper and Eudy headed back to the ocean. They continued easterly along this portion of the South American coast for a few more days.
Then they realized they were beginning to head more directly south, for they were at the eastern-most point of the continent. They passed the cities of Natal, Joao Pessoa, and Recife, and other smaller towns.
After they passed Maceio, the coast even went a little west. They could see everything was as Uncle Emp had told them in his directions. Now the current was going their way, and they let it take them along when they needed to rest.
A few weeks later they were nearing Rio de Janeiro. Here they swam further out to avoid the many boats. Then they continued southwest along the coast for many days and passed by Florianopolis, Porto Alegre, and Montevideo.
Their excitement began to grow because they knew that soon they could head due south for that last stretch to the Falklands. Here was another populous area with many boats, because they were near Buenos Aires. But they were able to avoid the people and continue their journey in peace.

 

 

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