Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 23

Surrounded by seals with no possible escape, Hopper and Quack find an apparently  even greater  peril, one which leaves Quack alone and Hopper gone.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 23

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…


Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 22

After escaping from the Great White Seal, the two friends find new unexpected  dangers as they seek to get out of his territory.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 22

Monsters and Other Terrors

Finding himself overwhelmed with gratitude for his freedom, Quack stuck his head back in the cave and called down, “And next time pick on someone your own shape!” He and Hopper rolled on the ground laughing hysterically. Below them they could hear the Great White Seal ranting madly.
Then they heard him say, “Get the gulls, you fools! Offer them each 10 clams a day for the next week!”
Hopper and Quack realized now that the battle wasn’t over. The ocean would still be filled with seals looking for them, and the skies would be full of spies. They must therefore conceal themselves from view. Inland they saw woods with extremely tall trees. Knowing they must get under the cover of the trees before the gulls got their orders, they quickly headed away from the ocean.
Quack couldn’t waddle as fast as Hopper could hop so he took to the air. Then he decided to fly back to the edge of the cliff to see if he could observe what developed below. Across from him was the rock island with Hopper’s little cave. Below him was the channel of water where seals constantly patrolled.
Suddenly a dozen seal heads popped out of the water, arfing loudly. A big seagull flew down from a perch on the island and landed by them in the water. The seals excitedly presented their offer. The gull shook his head. The seals arfed some more, and the gull shook his head. More arfing. The gull prepared to return to his perch. Excited arfing. Up went the gull. Even more excited arf-talk. The gull flew around as if in thought. The seals made one more arfer. The gull nodded in a way that showed reluctance, and returning to his perch, he let out a great cry. The seals disappeared into the depths.
Quack could tell it was time to get under cover. As he passed the entrance to the cave he could hear Big White yelling, “Fifteen clams! I told you lummoxes to offer him ten! Fifteen! Well, those greedy gulls better deliver me a penguin and a duck or they’ll be doing what I want every day for nothing!”
Hopper was getting close to the trees when Quack got back to him. “The gulls will be out looking for us soon,” said Quack. “We’ve got to make it to the trees. Hey, look at this hard, black ground here. What do you think it is?”
Indeed, the grass suddenly ended, and they were now crossing a strip of ground that was very hard. To the right and to the left it seemed to go on forever, but straight ahead it was only about 20 feet. Hopper felt uneasy as he crossed this strange ground, but on he went. He was almost to the trees. Not long and the gulls might be above them.
Soon they were back on the grass and then under the trees. As they passed a few of these huge trees, they heard from behind them a sound which they’d never heard before. It was something very big and very fast and went, “Whoooooooooosh!”
“Aaaaa! What was that?” they said as they cowered in the bushes. “Does the Big White have some new creature on his side up here?”
“Whoooooooooosh!” came the sound again.
“Aaaaaaaaaa! Let’s get out of here!” They took off farther into the woods. The fear that gripped them now was stronger than any they had yet felt on their travels. Here was a creature obviously much bigger and faster than they were, and it was loud. They hadn’t seen it yet, but they knew it was horrible, something to strike fear into the heart of the bravest bird, whether he be penguin, duck, or chicken.
Quack half flew and half waddled as fast as he could through the trees. Hopper hopped and hopped and never stopped until, out of breath, they both plopped themselves down beside a huge tree that had been chopped down many years earlier and left to rot. Actually, it had been sawn.
Their hearts were racing. They could face Hank and Hawrk the hungry hawks. They could face the peccaries and any seal or sea lion, even the Big White himself, but this beast was something they were sure they never wanted to see. But they tried to pull themselves together and think it through. What could it have been? It couldn’t have been a creature serving the Big White. This thing would frighten even him. They could think of no animal they’d ever heard of that was that big and that fast and that hideously ugly. They were sure it was hideously ugly even though they hadn’t seen it. It must have huge claws on each of its feet, eyes that glared at anything that moved, a mouth that gaped with big sharp teeth, and a long tail that could knock you down and grab you if you were 50 feet away. It probably even had wings and could fly faster than the fastest duck.
Hopper began pacing back and forth by the log, as they were fretting about this new danger. Then he noticed the end of the log and the stump by it. “Hey, look at how straight this tree has been cut,” he said. “I don’t know of any animal with teeth that could cut a tree like this. Arrr, this place is getting scarier all the time. We better keep moving.”
They continued their flight into the woods, not knowing where they were going, but heading in a more northerly direction.
Eventually they came to a great clearing with short grass, rolling hills, and fewer trees. They were somewhat reluctant to leave the shelter of the trees, but they were curious about this new place. They crept cautiously out into the open. This grass was strange to them, so short and green. They came to a little hill, which they climbed. At the top was even greener and smoother grass. In the middle of the hill was a little hole with a very skinny and funny-looking tree growing out of it. Quack inspected it and said, “Hey, Hop, look at this nest! It has a little egg in it.”
“Wow,” said Hopper. “I wonder what kind of bird lives here. A little round egg. Look at all those dents in the shell.”
Suddenly they heard a voice shouting, “Fore!”
“Four?” said Hopper.
“For what?” said Quack.
“That’s a strange accent,” said Hopper. “I wonder what kind of creature…” He was interrupted by the plop of another egg right by them on the green grass.
“Whoa!” said Quack, looking up. “That’s a strange way to lay an egg. I don’t see the crazy bird.”
“Neither do I.”
Now voices sounded not far away:
“Ah, look at the pretty duck!”
“And that other thing there, what do you suppose that is?”
“It almost looks like a penguin, but it couldn’t be a penguin could it?”
“Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends?”
All this time the two friends were frozen with fright, afraid to look in the direction of the voices. Somehow they knew instinctively, but were afraid to admit it, that this was their first encounter with people!
Finally, once again, curiosity won and they glanced behind them, and there they were, those creatures they’d been taught to fear all their lives. There were four of them, four humans, four lady people.
The birds panicked. Quack flew up and away, over the trees. Hopper headed for the trees as fast as he could, both of them yelling, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…”
Hopper found himself crashing through underbrush, certain the ladies were right behind him. On he went without thinking, knowing he mustn’t let them catch him. They might make him talk, and that was forbidden. Or he might not be able to resist the temptation to talk if they said something stupid.
“Where’s Quack?” he wondered. He hoped the great fright hadn’t caused him to do something like fly away. Hopper didn’t like crashing through the forest underbrush by himself.
A while later, Quack found him and said, “Hey Hop, I could hear you crashing through the bushes from way up above the trees. You’d better take it easy.”
“Those ladies are after me. Can’t stop now.”
“No, I saw them back on that grass. They didn’t come after us, but I think we’d better head back to the ocean. I don’t feel right here. This isn’t where we belong.”
“That’s for sure. I think I’d rather be in Big White’s throne room than here.”
After a short rest, they continued through the woods. Darkness was setting in, but they could smell the ocean in front of them in the direction of the setting sun.
When it was completely dark, they could hear the ocean waves in the distance, but getting closer. They could also hear many different sounds in the woods. This added to their uneasiness, so they moved on, wanting to get to the water before daylight when gulls or seals could see them.
Around midnight they came to the edge of the forest, to that place where they had to cross that hard, black ground. They were a long way north of the place where they entered the woods and were amazed to see that it stretched this far.
They were about to leave the shelter of the forest and cross over when they heard a noise that caused them to fall to the ground, trying to conceal themselves in the grass at the edge of the woods. From the north it came: “Errrrrrrrrrrow….rrrrrrrrrrrr.”
The beast passed the two cowering birds at a speed beyond their ability to comprehend. It didn’t seem to notice them and continued on to the south.
It was a while before either dared to move. Finally Quack spoke, “Did you see that?”
“Arg, what about those eyes!”
“I’ve seen eyes glow in the dark, but those light up the night.”
“I sure don’t want to be caught by that thing! We’ve got to get out of here before it turns those eyes on us!”
“Well, it sounded like it went a long way to the south. Let’s make a dash for the ocean.”
Quack flew and Hopper hopped. Soon he was to the hard, dark ground, and he started to cross. From the south came the sound, “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…” Then he saw those eyes. He was half way across the ground. All he could do was stand there in terror, waiting to be eaten alive as the thing sped toward him. “Errrrrrow…”
Hopper said, “Aaaaaaaa… Hellllllp!”
It was upon him now, and then it passed him. “Owrrrrrrrrrrrr…”
Then the sound came from the north, “Errrrrowwww…” Again there was blinding light and wind almost knocking him over as the second beast passed him, heading south. Then it made a loud screeching noise, and slowed down. He heard a voice, which he now recognized as a human voice, saying, “Hey, that looks like a penguin!”
He noticed the beast glowed red in back as it came to a stop. White lights came on, and it backed toward him. Hopper found the strength to hop toward the ocean, all the while saying, “Aaaaaaaaa…”
Quack flew above him saying, “Aaaaaaaaa…”
Behind them they heard human voices saying things like, “A penguin? What’s a penguin doing in California? He must have escaped from the zoo. We better get him. Maybe there’ll be a reward.”
They heard footsteps rapidly closing in on them and the voices chattering continuously.
Hopper came to the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. He could hear the waves crashing on the rocks below him. The people were very close now and saying, “We’d better be careful now. We don’t want to scare him.”
“Don’t want to scare me?” thought Hopper, and then he said, “Aaaaaaa…,” and hopped over the edge of the cliff.
“Now look what you’ve done! You scared him over the edge…”
Hopper landed on a ledge a few feet below, and from there was able to find his way down to the beach with his great cliff-climbing abilities. He dove into the water, and Quack joined him.
It felt so good to be back in the ocean where they belonged. They wanted to laugh, but knew they mustn’t make any noise that would alert the seals to their presence. They had to get out to deep water before the sun came up.
When day broke they were a good distance out to sea. They saw no seals and no gulls. They listened for the mysterious sound, and it wasn’t there.
Finally, they were able to laugh out loud. They looked up and said. “Thank you. Thank you.” They broke into their song and added a new verse:

You may think we’ve had it rough
Some may say we’ve had enough
But we know that we’re not through
Until there’s nothing left to do!

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 21

Hopper and Quack arrive in California waters, where the greatest danger yet awaits them.

To read from the beginning, click here.


Chapter 21


Off the coast of California, about 20 miles out to sea, Hopper found the swimming more difficult as he and Quack continued their journey to the north. The current was heading south, so they couldn’t stop or they’d lose ground. Of course Quack could fly above it all. At least the current was colder water, which was better for Hopper.
One day Hopper was porpoising along while Quack was flying overhead. As Hopper dove under he heard that sound again far away to his left, out to sea. “Help,” he said, and called up to Quack, “Hey, come on down and have a listen in the water. He’d told Quack about the sound before, but the duck had never heard it. Quack dove in, and then as he popped out of the water a minute later he said, “That sure is eerie! What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know,” said Hopper. “All I know is that it always comes before danger. I think it may be a warning for me.”
They agreed that Quack should go on a spy mission to see if he could spot any danger. Quack flew high over the ocean to the west. Seagulls called to each other as he passed by them. They didn’t seem to like this duck intruding in their air space.
For a while all he could see was the sea below him, blue sky above him, and a few gulls around him. His eyes scanned the sea. Far to the west he saw the spout of a whale as it came to the surface. “It’s a blue whale!” he said to himself excitedly. The big fellow raised his tail and dove under, continuing his journey northward.
Then Quack spotted a black dot on the surface of the sea. As he flew closer, he could see it was a seal heading east, toward Hopper! Then Quack noticed it wasn’t the only one. He counted two, three, four…fifty seals spread out over a distance of ten miles, all heading east. They nearly had Hopper surrounded, closing on him in a great semi-circle. The only direction Hopper could go was east, toward the coast.
Quack returned to Hopper and told him the news. “It’s obvious they know about me,” said Hopper, “and they’re driving me to the coast. Well, I guess I have as much chance there as I do out here in the open water with fifty seals.” Then he looked up and said, “Help!”
Now they headed for the California coast at Hopper’s top speed. Quack did routine surveillance to check on the seals’ progress. They were getting steadily closer on all three sides. Hopper had to reach a good hiding place soon or they’d have him.
“I wonder how those guys knew where I was,” said Hopper to himself as he porpoised along. “There must be spies around. I’ve heard of seagulls who would sell themselves for a few clams. Aha! Seagulls! Hey Quack! Did you see any seagulls on Guadalupe?”
“Of course. Lots of ‘em.”
“Any of them look suspicious?”
“Actually, I didn’t pay much attention to them. I was more interested in finding out what the elephant seals knew.”
“Do you think any of them could have followed you from there?”
“Well, it’s possible, but I never would have thought they would do such a thing. But there have been gulls flying high above us all day. I didn’t pay much attention, but do you think they’re in with the seals?”
“I suspect so. How else would the seals know where I am?”
They decided that Quack would go on another routine-looking spy mission to see if he could tell if the gulls were paying attention to them. As he flew over the seals, monitoring their progress, he also watched the gulls. Soon he could tell they weren’t just randomly flying overhead, but were showing the precise location of the penguin.
He returned to Hopper with this sobering news. It seemed they had little or no hope of escape. Somehow they must find a hiding place, safe from the seals and also from the view of the seagulls.
Time was running out. The seals were closing. In the distance was land. Could they make it there before the seals caught up? Hopper was swimming at top speed. “Boy, am I hungry,” he said.
“Me too,” said Quack, “but there’s not much time to eat.”
Hopper said, “We need our strength, though, for the last few miles to the coast. Let’s dive under for some fish.” Soon they had eaten enough to give them the energy they needed, but not enough to slow them down.
As they approached a rocky coastline, Quack had a plan. The seals were now within a few hundred yards. They wouldn’t be able to reach the coast before the seals caught Hopper. Quack said, “Watch me and be ready to swim as far as you can under water to the north toward that little rock island.”
“Right!” said Hopper, although he wasn’t sure about the plan. He’d have to swim right by the many seals who were closing in on him from the north.
Quack dove under water and resurfaced in less than a minute with a nice-looking fish in his mouth. Without stopping to talk (which would have been difficult), he took to the air. Hopper watched him fly up to the gulls and wag the fish in front of their beaks. Then he flew south. The gulls followed him, each wanting to be the one to eat the fish.
Hopper saw this was the time. He dove under water and pretended he was flying north. He wondered if the seals would see him. If so, he’d be no match for so many of them. Soon he could see them above him. They seemed to be stopped, looking up at the sky, and they didn’t notice him.
He swam as far as he could before coming up for air. It wasn’t far to the rock island Quack had mentioned, and he hoped to find a spot there to hide from his pursuers.
Quack, meanwhile, had flown a few miles south with the fish. When he saw he couldn’t stay ahead of the gulls anymore, he dropped it on the beach. The gulls all flew after the fish and fought over it with loud calls and cries.
Quack then returned north to see what had become of the seals and Hopper. He saw the penguin approaching the island. The seals seemed confused, swimming in circles and looking at the sky. He knew he’d better not find Hopper or they’d probably see him. He decided to hide on the bluff across from the island. From there he could watch what was happening in the sea. Later he could join Hopper.
Hopper hid between some rocks at the edge of the water. Sea lions were swimming in all directions around the island, but they hadn’t seen him yet. He looked around and spotted a cliff rising from the water on the side of the island facing the mainland. His eyes scanned the rocky face and saw what appeared to be a hole, which to a penguin would be a cave, a potential hiding place. Would he be able to get there, and if he could, could he do it without being seen? He looked for a route.
As it grew dark, Hopper quietly left his place in the water and headed for the cliff. He had to be very careful. Sea lions were all over the place. Some were likely to be on the island. He quickly hopped from rock to rock, hiding behind them as he went.
He could see pairs of sea lions crisscrossing the island, obviously looking for something. He knew he was that something. He had to make it to that cave. They couldn’t reach him there. Then perhaps he could hold out there for a few days, and the seals would figure he’d gotten away and give up the search.
A few times he had to stand still behind a rock while the sea lions padded by. Finally he made it to the base of the cliff. He froze as a pair of seals swam by. They continued on their way, and Hopper began his climb. It would be tough going in the dark, but it was his only hope for a place to stay. His beak and feet found small holds in the rock as he made the slow ascent. Occasionally a rock would come loose and splash in the water below. Then he would hold tight and remain motionless for a few minutes before proceeding.
After what seemed like a long time, he made it to the cave, crawled in, and fell asleep.
The next morning he awoke to the sound of gulls crying and waves splashing on the shore. He looked out at the world in an effort to see his pursuers. The sky was filled with gulls, obviously looking for a certain penguin. Seals swam continually in the channel between his island and the mainland. Where was Quack? He hoped the duck was all right.
Hopper kept out of sight in his cave all that day, and in the night he heard a familiar whistle from the bluff across the channel from him. Hopper whistled back.
Soon Quack found him and brought him some fish. “Ah, thanks,” said Hopper. “I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get to eat again.” Quack told him how his plan had worked in distracting the gulls.
“It also confused the seals,” said Hopper, “but they’re still looking for me.”
“Yeah,” said Quack. “I haven’t been able to fly in daylight, but from what I’ve seen from my hiding place on the hill, there are thousands of seals and sea lions in the water and on the beaches, and more coming all the time.”
“Well, I guess I’ll have to stay in my cave for a while and hope they give it up in a few days and go someplace else. Then maybe I can make a break for it.” So for the next few days Hopper stayed in his cave, and at night Quack brought him food.
After Quack left on the third night in the cave, as Hopper was about to go to sleep, he heard the voice again—the same voice he’d heard the night before he left the Galapagos Islands. “When all hope seems gone, look up and you will find your escape,” said the voice. Hopper didn’t know what that meant, but he thought about it until he fell asleep.
The next night Quack came as usual with some fish. “You’ll never guess what happened while I was fishing,” he said. “When I came up for air, a little white seal popped his head out of the water right by me and said, ‘Hello there, duck!’ He then proceeded to talk my ears off. He was really a friendly little fellow. It’s too bad those guys have to grow up and get mean.”
“Yeah, I met some nice little fur seals once, too. One of them was the son of Seep who started this war against me. I think I got him in trouble with his dad.”
“Anyway,” continued Quack, “this little white fellow didn’t seem to be involved in the anti-penguin war. I don’t think he knew what was going on. I didn’t tell him anything, of course, but he just kept talking to me like I was his best friend. He said he knows a place where the fishing is the best in the world. Tomorrow morning, just before sunrise, he’s going to meet me down there in the channel and show me the spot.”
“I think you’d better be careful, Quack.”
“No harm can come to me from a friendly little white seal.”
“It doesn’t seem like it, but be careful.”
After they had talked for a while, Quack returned to his post on the opposite cliff.
That evening as the sun was setting, Hopper felt uneasy as he looked at the water below him. Everything looked the same—seals patrolling the waters and gulls crying in the skies as they flew toward their nighttime roosts. Still he felt uneasy. It bothered him that Quack had befriended a seal. Even if he were a friendly one, word could get out to the unfriendly ones that he was still around. He watched well into the night. Still nothing seemed different. “Well, maybe it will be all right,” he tried to convince himself and then fell asleep.
It was still mostly dark when Hopper was awakened by the voice telling him, “Help your friend.”
Hopper foggily replied, “He’ll be all right, won’t he?”
The command was repeated, “Help your friend, now!’
Hopper looked below to see Quack talking with the little white seal, who disappeared under water. Quack followed him. Hopper dove out of the cave into the water and under it, swimming with all his might toward the place Quack had gone down.
He caught a glimpse of the little white seal and then Quack following him, going down, down, deeper. “Quack can’t go down too much more,” he thought. “He won’t have time to get back up for air.” But Quack still followed the seal deeper.
Then they disappeared between some rocks. Hopper swam to the place and found an opening there to swim through. After a while he found himself going up. He was getting concerned about getting air now and wondered if he’d be trapped in this passage, stuck under water, unable to breathe. Then suddenly he felt his head pop out of the water, but he couldn’t see where he was, and he couldn’t breathe all that well because the air smelled terrible. He quickly figured out he’d come up inside a cave that had an underwater entrance. His first concern was to find the duck.
“Quack!” he called. “Are you here?”
“Yes, I am,” he heard Quack answer in the saddest, most distraught voice he had ever heard.
Then he heard a horrible laugh and a voice saying, “And so am I.”
Hopper’s eyes were adjusting to the darkness, and he turned to the voice. All he could see were two big eyes, full of malice, yet captivating his attention, making it hard to look away, even though he wanted to. “Who are you?” asked Hopper in a trembling voice.
“I am the ruler of the sea. I am he who speaks and it is done. I am he who lives forever, forever ruling the subjects of the sea. None can stand before me. None can out-swim me. None dare challenge me. Woe to the one who angers me.”
As the voice was talking, Hopper was gradually making out the form of the creature. It was huge, and it was shaped like a seal. Then he could tell it was white. The realization hit him that this was the Great White Seal! How he wanted to dive back into the water and out of this stench-filled cave, but he doubted if he could find the way out, and he knew he couldn’t leave Quack.
“Welcome to my throne-room, little fellow. Not many have had the privilege of seeing this place, and none have seen it and lived to tell about it, ha ha.
“So you’re the renegade penguin who’s been stirring up trouble for us pinnipeds.”
“Well, actually,” said Hopper, “that was never my intention. Is that what Seep told you? I suppose now that you’ve caught me, Seep will pay you a good reward.”
Many normal seals and sea lions were around the Great White, some in the water and some by him on the rocky ledge he was sprawled on. Hopper heard them make noises at his latest statement. He wasn’t sure if they were laughing or gasping.
The big sea lion bellowed out, “Seep indeed! Seep is a fool. He gives us pinnipeds a bad name with his clumsiness. I am the one ordering your capture because of your continual rebellion against my rule, and your taunting of my subjects. However, because of my great mercy, I will offer you safety for your return trip back to your home in the Falkland Islands, and I will be sure you are shown the way there.”
“Why would you do that for me, the ‘renegade penguin’?”
“Because I am a great and kind king, showing great patience for those who will serve me, no matter what their previous transgressions were.”
“So you want me to serve you? How would I do that in the Falkland Islands? That’s in the Atlantic Ocean. I thought you considered yourself ruler of the Pacific Ocean.”
“Should I not be the ruler of all oceans? You will help me prepare my future subjects in the Atlantic, so they will be ready to welcome me as their long-awaited, good and great king.”
“What if I refuse?”
“Then you will take your place up on my trophy ledge.”
Hopper looked up at the cave wall behind the Great White Seal. There on a ledge that extended a great distance along the wall (and this was a huge room), were the tails of numerous creatures—sharks, other fish, squid, peccaries, sea gulls, and many others he didn’t recognize.
“These are those who failed me, those who rebelled against me, or those who angered me. Today you and this duck will join them.”
“You could at least let my friend go, couldn’t you? After all, you are a kind and merciful ruler.”
“Bah! Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends? This duck has been with you in your rebellion. His tail will be right next to yours on this ledge.”
“Why are just the tails there? I suppose you bit off their tails so they will live the rest of their lives in tail-less humiliation.”
“Ha-ha. That’s an idea! Ha-ha. Actually, I don’t like the taste of tails, and they make a great trophy. How do you think I got so big? Ha-ha. Well, today I get some brand new trophies, and some new delicacies. I’ve never tasted Rockhopper or Harlequin before. Ha-ha!”
Then Hopper said, “I don’t suppose any of these other fellows have either. They’d probably like a sample.” There followed some muffled arfs.
“Silence!” roared the Great White.
“By the way,” added Hopper, who was now standing before the big sea lion, surrounded by many regular ones, “who was that little white seal we followed in here, and where did he go?”
“There are no little white seals around here, just the Great White Seal. I am the only one. I rule the Pacific Ocean, and some day I’ll rule the Atlantic. I’ve always been here and will never die. No one has ever defeated me or ever will.”
Hopper looked at the water, considering an escape, but he wasn’t sure he could find the tunnel, and seals were everywhere. Besides, he was sure Quack couldn’t make it.
“And no one escapes from the throne room,” said the Seal. “Well, do you have anything to say before I add your tails to my trophy ledge?”
“Well, yeah, I’d like to say, ‘Hellllllllp!’”
Then Hopper remembered the words he heard two nights before, “When all hope seems gone, look up and you’ll find your escape.”
“There’s no help for you here, penguin,” said the Great White.
Hopper looked up and noticed for the first time that it had been growing lighter in the cave, although it was still quite dark. The source of the light was a hole near the ceiling of the cave. It was at the top of the wall the trophy ledge was on, and was apparently a tunnel that led to the outside. As morning was getting brighter, the cave was gradually getting lighter.
“It’s your turn to join my other trophies, penguin.”
“In that case, that’s what I’ll do,” said Hopper, and he hopped past the huge seal to the wall, and was soon up on the ledge. “Come on, Quack, let’s go!” he yelled.
Quack, who had been wallowing in feelings of despair for his blunder, suddenly lifted up his head and flapped his wings, joining Hopper on the ledge.
“You’re only prolonging your misery, you fools!” bellowed the Seal as he lifted himself up to swat at them with his flippers. Quack was able to fly above his reach. Hopper narrowly missed being hit as he hopped away on the ledge. “After them!” shouted the Great White, who was also pursuing Hopper and swatting as he went.
Seal lions were now up on the ledge, arfing as they chased Hopper, who was hopping away as fast as he could on the ledge. “Watch my trophies, you fools!” shouted the Seal as tails tumbled off the wall. “Penguin, you’re making it a lot worse for yourself when I catch you!”
Hopper was nearing the end of the ledge where it ran into the next wall. The sea lions were getting closer. Big White shouted commands and threats, and he was getting closer. He stood on his hind flippers with his face right by Hopper. “You can’t escape, penguin. No one escapes from me!” he said, lifting his flipper to swat Hopper off the ledge. Quack flew behind the Seal and pecked his head. “Hey duck, I’ll get you, too!” he yelled. As he turned to slap at Quack, Hopper found a way to climb higher, out of reach of the big seal and all his servants.
He continued climbing toward the ceiling and the hole as the seals arfed and the Great White Seal yelled threats at Hopper and Quack and his own servants. When the hole was about a yard away, Hopper had no way to get to it. He could see it was a tunnel that sloped up gradually, leading to the outside world. He could see grass, trees, and light. If he could get into the tunnel, he would be free from this cursed, smelly cave, but he needed one more foothold to get there. He began to fear he would be stuck here, and the Seal’s words that no one escapes would prove true.
Then Quack flew up, hovering between him and the hole. “Here, Hop, hop on me!” he said. Hopper hopped one hop on Quack’s back and then one hop into the tunnel. He’d made it! Then Quack joined him, and they scrambled up the tunnel into the sunlight.
They could hear Big White yelling below and many seals arfing. They tumbled in the tall grass, laughing and breathing in the clean air.
“Listen to that smelly windbag down there,” said Quack. “ ‘No one escapes!’ Ha-ha!”
They both joined in the chorus:

Oh a penguin and a duck
You may think we’re down on our luck
But we know that we’ll survive
As least as long as we’re alive!



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


“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!”
“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.

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 19


Hopper and Quack head north from the Galapagos Islands,  not really knowing where they’re going. Quack knows he’s getting closer to his home, and Hopper hopes he will find his family going this way. When they come to rest on the coast of Guatemala, Hopper makes and terrible mistake, but he finds the help he needs.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 19

The Dancing Mushroom

Rolling waves were all Quack and Hopper could see in every direction as they swam in silence to the north, each of them coming to grips with his feelings about leaving their friends in the Galapagos Islands. They also wondered about the long unknown trip ahead of them. Hopper porpoised along at about half speed. Quack, whose wing had now healed, flew for a while, and then he would drop into the water to let Hopper catch up.
For a number of days they traveled like this with no land in sight and not really knowing where they were going, although Quack knew he was getting closer to his family going this way. The journey seemed endless, yet their spirits revived as they went on, especially as they talked about the good times they’d had together.
One day Quack was flying ahead to see what was there. He returned, whistling excitedly and saying, “Land ahead, Hop! I see land!”
This was good news to Hopper, who then increased to near top speed. Soon he too could see the coast of Guatemala with its volcanic mountains towering behind the shoreline.
By this time Hopper realized he wasn’t getting any nearer to his home, but he had been instructed to go north. Then the thought was impressed upon his mind that this was the direction to Quack’s home. “Maybe that’s why we’re going this way,” he thought. He felt glad for his friend, but a little sad at the thought of leaving him.
“Maybe this is your home?” he said aloud. “There are mountains here. You said you spent your winters in the mountains by the streams.”
“Maybe so,” said Quack, “but I don’t think these are the right mountains.”
Soon they were on the black sand beach. They decided that Quack would fly inland to the mountains to see if this was the right place, while Hopper stayed close to the water. It was very hot here for a penguin, and he needed to be able to cool himself off regularly, even though the water was also warmer than he liked it.
They found a place where a stream flowed down to the ocean from the mountains. Hopper would set up headquarters there and wait for Quack’s return. He would be sheltered from view at the edge of the jungle, and he could look out at the sea without being seen easily. He was wary of seals, though he hadn’t encountered any for a while. He figured by now they could very well have realized he had tricked them again on that little island when he had pretended to be a fox.
Quack’s plan was to follow the line of mountains to the northwest to see if anything or anyone looked familiar. Then he would return to Hopper in a few days.
Quack flew off, and Hopper sat in his stream, looking out at the ocean. “What am I doing here?” he wondered. He sat there the rest of the day, through the night and the next morning after getting his breakfast in the ocean. A number of animals came by: birds, reptiles, and mammals. Some were friendly, but most ignored him. By late morning Hopper was tired of sitting there and was feeling grumbly inside. He kept thinking, “What am I doing here? This is no life for a penguin.” About this time a beautiful, shimmery green bird with a long tail perched on a branch above him.
“Well, hello there,” he said.
“Hi,” said Hopper.
“You don’t look very happy,” said the green bird.
“Well, I’m all right. I’m just kind of tired of waiting here with nothing to do. It seems like I should have something better to do than this. My friend will be back today or tomorrow; then we’ll be moving on, but even then I don’t know where or why.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Hopper, a penguin, a Rockhopper penguin.”
“And I’m Quigley, a quetzal bird, undoubtedly the prettiest bird in Guatemala, if not the world. But that’s enough about me. You, Hopper, seem to be a bird of uncommon abilities, and one used to accomplishing great things. I perceive you have done great deeds, and you shall do more. I like birds like you for my friends. I can tell that you would be a great friend. I have a secret that I tell only my friends about. Want to know it?”
“Well, sure,” said Hopper.
The quetzal looked around, then dropped to a rock in the stream by Hopper, and spoke out of the side of his beak, “The dancing mushroom.”
“The dancing mushroom?” said Hopper.
“Yes, that’s what you need. The dancing mushroom will tell you everything you want to know about your life—where you should go, what you should do, and whom you will meet.”
Hopper was doubtful about all this, but these were things he really wanted to know. He was weary with the constant struggle, and especially with the feeling of being out of place and not knowing why he was here.
“Where is this dancing mushroom?” he asked.
“If you go upstream for about a half mile, you will come to a waterfall. From there turn east. You will come to a place of hot springs and geysers in about a half hour. From there turn north. You will soon see a huge rock in front of a hill. Behind the rock is a cave in the hill. The dancing mushroom lives there. She comes out to dance at sunset. If you can dance with her, she will tell you all.”
Hopper was somewhat excited about the idea of having all his questions answered, but at the same time his heart felt a little heavy. Before making the trip upstream, he decided he needed some lunch. He dove into the sea to find some fish. As he was eating, a sound he hadn’t heard for a long time returned to him—that almost eerie, low song. So many times it had come when danger was near. This time it sounded the same, yet somehow different. There was an urgency about it, very near and very loud.
He decided it was time to get out of the water. On the shore he wondered what that was all about. He headed for his stream, and as he did so a loud blast of noise from the water behind him nearly knocked him over. “What was that?” he asked himself. Looking out to sea, he saw nothing, and headed upstream. He came to his headquarters in the stream and sat down, looking out at the ocean. He saw and heard nothing, but kept thinking, “What was that?”
The thought came to him that it was the same sound he’d heard underwater, but now for some reason he’d heard it out of the water. “But why?” he thought. He scanned the sea for any sign of danger. He saw no squid, no sharks, and no monster or whatever it was that made that noise.
Hopper sat in his place for a while, trying to figure out what was going on. As long as he sat there he didn’t hear the noise. Then the quetzal returned and said, “Aren’t you going to dance with the mushroom? If you don’t leave soon, you’ll be too late.”
“Well, I’m not sure if I’m going. I’m trying to figure out what that noise was.”
“Noise? I don’t hear any noise. But if you hear a noise, the dancing mushroom can tell you what it is. You have nothing to lose if you go, and if you don’t, you’ll always wonder what you missed, and you’ll continue living your life not knowing the things you want to know…”
The quetzal bird talked on for a time with similar words until finally Hopper said, “All right, I’ll go.”
“You’d better hurry if you’re to get there by sunset,” said the quetzal as he flew off. Hopper stood up and turned around to head upstream. Immediately the sound blasted twice, almost knocking him over. Hopper thought he almost heard it say, “Don’t go!”
He stood there for a minute, thinking, “Who’s making that sound? Is it trying to lure me back to the water to get me, or is it trying to warn me? It has always been there in times of danger, but is it the danger, or is it warning me of danger?” His mind was getting more and more muddled, and his desire to find the dancing mushroom won. Upstream he went at top speed.
The sound came regularly from behind him, still two blasts at a time. He was almost certain it was saying, “Don’t go!” But he kept going. The sound was still loud, but he was getting far enough away that it no longer hurt his ears.
Hearing the sound of splashing water ahead, he hurried on until he saw the stream cascading toward him over a cliff, creating a waterfall glistening in the sun. He paused briefly to gaze at it and then turned right, away from the stream. A half hour later he saw a pool of water that was steaming. He felt the ground rumbling beneath him, and suddenly hot water shot out of the ground in front of him, giving him a hot shower. “Grrr,” he said as he turned left, hopping through the trees.
Soon he saw the big rock ahead of him. The noise sounded, seeming to say, “Come back!”
“I’ve got to see the mushroom!” he said. The sun was almost ready to set as he hopped full speed for the rock.
He came around the rock, and there it was—the mushroom! It sat there in an open space between the rock and a cave in the hill. Hopper’s heart pounded with excitement as he hopped toward the mushroom. “Hello, there!” he called. “Can I dance with you?”
The mushroom didn’t answer. It just sat there like any other mushroom. Hopper approached it and said, “I have a lot of questions to ask you.” It didn’t respond, but he heard the noise from the sea, sounding in the distance, even now sounding more urgent than ever. Hopper’s heart felt like it was in his feet now. The farther he’d come on this little side trip, the heavier it had felt, but he’d kept telling himself, “I have to see the dancing mushroom.”
Now he thought maybe it was asleep, so he nudged it with his wing. It fell over. Hopper looked up, saying, “What a fool I’ve been! I didn’t need an answer from anyone but you! If I needed to know those things, you would have told me. Forgive me!”
Now he heard some snickering up on the hill, then more in the cave, and also in the woods in front of him and behind him. One loud, snorty voice called from up on the hill, “Hey, aren’t you going to dance?” Snorty laughter came from all directions. “Hey, what kind of stupid-looking thing are you, anyway?” called the voice again, obviously that of the leader of these creatures. Hopper could see some pig-like shapes moving closer to him.
He answered, “A penguin, a Rockhopper penguin.”
“Ha! A penguin, he says. Well, you’re the dumbest penguin I ever saw. Everyone knows you don’t believe anything a quetzal says. They’ll do anything for a free meal. In this case, I gave him something he wanted, and he gave me you for my next meal. Ha ha ha! Get him, boys!”
The shapes charged at him from three sides. Hopper could only go toward the rock. Once again an enemy didn’t count on his rock-climbing ability. He found a way up just in time to escape their savage attack with their sharp tusks.
“Don’t think you can get away from us,” said the leader. “There are fifty of us peccaries, and we’re all around this rock. You have no way to get food or water. You’re better off coming down now and getting it over with quickly than to starve on that rock.”
“Aren’t you better off finding some nice fresh meal, rather than waiting for a starving penguin?” asked Hopper.
“Don’t you give me advice! You’re the fool who fell for the old dancing mushroom trick!”
Hopper said a weak “Help!” and sat in silence. Before he fell asleep he called down, “Who gets to eat me, anyway? I’m not much of a meal for fifty of you!”
He heard a lot of quiet snorting all around as the leader yelled back, “I do, of course! I’m the boss here!”
“Then what about the others? What’s in it for them?”
Once again there was snorting all around, now a little louder, and the boss yelled, “You zip up that birdie beak of yours! That’s not your concern!”
Hopper dozed off with the sound of snorting in his ears. He woke up the next morning with a hungry stomach. He was getting thirsty and very hot. How he wished he’d stayed in the stream by the beach!
Below him he could see the peccaries better now. They were mean-looking hairy pigs with sharp, curved tusks. He wouldn’t have a chance of out-running or out-fighting them. He was trapped. He saw no way to escape.
By mid-morning he could tell he couldn’t last long in this heat. “I’ve got to get back to the ocean!” he told himself.
“Better come down soon!” shouted his tormentor. “I expect you’re getting pretty hungry and thirsty, and a little hot, ay?”
Hopper just sat there whispering an occasional “Help!” He had no hope, but about every 15 minutes he could still hear the sound from the sea. Before it had scared him, but now he saw that whoever was making it was a friend, and a very wise friend. The sound had come as a warning of danger, just as it had so many times before.
“Hey penguin, come on down!” snorted the peccary. “We’ll make it quick. Then you won’t be hot and hungry anymore. And I won’t be hungry anymore, either. Ha ha ha!”
Just then Hopper heard a buzzing sound in the trees, and a little voice saying, “Hey piggy-wiggy! Hey, piggy-wig!”
The head peccary bolted in the direction of the voice, yelling, “Who said that?” In the process he knocked over a few of the other peccaries who squealed and snorted.
Then the voice was in the trees in the opposite direction, “Hey, piggy-wiggy! Hey, piggy-wig!”
The peccary was furious. “I hate it when they call me that!” he fumed. He charged through the herd, knocking over more of them. Then the voice came from a different direction. He kept following it, knocking over more peccaries. This went on for a while, and now all the peccaries were fighting mad and began attacking each other. Then the voice came from deeper in the trees, and the leader followed it, yelling threats.
While the peccaries struggled with each other, Hopper saw a chance to escape. No one seemed to be watching him anymore. He made his way back down and hopped as fast as he could in the direction from which he’d come. He wove around fighting peccaries who didn’t notice him. The leader had gone in the opposite direction.
Hopper left them squealing and snorting. Soon he was to the hot springs. He headed for the sound of the waterfall. Then he heard an angry voice, “Where’s my penguin, you fools!”
Another answered, “I thought he was up on that big rock.”
“No, he’s not there. You let him get away while you were goofing off. I leave for a few minutes, and he’s gone. Do I have to do everything myself?”
“Well, he’s your meal, isn’t he?”
“You don’t talk to me that way! After I catch that penguin and have a full stomach I’ll be back to take care of you!”
Then Hopper could hear hooves on the ground, charging in his direction. Behind them he could still hear the snorting and squealing continuing. The head peccary was on his trail! Hopper hopped with all his might for the waterfall. The hooves were getting nearer. “Help!” he said. Then he heard a rumble and a spray, and then a squeal and a snort, “Arrrr! That’s hot! How many times have I passed that geyser? Arrrr!”
Hopper made it to the stream and dove in. He swam underwater and came up under the waterfall, where he couldn’t be seen, just as the peccary charged up to the stream bank.
“All right, I know you’re here somewhere, you little birdie-beaked, flipper-winged penguin! You can’t get away from me. I’m the head peccary! One call from me and I’ll have you cut off from going downstream. All my peccaries are just waiting for the word! You can’t get away. You might as well come out of there now. The only place you could be is under that waterfall. I suppose you’re hoping I’ll start chasing some voice again. Ha! I could tell it was a trick as soon as I’d gone into the trees. You were throwing your voice! You won’t fool me again! And when I catch you, you’ll wish you’d never called me a piggy-wig!”
Just then a buzzy voice right behind the peccary said, “Hey, piggy-wiggy! Hey, piggy-wig!”
The peccary quickly turned around, saying, “Arrr. I hate that. You’d better stop that, penguin!” Then the voice came from directly above him. He looked up and saw a little bird.
“Arrrr! You’re just a little bird!”
“Hummer!” thought Hopper.
The peccary shouted, “You come down here a little closer and say that, little fellow!”
“Okay,” said Hummer, who then descended to within a foot of the peccary’s snout, looked him in the eye and said again, “Hey, piggy-wiggy! Hey piggy-wig!”
The peccary furiously lunged at Hummer, who easily flitted away, causing the peccary to fall into the stream. He thrashed around in a rage, splashing water all over. Then he came out, shook himself off, and looked for Hummer.
“Here I am, piggy-wig!”
The peccary charged after the voice away from the stream, into the woods. Hummer hovered in the air above a familiar spot, calling his taunt at the piggy-wig who continued his charge. He aimed his tusks at the little bird and lunged again. Once again Hummer removed himself quickly and easily at the last moment, leaving the peccary flying over the ground and landing just as the geyser erupted, hitting him square in the chest. The force of the eruption bowled him over, causing him to roll a few times. He ended up stuck in the mud by a hot spring. “Arrr!” he said. “Hey, you idiots! Quit playing around and come get me out of here!”
Hummer found Hopper heading downstream, and Hopper said, “Hey Hummer, my good friend. I must thank you again for your help. I was a goner, for sure. How did you get here?”
Hummer answered, “Not far from here is where I come for the winter. When I heard the call for help, it was my pleasure to come.
“The peccary won’t be able to bother you for awhile, but I’d suggest that you move on from here soon. He may be able to get more peccaries after you when he gets out of the mud, and he’s not in a very good mood.”
Hopper said, “Speaking of the call for help, what was that…”
Hummer continued, “Peccaries aren’t the smartest creatures in the world, but they are fearless and mean. They even attack people sometimes.”
They arrived at Hopper’s waiting place, and he said, “I wonder when Quack will get here. Oh, you haven’t met him yet, have you? He’s been my friend and companion since the Galapagos.”
“I heard he’s quite the duck,” said Hummer. “I’m glad you’ve had some company. Two are better than one, you know.”
“Where did you hear about him?”
“Well, speaking of two, I’d better get back to Hummeressa. It sure has been great seeing you, Hopper.”
“Do you have to go so soon?” called Hopper as Hummer flitted away. “Thanks again for the help!”
“I hope to see you again on less dangerous terms!” called back Hummer, and he was gone.
Hopper’s stomach told him to get some food. He dove into the ocean and ate some fish. He didn’t hear the sound, and he returned to his headquarters.
In the mid-afternoon Quack returned and found Hopper sitting there. “Hey-ho!” he called. “Well, this wasn’t the place for me. I think we’ve got to head north a ways still. Looks like not much excitement here, ay?”
“Not much,” said Hopper. “In fact this place is so dull, I vote that we exit here immediately.”
The sound of many hooves thudding on the forest floor approached rapidly on both sides of the stream.
“What’s that?” asked Quack.
“Peccaries,” said Hopper.
“What are peccaries? How do you know what they are?”
“In a few minutes you’ll see for yourself what they are, but I suggest we head for the water.”
Quack flew over Hopper as he swam downstream. Now they were at the place where the stream crossed the beach. The peccaries, hundreds of them, thundered across the black sand, snorting with anger.
“Have a good day!” shouted Hopper as he dove into the ocean.
“I think you fellows have had some sort of misunderstanding with my friend?” called down Quack.
“Ha! That penguin is your friend?” answered the head peccary. “Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends?”




Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 18


The story of Hopper the Rockhopper penguin and his new friend, Quack the Harlequin duck, continues with their stay in the Galapagos Islands where they meet some more new friends, the Galapagos penguins.

To read from the beginning click here.


Chapter 18

New Friends

Over and under the waves they swam with mounting excitement toward that part of the strait where Galoppy had said the penguins lived. They encountered no seals and soon came to a little peninsula that jutted into the strait from Isabella Island. Hopper was sure this was the area the tortoise had told him about.
It was late morning as they hopped onto the rocky shore of Isabella Island. Marine iguanas basked in the sun, but no penguins were in sight. Hopper wasn’t going to bother with the iguanas, but Quack, who had never met one before, was quick to approach one and say, “Hello there, friend, have you seen any penguins around here?”
The iguana replied, “I believe, duck, that is one behind you, is it not?”
“No, that’s Hopper. He’s my best friend. Well, I guess he is a penguin, but I’m wondering about penguins who live here.”
“Well, I’m not very interested in penguins,” said the iguana as he began crawling back toward the water and added, “or ducks.” As he was disappearing under the water he was muttering something to himself, “Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends?”
Quack was hopping mad and wanted to dive in after him to tell him a few more things, but Hopper held him back, saying, “Don’t bother with him. It won’t do any good. Those who only think about themselves won’t be changed by our angry words. Let’s look around a bit.”
A half hour later they had still found no penguins. Hopper was getting discouraged, but then Quack came across a cleft in a rock where there were some black feathers and a comfortable place for a few small penguins to hide. Soon they found a few more similar places.
Hopper was starting to get excited, but said, “I wonder where they are?” Then he noticed how hot he was and said, “Aha!” He hopped on top of a rock and looked out at the water. “Let’s go!” he said. He dove in, and Quack followed, wondering what Hopper was up to.
The water felt good again as they swam out and dove under. They grabbed some fish, and then Hopper pointed with his wing toward the surface. Above them they could see the unmistakable form of a small penguin swimming on the surface, although he was a little hard to see because from below his white belly blended in with the water and sky. Hopper and Quack went up to meet him, and popped out of the water right beside him.
“Hey,” said the little penguin, “you look like the southern penguin the tortoise told us about, but we heard he was taken away to Fernandina Island by a hawk. We figured we’d never see him again. I don’t suppose that could be you, could it? No penguin has been known to return from the Pit of the Hawks. The tortoise tells us it’s a place of sulfurous fumes. Hey! Who’s the duck here? Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends? The tortoise didn’t say anything about a duck. You must not be the same southern penguin. What kind of penguin are you, anyway? I’ve never seen one like you.”
“Well,” said Hopper quickly before the little fellow had a chance to start talking again, “my name is Hopper, a Rockhopper penguin traveling from the south, looking for my home. This is my friend, Harley Q. Duck, a Harlequin duck looking for his flock. We met in the Pit of the Hawks. Without him I wouldn’t have escaped. As for me, I was hoping this place would be my home, but it doesn’t appear to be. You don’t look like a Rockhopper penguin.”
“I’m Galant, a Galapagos penguin. No, I’m not a Rockhopper, but you and your duck friend are welcome to stay with us as long as you like. Most of us are out in the water now to keep cool, but soon we’ll head for shore. You can come home with me and meet my family. Boy, will they ever be amazed to hear and see you, the penguin (and duck) who escaped the Pit…” And so little Galant talked on until it was time to head for shore.
That afternoon Hopper and Quack met Galant’s mate, Gail, and their little girl penguin, Galee. They made them feel very much at home. Galee took a special liking to Quack. She loved to sit by him and hear his jokes, songs, and stories.
Over the next few weeks they got to know almost everyone in the colony, and everyone began to regard them as one of the group, as if they’d been Galapagos penguins all along.
Hopper especially liked to spend time with old Mendicule, who was considered the wise elder of the colony. He was an old friend of Galoppy the tortoise. Indeed, during some of these sessions with Mendicule, Galoppy would saunter by and add his wisdom to the discussion.
Hopper learned lots of new things from these two. They knew about different creatures, the different kinds of penguins, fish and other sea creatures, as well as mammals and reptiles. They even knew about humans. They especially loved to talk about the one who made all these amazing things. Hopper learned about the currents in the oceans, the winds of the air, and the heavenly bodies. He also began to see the reason he missed getting to his home, and he could see there was a plan behind his error. He now accepted the fact that he was a long way from his true home in the Falklands.
One day Mendicule was talking about people, and Hopper, as usual, found himself trembling. He asked the old penguin, “Why do we fear people? I found myself trembling at the mention of them, even when I didn’t know who they were.”
Mendicule answered, “People were created to rule this world and to be our masters, although they kind of forfeited that position since they rebelled against our Creator, even though he made a perfect place for them with him. Now they still have great potential for greatness and goodness, but also great potential for evil, and if we meet one of them we might not know which it will be. Our fear of them is a safeguard for us, and for them it produces a longing for what they’re missing out on because of their rebellion. It reminds them of what they could have had, and what they still can have some day if they return to their true home. Some day all creation will be in harmony again. People and animals will have their intended relationship with no fear.”
Hopper said, “It seems like that could never happen. It feels like things will always be the way they are.”
Mendicule answered, “Many times in the past the ruler of all has changed things unexpectedly, and only those who listened to him were ready. Once the whole earth was flooded, and everything had to start over. Once he himself came to the earth, and so many didn’t even realize it. But his coming changed everything—it made it possible for people to return to him. So you see, things may seem like they’ll always be the way they are, but it could change at any time.”
Hopper asked, “How did you learn all these things?”
“I’ve listened to him for a long time, and when you listen, then you can hear what he wants to say to you.”
As time went on, Hopper began to feel more and more at home here, and his desire to travel was diminishing. Quack also enjoyed these little penguins, especially Galee.
One day Hopper and Mendicule were lounging in the water having one of their usual talks. The old penguin asked him, “Hopper, do you think you’ve come to the end of your travels? Is this your home now?”
“Well, I love it here. I have great friends, especially you. You’ve taught me so much. Galant and Gail have come to treat me as a brother. I have plenty to eat. It’s relatively safe here.”
“But is this where you’re supposed to stay? What do you think you will accomplish here? Is this the place you were sent to as your final destination?”
“Do you want me to go, Mendicule?”
“Hopper, you have become like my son, or grandson. But I know there is a purpose for your life, and this is not it. You were sent here as a temporary blessing for us, and as a resting place for you. Now just as Emmett knew it was time to send you off, I too must do the same, even though it will tear our hearts.”
Hopper knew Mendicule was right. He must move on.
“When?” he asked.
“Soon. You will know the right time.”
“Where? My home is back to the south where I came from. Can I go back there?”
“Hasn’t the one who knows everything taken care of you and actually guided you all along? He will show you where to go.”
That night Hopper told Quack he must soon move on. This news saddened Quack. He was enjoying his time here. He had almost forgotten he was a duck. But as he thought of Hopper renewing his journey, he knew he must get back to his real flock too. “We’ll go together, old friend,” he told Hopper.
A few nights later Hopper sat in the dark, thinking. The others were asleep. He couldn’t imagine ever actually arriving at his Rockhopper home. It seemed like he would always be traveling. He would keep coming to places that seemed like they might be home, but would turn out to be a disappointment, like someone who thinks he sees water in the desert, and it turns out to be a mirage. He’d always have to go through the heartache of moving on again and leaving friends he’d grown to love.
His thoughts were interrupted by a question almost audible in his mind or heart, “Has your time been wasted?”
“Well, no,” he answered, “but I’m not at home with my family.”
“Have you been alone?”
Hopper had to think about that for a while. There had been times of great loneliness, times of missing Emmett and Emily, times of longing for his Rockhopper family, times of facing dangers alone…and then he realized that even in those times he’d never really been alone. If he had been, he would be dead.
Finally he answered, “No. You’ve always been with me, and you’ve given me many friends along the way.”
“And you won’t be alone on the rest of the journey. You will arrive at your home at the right time. Don’t be afraid. Head north tomorrow.”
“North? Did I hear right? Isn’t my home to the south?”
“Go north tomorrow.”
The next morning Hopper and Quack visited all of the little penguins to tell them good-bye and to thank them for letting them be part of their family. Finally Hopper went for one more visit with Mendicule, and Quack wanted to be with Galee for a while.
“I can tell you’re ready now,” said Mendicule after Hopper told him about the instructions he’d received in the night. Your ear has been opened, and you’re willing to go north when you think you need to go south. Yes, my son, you’re ready.”
Then Galoppy emerged from behind a pile of rocks. He agreed with what Mendicule said.
“I’ll miss you two,” said Hopper, “and I’ll miss your counsel and great wisdom.”
“Now it’s time for you to apply it,” said Mendicule
Galoppy added, “And you can’t live off the wisdom of others, especially two old-timers like us. If your ears and eyes are open, you’ll learn even greater things.”
So they talked with him until Hopper knew the time had come to leave. He bade them farewell and went to say good-bye to Galant, Gail, and Galee. Then he and Quack, with their hearts in their feet, but their minds resolved to the journey, headed for the water.
The whole Galapagos colony escorted them a good ways out into the ocean north of their island., and raising their wings in a final salute ,they headed back toward their home, while Quack and Hopper turned their beaks toward the limitless blue expanse to the north.

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 17

I forgot to post for a few weeks here. Anyway, Fly Like a Penguin continues with the story of Hopper and his newfound best friend, Quack the duck.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 17

Out of the Pit

Loud taunts and threats began coming from the hawks every day. Hawrk said, “There’s no way out of this place, you poor excuses for birds! You can’t even fly! You might as well give up now! We’ll get you in the end anyhow!”
And Hank added, “Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends? I’ll tell you what I’ll do, penguin—if you give me the duck, I’ll let you go free. Or you, duck—give me the penguin and I’ll let you go!”
Hawrk said he’d do the same, and they both flew over the lake, yelling out similar things, trying to demoralize Hopper and Quack. Each one of them hoped he’d be the one to get the penguin and the duck. As for Hopper and Quack, even though they had plenty to eat and were enjoying each other’s company, they didn’t like the feeling of being trapped, prisoners in this crater that could never be their home.
Finally the time came for them to put their plan into action. Once again they called out for help. They agreed that as soon as it was dark they would begin the ascent up the hill. They had spotted what looked like a good route up to the northeastern rim of the crater. The drawback to it was that it led right through Hawrk’s territory. They hoped they could sneak by him in the dark.
This morning Hopper went fishing a little longer than usual. After breakfast he swam around for a while, acting like he wasn’t watching the skies. Suddenly he heard, “Aha, penguin!”
Just before the talons grabbed him, Hopper was under water. He had been ready for the attack. He swam over to where some rocks poked out of the water and surfaced. Then he called out, “Hey, Hank, my old friend, does your offer still stand?” If I deliver the duck to you, will you let me go?”
“Why, of course, penguin. But I thought that duck was your friend.”
“If he was, what good would it be if I was dead? Like you say, you’re going to get us in the end anyway. But really, how can a penguin and a duck be friends? As for you, Hank, you were a pretty nice fellow for someone who was planning to eat me. I’d be glad to give you a good meal in exchange for my freedom. But that Hawrk, on the other hand, I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could sink him. He’d steal a meal from his mother.”
“You’re right about that, penguin. So anyway, how do you propose to deliver the duck to me?”
“Well, Hank, we’ve planned an escape after it gets dark tonight. I figure we could make it up to the rim in the dark, but we’d never make it down the other side without you hawks seeing us. So how about if I meet you half way down the other side just after dawn. The duck will be yours, and I’ll head for the sea.”
“Sounds good, penguin. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” Hank flew off, and Hopper swam back to his shelter.
The rest of the day passed slowly, and Hopper and Quack were fairly quiet. In the late afternoon Quack said, “What if our plan doesn’t work?”
“Well,” said Hopper, “we have to try. We don’t belong down here. All we can do is commit it to our maker, and if it’s our time to be someone else’s food, that’s what’s best.”
At dark they said one last, “Help!” and quietly slipped into the water. They swam most of the way under water to the other side of the lake in order to be quieter. On the shore they found their route up the hill, picking their way around and over large boulders. Quack had to risk using his wing and possibly re-injuring it as he jumped up on the boulders. He wasn’t able to hop like the penguin. It was very difficult, but as they went up the rocks gradually grew smaller.
As they neared the top they could see the sky beginning to glow slightly. “We’d better hurry,” they said. They made it over the top still in darkness. Then Hopper hopped downhill around and over rocks and boulders while Quack almost flew. Soon the light grew, and dawn broke out as they were about halfway down the mountain. Hopper said, “We’d better rest here awhile and keep a lookout for those hawks.” They found a shelter in the rocks where they sat down to rest with their eyes watching the skies.
Soon a dark figure appeared overhead and quickly descended. It was Hank, who landed in front of them on a little pinnacle. “Aha, penguin, you little traitor, I see you brought my duck!”
Hopper said, “Hi, Hank. Yeah, here he is, but I think you can have me instead…”
Quack nudged Hopper, saying, “Hey, what is this, Hop? You can’t do that…”
Hopper brushed him back with his wing, saying, “I’ll be all right.” Then to Hank he said, “I figured you probably have ducks all the time. You’ve probably never had Rockhopper penguin. I’ve known some seals who would love to have me for a good meal.”
“All right, all right, enough talk! Let’s get going, you foolish penguin!”
So Hopper slowly walked out of the shelter with the duck trying to stop him. Then as Hank leapt off the pinnacle to grab Hopper, a voice sounded from above, “Ar-har! Let go of my penguin, you thieving scoundrel!”
“Your penguin! Hawrk, you are the thieving-scoundreliest poor excuse for a hawk I’ve ever known! Penguin here and I worked out a deal. He’s mine!”
“Well, no deal is valid in my territory! Whatever comes through here is mine!”
“Not if I catch him first! Then he’s mine!”
And so the argument continued for an amazing length of time, each hawk dreaming up reasons why Hopper should be his. What they didn’t realize was that their penguin was no longer there, nor was the duck. They were far down the mountain, heading for the sea.
As the sound of the argument grew fainter and fainter, Hopper and Quack found themselves diving into the nice, cool, refreshing salt water. They laughed and frolicked in the waves and dove under for some good salt-water fish. Hopper even found some krill, which he hadn’t had for what seemed like years.
When they had eaten enough, they rested on the surface with their eyes on the skies in case the hawks decided to come after them. “That was a noble thing you did up there,” said Quack.
Hopper replied, “Well, I figured the only sure-fire way to escape was for them to start arguing over the same meal. I was almost certain they would. After all, we were going right through Hawrk’s territory, and I didn’t think he’d let anyone else take a meal from there, especially Hank. So it wasn’t really that much of a risk. But for now, let’s go find my home. You can stay with me as long as you like.

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 16

Finding refuge in a crater lake, Hopper also finds an unlikely best friend, who is not a penguin, but a duck.

To read from the beginning, click here.


Chapter 16


A Penguin and a Duck


Even though he’d been saved once again from an early demise, Hopper knew he must still find a shelter from any further surprise attacks from the hawks. At the western edge of the lake he found some rocks he could hide under. From there he could easily dive into the water to escape attack or to go fishing. He rested there for the rest of the day.

The next morning he dove under water for breakfast. The fish were plentiful, and he had no trouble eating his fill. Thinking one more fish would be enough for now, he swam under water, looking for one of the right size for his appetite. He sped toward a likely candidate near the surface, and just as he was about to grab its tail, he felt a commotion in the water, and something else grabbed the fish and went back to the surface.

Hopper also went to the surface where he found a duck about to eat the fish. He was bluish-gray with red feathers on his sides, white stripes on his wings, neck and head, and white spots behind his eyes. He said to Hopper, “Hey-ho, was this your fish?”

Hopper replied, “I was about to beak him on the tail, but you are welcome to him. I’ve actually had enough. Thanks for asking, though.”

The duck asked, “Say, what’s a fellow like you doing in lake like this?”

“The hawks dropped me here. How about you? I’ve never seen anyone like you before. What’s your name?”

“The name’s Harley Q. Duck. My friends call me Quack. I’m a duck, a Harlequin duck. I got separated from my flock a few weeks ago and ended up here with an injured wing. I’m recuperating here until I can make the flight back to the north where I belong. I think I’ll be here a few more weeks or so. What’s your name? Where do you come from?”

“I’m Hopper, a penguin, a Rockhopper penguin. I’ve been traveling from the south for a long time, looking for my home. I think I might be there if I can get out of this crater.”

From there the two birds told each other how they ended up in this crater lake. Hopper invited Quack to his shelter, and they spent the day there telling stories.

Hopper greatly enjoyed his new friend who made this pit seem not so bad a place. But he knew they must find a way out. First he would rest a few days. It had been so long since he’d had water and food. He didn’t like the thought of climbing that hill to the rim of the crater.

Quack, as his story goes, had been flying with his flock from far in the north toward their southern winter home. He was flying in the middle of the group, very much wanting to show everyone how good a flyer he was. He darted from his place toward the front and began showing his great speed and his duck air acrobatics. They passed through some clouds as he was flying upside-down and doing loop-the-loops and figure-eight’s.

He didn’t consider that no one could see him now anyway. Then he straightened out and flew at top speed through the clouds in an attempt to show them that he was the fastest Harlequin known to duck. He sped south through the clouds, planning to reach their destination first. Then when the others arrived much later, he’d say, “It’s about time you guys got here.”

On he flew for hours and hours, then through the night and into the next day. He stopped to rest and noticed that his wings felt a little stiff. But he had to keep going. Back to the sky he went. Now the clouds were behind, and apparently so was his flock. He could see them nowhere. He felt a little uneasy, but he had to go on. They’d catch up, and he’d see them at their winter home.

The air was getting warmer now, and in a few days it was getting hot. Now this didn’t seem right.

Quack was a young duck, and while he was indeed a very clever and fast flyer, he hadn’t learned the art of navigation too well. Besides that, he flew a little higher than normal and unknowingly was caught in an air stream that took him farther south than he thought he was. These things combined to get him off course, just as the storm had done to Hopper.

He ended up flying many, many miles south of his destination. That is how he ended up at the Galapagos Islands, and as he was flying over this very crater, he too was attacked by a hawk. He saw it in time to avoid its grasp, but the quick maneuver he made in his weary condition strained a muscle in his wing as he quickly descended into the lake. So here he would stay until he could fly safely out of the crater and back to his flock.

As they talked, Quack and Hopper were impressed with the similarity of their situations, and the desire to escape this pit grew within them. They had the increasing awareness that they were brought together for a reason, and they would work together for that purpose.

“Quack, when we get out of here,” said Hopper, “why don’t you come visit the penguin colony with me?”

“Sure, I’d like that, but you know I can’t stay.”

“Well, you could at least stay until your wing is better.”

So for the next few days they rested and made their plans. When they went out into the lake for food, they also surveyed the hills surrounding them to see where the best place to ascend would be. Wherever they went, it would be hard and dangerous work with hawks lurking all around with their great eyesight, and with an injured duck and a penguin who is used to cold water instead of a hot, barren mountain.


Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 15

Hopper’s search for the Galapagos penguin colony is interrupted by a hawk who intends to invite him to lunch with his hungry family.

To read from the beginning, click here.


Chapter 15


Fernandina Island


His heart was sinking lower and lower, just as he descended lower and lower toward the bay below him. “Why am I here if this isn’t my home?” he wondered. He thought about his journey and all the friends he’d met on the way—Del and Delphina, Hummer and Hummeressa, and Magellee and her family. And he thought of Emily and Emmett, and now Galoppy. They knew where they were supposed to go. “Why not me?” He looked up and said, “Help!”

He had a faint reassurance that all would be well. “Thank you,” he said.

Far above him a dark shape was circling, lower and lower. Hopper didn’t see it because he was looking down at the bay below him and wondering how he would swim that last little way without being caught by seals. Suddenly a shadow was on the ground in front of him and talons dug into his shoulders.

“Aha!” said the hawk as it lifted him off the ground. “Up we go, penguin! Want to see what flying is like? Ha ha!”

Hopper replied, “Well, I’d rather not. Maybe you’d like to do some swimming with me?”

“Not much chance of that, little flipper wings! Nope, no more swimming for you. No more fishing. You see, now I’ve caught you. You’re coming home with me—for lunch! Ha ha ha!”

Hopper was thinking, “Seems I’ve heard that one before.” In the meantime they were climbing up and up above the island and then over the bay, across the bay, and over Fernandina Island.

If it weren’t for the pain in his shoulders and the undesirable circumstances he was in, he would have thought this was a wonderful view. To the north he could see the strait where Galoppy said the penguins lived. The hawk was heading toward the crater of a volcanic mountain, and inside the crater was a lake. Soon the hawk, whose name was Hank, descended, saying, “Here we are!” as he landed on a pinnacle just inside the rim of the crater.

“Is this your home?” asked Hopper.

“No, this is my lookout. I can see the whole inside of the crater from here. I thought you might like to see it before we have our lunch together. Ha ha. Actually, you’re a bigger catch than I’m used to. My family’s nest is still quite a ways away. I’m going to get my mate and youngster and bring them here to join us for lunch. You might notice that it’s a long way down from my lookout.”

Hopper looked at the barren expanse below him. It was a long way down. The crater sloped away from him and eventually came to the dark blue lake. Behind him the pinnacle dropped 100 feet to a point not far below the rim of the crater.

“Yeah, that is a long way down,” admitted Hopper to Hank. “I think I’d rather be eaten by a family of hungry hawks than be dashed to pieces on the rocks way down there,” he said, but actually he was forming a plan in his mind.

“Yeah, that’s the attitude, my little flipper friend. Too bad you can’t swim up here, eh? Ha ha! I’ll be back shortly with my hungry family. Ha ha!” Hank soared off the pinnacle and over the lake.

Hopper watched him grow smaller and sighed another weak, “Help!” His shoulders were sore. He was thousands of miles from home in a hot and barren land. He’d had nothing to eat for a few days. He was getting to the point of being too weak to go on. He had to get back to water or he would die. “Help, please!” he said.

He knew he needed to find a way down from the pinnacle. Hank had obviously never met a Rockhopper before. On one side of the tower was a possible route down. He’d have to be very careful. If he misjudged it, he might end up being dashed to pieces on the rocks far below. But he had to try it. It would be better than being lunch for a family of hungry hawks.

The first step looked like the hardest. He had to hop down about ten feet to a narrow ridge of rock and then follow that ridge down to a place just below the rim of the crater.

“Well, here goes!” he almost shouted and hopped down, landing with a jolt on the ridge. He bounced over the edge that overlooked a great drop into the crater. “Well, here I go-o-o-o-o-o!” he thought as his claws and his beak were grabbing for a hold. He found a claw hold, and then he grabbed on with his beak. For a few minutes he stayed there shaking. Then looking around him, he clambered back up on to the ridge. From there it was fairly easy going to the bottom of the pinnacle, but he was very sore, tired, thirsty, and hungry.

He needed to get to water. There was the lake far below him. Probably even farther away was the sea he was used to, but it was just a little ways to the top of the crater. Then it would all be downhill to the strait where the penguins lived. “Home?” he wondered, and that made up his mind. Up he climbed to the crater’s rim. It was a struggle, but before long he was there, and there it was—the sea! Actually, it was a narrow strait, and beyond it was the island he was on not long ago.

A lazy iguana, basking in the sun, observed, “You don’t belong up here, penguin.”

“You’re right about that, sir. Excuse me, but do you know where I could get some water?”

“Down there,” said the iguana, looking at the sea, and then facing the lake he continued, “or down there.” Then he slowly slunk under a pile of rocks.

Instantly Hopper felt the pain in his shoulders again, and the voice, “Ar-har!”

Hopper’s heart sank lower and he asked, “Is that you, Hank?”

“Hank? Did you say, ‘Hank?’ Don’t even mention that thieving rascal’s name in my presence! I’m Hawrk, and I’m hungrier than Hank. Well, here we go, penguin—home to my hungry hawrklings!”

Hawrk flew over the lake, more toward the north than Hank had flown. Hopper, looking toward Hank’s home, saw three spots getting bigger.

“Here he comes now!” said Hawrk. “I’d better fly lower and hope he doesn’t see me. Otherwise he’ll come and try to steal you. He always was a thief.”

Hopper could see Hank and his family heading for the pinnacle. Then when he was still a good distance away—hawks have great eyesight—Hopper heard a screech of rage that echoed throughout the crater.

Hawrk dove lower toward the lake, and Hank dove toward him. His mate and child followed more slowly. Hank was screaming, “Hawrk! You no-good, thieving rascal! Steal my lunch right off my own pinnacle, will you? We’ll see whose lunch it is!”

Hawrk and Hopper were flying faster than Hopper could imagine, but Hank was rapidly closing on them. Hawrk and Hank threw insults back and forth as the two thieving rascals flew toward the north over the lake, not far above the surface of the water. Hank’s talons were about to grab Hawrk’s neck when Hawrk saw it was time to drop his load in order to defend himself.

Hopper splashed into the lake. It was warm, and it smelled of sulfur, but it was wet, and he was immediately relieved, except for the pain in his shoulders. He dove deep down. It was great to be in water again, even if it wasn’t the nice, cold, salty ocean. Finally he was able to be relieved of his great thirst.

To his surprise he found fish in the lake. “How did these guys get here?” he wondered, as he ate his fill.

When he poked his head out of the water again, he could see and hear the hawks squabbling far above the lake. They had apparently forgotten about him, at least for now.

“Thank you,” said Hopper. “Thank you for the water and the food, and for keeping me from being someone else’s food.”


Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 14

Hopper continues to look for penguins at the Galapagos Islands, hoping this may be his home. He finds a friend in an old tortoise.

To read from the beginning, click here.


Chapter 14


Isabella Island


The day was late as Hopper approached the shore of Isabella Island. Remembering the turtle’s warning about seals and sea lions, he swam cautiously, not wanting to be spotted by any. He wasn’t sure if they would have connections with those who were after him, but even if they didn’t, they would probably want to make a meal out of him.

Hopper’s plan was to cross the island by scaling the mountain instead of swimming around. The main problem was that it was so hot here compared to what he was used to. The water was cool enough, but the air was getting very hot. After all, the Galapagos Islands are right on the equator. He wasn’t sure if he could last long out of the water. “But I need to get used to it here,” he thought as he surveyed the shore for a good spot to land.

The rocky island grew to a great height above him. The peak called Sierra Negra towered over him. He decided he would traverse the northern side of the peak. He found a spot on the black lava beach where it looked safe to come ashore. No seals were in sight. A few colorful marine iguanas on the rocks watched him with little apparent interest as they sunned themselves with the last rays of the setting sun.

Hopper wasn’t sure if he should talk to them, but he decided to ask them how far it was to penguin territory.

“Aren’t you a penguin?” replied one, somewhat haughtily. “Why do you ask me about such unimportant matters? I am not a penguin, obviously. I am a marine iguana.”

Hopper considered responding, “Pardon me, O magnificent sir, for intruding on the greatness of your presence.” He thought better of it and said nothing, but began his uphill climb.

After climbing a few hours with great difficulty, he found it hard to see where he was going in the, so he crawled under an overhanging rock and fell asleep.

The next morning as he woke with the gradually lightening sky, he could tell the heat would be hard for him to handle. It seemed to rob him of his strength. He looked up at the mountain and still couldn’t see the top of his climb. “I’m so close to home. I’ve got to make it.” He looked up and said, “Help,” as he trudged up and up, slower and slower. He was hungry and thirsty and hot, very hot. “I’ve got to make it,” he repeated.

Then he heard a voice, “You’re new around here, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” replied Hopper, looking around for the source of the voice.

“I’m over here,” said the voice. Then he saw him, a great tortoise whose shell blended into the surrounding rocks, making him hard to see.

Hopper was glad to hear a friendly voice and hopped over to the tortoise, who said, “What are you, a penguin?”

Hopper said, “Yes, a Rockhopper penguin. My name is Hopper. What’s yours?”

“I,” said the tortoise, “am Galoppy, a descendant of the great tortoises after whom these islands are named.” Galapagos means “tortoises” in Spanish.

“It’s nice to meet you,” said Hopper, “and a great honor.”

It’s important to note at this point the state of Hopper’s mind concerning where he was and the place he was trying to reach. He knew from the beginning he was supposed to find the Falkland Islands, and that he needed to go north to get there. He had gone much farther than he had expected, and this put doubts in his mind, but they weren’t able to let themselves be heard completely. Galoppy’s last statement about the islands being named after the tortoises was baffling to him, and he was trying to figure out how it fit in with the Falkland Islands when his thoughts were interrupted by the tortoise continuing their conversation.

Galoppy said, “Well, the obvious question is, ‘What is a penguin (such as you) doing up here on a mountain such as this?’ I’ve seen a few penguins in my day, but never known one to climb up here.”

“I’ve heard that penguins live on the other side of this island, and I think they might be the family I’m looking for.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier for you to swim around the island?”

“Yes, it would be much easier, but there are seals in these waters, and for some reason all the seals are after me! Up here they can’t get me. But can you tell me—are there penguins living near here?”

“Yes, indeed, especially on the northwest side of this island and on the next island, Fernandina. They’re little fellows and a friendly sort, but I don’t spend a lot of time down by the ocean. I like it better up here.”

Hopper’s excitement grew within him again, and he asked, “Could you tell me the best way to get there?”

Galoppy answered, “This country is pretty rough to travel, even for us tortoises. I think I’d better show you the way until it’s easier going. Follow me.”

Having a friend and the hope that his journey was nearly over helped our penguin a great deal. It was still hot, and the way was rough, but he plugged along behind his steady companion. Along the way Hopper was able to tell him about his adventures and why he was traveling the way he was. He found out a lot about the tortoise also. He was quite old and very wise.

Galoppy had talked to many different birds as well as swimming animals in his lifetime, and had learned about many different things, although he had never been off this island. He was content to stay here. He was never bored or impatient.

“Some folks are always in a hurry,” he said, “and they don’t live so long either.”

Aside from the discomforts of his situation, Hopper had an enjoyable day. As it began to grow dark, they came upon some puddles that had been left by a recent rain. Hopper was glad to see some water.

Galoppy said, “We’ll spend the night here. Tomorrow we’ll be out of this rough terrain, and you’ll be able to see the way to the territory of the penguins.”

The next morning they resumed their journey in silence. Galoppy seemed deep in thought and didn’t talk as he had the day before. In a few hours they rounded a ridge, and before them was the sea, actually below them and still a good day’s journey away.

“That’s Elizabeth Bay below us,” said Galoppy, “and in the distance is Fernandina Island. The penguins live along the strait between these two islands, to the northwest of us about 40 miles. Once you reach the water it will be an easy swim for you, but you must look out for the seals. I doubt if any of them know about you yet, but they would still like to have you for dinner.

“I will be leaving you soon. You won’t need me the rest of the way, but I have some things to say before I go. I didn’t want to say this at first, because I didn’t want to dampen your enthusiasm, and I wasn’t really sure, but now I’m quite certain your family members aren’t Galapagos penguins. You are not a big penguin, but you are quite a bit bigger than the penguins here. They don’t have the yellow plumage you have…”

Hopper’s yellow plumage bristled, and he blurted out, “This has to be my home! Where else can I go?”

“Well,” said Galoppy, “the Galapagos penguins are very kind and hospitable. I’m sure they would accept you as a friend and as one of their own. But concerning where your true family is, I have a guess as to where that may be, and how you missed getting there. You told me of a storm at the beginning of your trip. That storm, I suspect, blew you completely off course, and the many islands at the southern tip of South America confused you. You continued north, but you were too far to the west. Instead of being on the east side of the South American continent, you ended up on the west. You are now about 4500 miles from your home.”

“Forty-five hundred miles? How can I ever get there? Is it possible you’re wrong? Maybe I am a Galapagos penguin.”

“There is only one who is never wrong, my friend, and I am not that one. But remember it’s the Falkland Islands that you’re trying to find, and these are the Galapagos, and you are a Rockhopper. But don’t worry about how long it will take to get back there if you decide to go. Things take as long as they take. There is a plan. Even in your navigational error there is a plan. I suspect it wasn’t really an error.

“Hopper, my friend, I’ve enjoyed your company, and you have added something to my life. Now I’m being called elsewhere, so I must go. You will be in good hands. Goodbye, my penguin friend.”

Hopper knew it was no use arguing with the tortoise if he was being called elsewhere, so he said, “Goodbye, Galoppy, and thank you.”

The tortoise slowly moved out of sight, and Hopper began his descent toward the bay.