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.

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 13

 

Hopper’s adventure brings him to the Galapagos Islands, which becomes an important stop on the way.

To read from the beginning, click here.

 

Chapter 13

 

Galapagos

 

Spotting islands in the distance many days later, Hopper once again had his hopes raised. Perhaps he was home!

He swam quickly for shore and hopped out on the beach. By this time he wasn’t as eager to shout his arrival, having been disappointed so many times. He would look around first before being convinced it was home. He also knew he was better off staying out of sight of any seals or sea lions. The seals he had tricked might find out there were no foxes on that island, and the search to the north would continue stronger than ever.

He went cautiously along the beach, hoping to see a penguin colony. A huge sea turtle was making her way over the sand toward the water. Hopper approached her, saying, “Excuse me, ma’am, do you know if any penguins live on these islands?”

“Well, little fellow,” she began, “I’ve been stopping by these islands for nigh on 99 years, and I’ve never known a Galapagos penguin to be bold enough to look me in the face. ‘Course you seem to be a might bigger than the average penguin on these islands, a might bigger.”

“You mean there are penguins here, then!” Hopper interjected.

“Well, my boy, you’re one, aren’t you, little penguin?”

“Yes, ma’am, I sure am. Can you tell me where I might find them?”

“Well, Sonny, what’d you say your name was, your name?”

“Hopper.”

“Well, Sonny, my boy, Hopper (that’s a fine name), little fellow, the penguins don’t live on this island. If you were to cross this island and look to the northwest, you’d see another island, a big island. That’s where they are, on the far side of it, northwest side. But you don’t want to cross this island, not this one. Dogs live here, wild dogs. Cats too, house cats. You’d never make it to the other side, never make it.”

Hopper said, “Then I’ll swim around!”

“Well, there are sea lions and fur seals you’ll meet before you ever see penguins. You’ll never make it, never make it.”

“There must be a way. I’ve got to get to my family!” insisted Hopper.

“Well, my boy, I wouldn’t count on it. You don’t have a hard shell as you see I have, a big hard shell. That’s why I’m nigh on 99 years old, ninety-nine. Good luck, Hooper, my boy. Oh, and watch out for the rats, big ugly rats.” The turtle slowly continued her trek across the sand into the water, and she was gone.

“This is not too encouraging,” mused Hopper as he gazed after her, “but I’ve got to get to that big island. A few dogs and cats and seals and rats aren’t going to keep me from my family.”

Just then a rat ran by him on the beach, and it was being stalked by a cat. From around the bend a dog came barking wildly at the cat, who bristled and climbed up a nearby rock, leaving the dog leaping vainly up at her with a slobbering mouth.

“Look at yourself, you nincompoop,” said the cat. “Jumping around and making all that noise. You scared away my rat.”

“Yeah, yuh yuh yeah. Well, well, well a guy’s gotta catch himself an honest meal, you know what I mean, heh heh heh.”

The cat put her mouth behind a paw and whispered to the dog out of the corner of her mouth, “Don’t look now, but look at yonder honest meal. I do believe that’s a bird of some kind. I like birds.”

The dog spun around exclaiming, “Yeah yuh yuh yeah, so do I yigh yarf, yarf, yarf!” and off toward Hopper he dashed.

Hopper took this as signal to abandon this island. He dove into the water and swam westward around the island. A few hours later he arrived at the west side where he could look to the northwest and see a big island, perhaps 45 miles away. It appeared to be a mountain rising high above the sea. His heart and his thoughts were racing as he sped toward the mountain. It was an island. It was high. Therefore, it must have rocks to climb. Penguins lived there. This must be home. If it wasn’t, he doubted that he had a home.

 

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 12

flap1_9-1-13jpg

Danger continues to follow Hopper, and now he finds the whole Pacific Ocean against him.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 12

 

A Wanted Penguin

 

I hope I don’t meet any more sharks,” said Hopper as he floated along with the current the next day. Then he heard a buzzing noise that seemed familiar to him, followed by a familiar buzzy voice saying, “Hopper, my friend!”

“Hummer! How are you, and how is Hummeressa?”

“All is well for both of us. She has made a complete recovery. But I have something else I must tell you. I can’t stay out here long. Hummeressa and I were flying north up the coast, and yesterday we flew by the island of fur seals. We go by there often, but yesterday the seals seemed to be all worked up about something, so we flew down to see what it was. We heard them talking about you. They were furious that you had eluded them on two occasions. They’ve put a reward on your head and sent messages along the coast to all the seals and sea lions. Whoever catches you and brings you back to Seep will be treated like a king and given a year’s supply of fish. You must stay away from the coast, and even out here you must keep alert for them.”

“Have you seen my friends?”

“Yes, they’re a ways ahead of you. I told them you were okay. I’m sorry for the disappointment you had there. I didn’t realize they weren’t the family you were looking for. My advice to you is to go with the current to a group of islands you will find in about three weeks if you don’t stop somewhere along the way. The seals will expect you to return to the coast to your friends, and I think you would be trapped.”

Hopper said, “But they told me there was another kind of penguin along the coast not far from here. Perhaps that is where my family is.”

“No, Hopper. I’ve seen that penguin, the Peruvian penguin. He doesn’t look like you, but on those islands (and remember, you are looking for an island), I’ve heard there is yet another kind of penguin. Perhaps he is the one you’re looking for.”

“Then I’ll go there. Thank you, my good friend.”

“I will always be grateful to you, Hopper, for saving Hummeressa’s life. I must return to her now. Farewell!”

“Goodbye, Hummer!”

After Hummer left, Hopper felt very alone. He’d been separated from his friends, and now his life would be in continual danger. He knew he couldn’t trust seals anyway, but now they were looking specifically for him, not just any old penguin.

Hopper looked toward the coast. In that direction were his friends. Also in that direction somewhere, perhaps anywhere, were those who wanted to hurt him. He could see neither. The Andes Mountains towered above him, seeming to rise straight out of the sea.

“Why me?” he asked. “I didn’t intend them any harm.” The mountains didn’t answer, but they increased his feeling of being small and alone.

So on he swam to the north toward some unknown islands where there might possibly be penguins, and even less probably his family.

Several days later he was 1000 miles to the north. He noticed the air was getting warmer, but the water was still cold as he traveled in the current. The cold was more to his liking. He wondered how much farther he had to go. He was lonely. He had no one to talk to. He missed Magellee. He missed Hummer. He missed Emily and Emmett. Would he ever have a home and friends who would always be his friends?

His thoughts were interrupted by that sound again, once again nearer. “What is that?” he thought. “Last time I heard it was when the shark was after me. Could the shark be back?”

He swam a little faster, even though he realized it probably wouldn’t do any good. A shark is much faster, and there’s no place to hide out here in the ocean. You just have to hope one doesn’t catch sight or scent of you.

He decided to swim under water for a while to see if he could see or hear what was there. The eerie sound grew slowly louder, but he could see nothing. He couldn’t really tell if it was ahead or behind him.

He returned to porpoising, nearly at top speed, and then he checked under water again. The sound grew nearer. “Help!” he said.

Porpoising again, he saw what he thought was an island ahead and a little to the west. “I’d better head there,” he said. “This couldn’t be the one Hummer was talking about, could it?”

In a half hour the island was near, and he could see it was part of a small group of islands. The near one rose quite a ways out of the water, apparently formed by volcanic activity. Could this be home? There was no time to think about it. The sound grew nearer and nearer.

He swam with all his might and made it to shore, hopped onto the sandy beach and said, “Whew, I made it!”

Just then a long tentacle arm with huge round suction cups on it snaked out of the sea and wrapped around Hopper before he had a chance to look up and say, “Thank you!”

Instead he said, “Hellllp!” as the thing pulled him back into the water. It was a squid, a giant squid. He knew that, although he couldn’t see much of it besides this long tentacle that held him. He was helpless against it.

Then there was a disturbance in the water. Something happened to the squid, and it let him go! He was sent flying into the air, turning over and over again before he landed in the water a few feet from shore.

He couldn’t tell what happened, but he caught a glimpse of the squid’s brownish body, and also something blue as he was hurtling through the air. Then as he hit the water he heard a tremendous slapping sound on the water where he had seen the squid. Then all was quiet.

Hopper hurried out of the water and away from the reach of any tentacles. “Whew, thank you again,” he said, looking above. “I’ve heard of giant squid, but I wasn’t sure if they were real or just legends. But who, besides you, knows what dwells in the depths of the seas?”

Hopper wasn’t too anxious to get back into the water, so he decided to walk along the beach for a while. He turned to the right and hopped along a sandy beach that was bordered by some low rocky hills. Beyond them were higher hills.

After about a half hour he put his head in the water to listen for any sign of danger. He heard the sound, seemingly farther away than when the squid grabbed him. “Better not get in now,” he said as he continued down the beach.

Ahead of him was a ridge of rock that jutted toward the water, nearly cutting off his route along the sandy beach. As he was going around it he heard water splashing, and then he heard voices. He recognized them immediately as seal voices.  He stopped short, hoping they wouldn’t see him. From their conversation he could tell that they hadn’t yet.

“Ah, this looks like a good place to rest,” one was saying. Hopper heard them flop down on the beach with a sigh.

Another voice said, “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind having that reward. Can you imagine just sitting back on the beach while they bring me my meals every day for a year?”

“That would be nice, all right. But we’d better remember what we’re out here for. It’s not too likely we’ll find that little penguin, but Seep wants him, and he doesn’t care who brings him in. Our pay is pretty good just for running this errand.”

Hopper’s heart was racing. He knew they were talking about him. These seals had gotten here from Seal Island just after him, and now were seeking to spread the news about the reward, as Hummer had told him.

Hopper knew he had to keep from being seen, but he wanted to know what these seals were up to. He peeked around the corner. There they were, lounging on the sand, ten yards away, in the shade of the rocks.

“One of the seagulls who watch the Magellanic penguins for us told us this Hopper fellow was heading north. Apparently he’s a Rockhopper penguin who got separated from his family and is hoping to find them again. Seep is willing to pay a lot to make sure that never happens.”

Hopper’s heart was dropping lower by the second. All he wanted was to find his home, and now the whole world was against him. He decided to go inland to escape the seals’ notice. Keeping the rock ridge between him and the seals, he began climbing toward the center of the island. He could still hear them fantasizing about the life of luxury.

Suddenly an idea occurred to him. He needed to go north, but the seals were heading that way also. He must find a way to make them think he was heading another direction. How could he do that without being caught?

He crept around to a point right above the seals and hid behind a rock. One of them said, “Well, I guess we’ve rested here long enough. Better get back to our mission. Back to the water and north to the Galapagos!”

As they started pulling themselves toward the water, they heard a voice calling from the hill, “Wait, not so fast, my fine friends! Why don’t you stay and have a good meal with me before your long journey. You need a little sustenance to help you on your way.”

The seals stopped, and the younger one said, “Say, that sounds like a good idea.”

The other nudged him, saying, “Shh. Let me handle this. It’s a fox.” And to the voice he said, “That is mighty kind of you, sir, but we have an important errand to run, and we’ve delayed too long already. Er, by the way, have you seen a little penguin named Hopper pass by this way?”

“Why, sure, my fine friend. He too was a good friend of mine and had a nice meal with me. Then I sent him on his way to the coast of Peru where he said his family lived.”

The seals looked at each other, each knowing what the other was thinking, and said together, “Peru, or a nice meal!”

The older one said, “We’ve got to get back to Seep about this!”

The seals dragged themselves quickly back to the water and headed south.

Soon Hopper was able to return to the beach, continuing his walk along the shore to the other side of the island. Then he listened again in the water. Not hearing the ominous sound, he dove in and resumed his northward journey.

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 11

flap1_9-1-13jpg

Hopper continues north because he was told that was the way to go to find his home…

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 11

 

Escape from Seal Island

 

Tired from his long day, Hopper dozed off for a few hours and woke up feeling much better. It was quiet below him now. When he crept to the edge of the cliff and peered over, he could see in the light of the setting sun one adult seal watching the cliff. Some mothers and pups remained there, but the rest had apparently gone to the other side of the island.

He had to find a route that would be easy enough for him to descend in the dark. He hopped along the edge of the cliff, being careful to stay back so as not to be seen from below. Before long he found a ledge angling down. It appeared to go all the way to the beach, although it went around a corner, so he couldn’t see the bottom of it. He sat down to wait for dark.

An hour later he was making his way down the ledge by the light of the stars. Below him all was black and silent. The only sound was that of the waves on the beach. He needed to be quiet in order to not attract the attention of any remaining seals. Once he accidentally sent a loose rock crashing below. He waited in silence, his heart pounding. He heard nothing and continued, trying to be more careful.

After a very long half hour, he was down on the beach. He slowly waddled over the rocky part, but when he reached the sand, he hopped as fast as he could. He could hear a few seals snoring, but more seemed to be awake. Suddenly he heard one yell, “There he is!” but Hopper hopped the last few feet to the water, dove in, and swam out to sea, heading northwest.

It didn’t take him long to be away from Seal Island and beyond their territory. Now he could relax in the sea, eat some krill and fish, and continue on his northward journey.

His friends would have at least a day’s lead on him, and he wondered if he would be able to catch up with them. He could swim faster than any of them, so perhaps he could. He increased his speed, and before long he realized the current was also with him, taking him north.

“Maybe I’ll find my home,” he thought. Remembering the reason for his journey awakened in him a new excitement, and he sped along. He also hoped to see Magellee and her parents again. They had almost become like his family.

On the second day since escaping from Seal Island, he was porpoising along, feeling a little lonely, yet happy to be moving toward home. As he dove under water, he heard that strange sound again, and it seemed nearer than before. Again he wondered what it was. A short time later, he thought he saw a movement behind him to the left. He turned his head as he swam along.

A dark triangular shape was cutting through the water toward him. Immediately he remembered Emmett’s words, telling him to beware of…yes, it was a shark! He knew he couldn’t match its speed or strength. He called a quick, “Help!” and swam with all his might.

The shark was getting closer. Hopper just kept swimming and swimming as fast as his wings would carry him. Closer, closer. The shark was almost upon him.

Then Hopper wasn’t sure what happened. He saw what looked like a great bluish wall move from ahead of him to the left and pass behind him. Then he heard a huge slap on the surface of the water. Hopper kept on swimming, but in a while he realized the shark wasn’t there anymore.

He dove under to see if he could tell if the shark was nearby. He couldn’t see it anywhere. He just heard that strange sound much farther away. He looked up and said, “Thank you.”

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 10

flap1_9-1-13jpg

Hoping to find a way to his family going north, Hopper begins a migration with his new friends, but his plans and hopes are interrupted…

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 10

 

Maggot and the Seal

 

Soon after coming to live with the Magellanic penguins, Hopper gained their respect, in spite of the initial ridicule. The only exception was Maggot, who continued to make fun of him whenever he could. When the others commented on Hopper’s great swimming and fishing ability, Maggot would say he must have had enough practice wandering around the ocean. If the others marveled at Hopper’s great agility on the rocky cliffs behind their burrows, Maggot would say he didn’t have any reason to fear falling, because if he did, those ridiculous yellow feathers on the side of his head would cushion the fall.

The day arrived for their migration to the north. Hopper was excited to be moving again with the possibility of heading home. He walked silently with Magellee and her parents while his mind raced with the thoughts of meeting his real parents and his relatives.

Thousands of Magellanic penguins and one Rockhopper dove into the sea and began porpoising in a generally northerly direction, eating breakfast as they went. They would be at sea for about four months. Their route would take them along the many coastal islands for about 400 miles. Then they would head out to sea to catch the northerly-flowing Peru Current, which would take them far to the north along the South American coast. Another advantage of heading farther out would be to avoid the many seals lurking among the islands.

So they continued for many days, swimming and eating. One morning as he swam next to Magadon, Hopper dove under for breakfast, and as he did he heard that eerie sound again. “What is that?” he wondered to himself.

When he resurfaced he noticed a grim look on Magadon’s face. He glanced around at the others and saw that no one was smiling, except a few young penguins. “These,” he thought, “are on their first sea journey, but the older ones know something.” Then he asked Magadon, “What’s the matter, sir?”

He replied, “In a few miles we’ll be able to head out to sea, but first we must pass by these islands where the seals seem to wait for us. Last year we lost many of our friends here. We’re hoping we can make it by here this year without being seen by the seals.”

On they went nervously for a few hours, hoping they wouldn’t be spotted. Then ahead on their right was an island where Magadon said the seals lived in great numbers. If they could get past that island they could then head out to sea and begin to catch the northbound current. If they headed out now they would be swimming against the current, which flowed to the east. Progress would be difficult and slow, and they would be much easier prey for the seals. Farther along they could get away from the effects of the eastbound current, but in those few miles they had to risk being spotted by the seals.

As Magadon was explaining these things, Maggot swam over to Hopper and said, “Hey there, Hop! I hope the little cliff-lover isn’t wishing he was back in the burrows, heh-heh.” After a few other similar remarks he swam off to the right.

Suddenly, of the corner of his eye Hopper saw out a round, brown shape appear near Maggot. Instantly he knew a seal was closing in on his persecutor. Now the seal had Maggot in his mouth and was diving under water.

Without much thinking Hopper dove under and swam in the direction of the seal. He saw Maggot struggling to free himself as the much larger and stronger seal was diving deeper. Hopper swam with all his might after them.

Deeper and deeper they went, but with a great effort Hopper was able to catch up and take the seal by surprise by biting his back left flipper with his strong beak. Not being used to this sort of attack by a penguin, the startled seal turned around to see the source of the pain in his flipper, and as he did so he let go of Maggot, who was badly shaken up and bruised, but not seriously hurt. He floated back up to the surface and then limped after the other fleeing penguins.

Hopper swam a quick ring around the seal, which caused the confused fellow to turn in circles. Hopper circled him again and then took off. When the seal stopped turning and realized what had happened—that he had been attacked and fooled by a penguin, and he would be the laughing stock of seals—he was furious. He swam after Hopper who by now had a good lead.

Hopper couldn’t out-swim his bigger foe for long. The seal was closing in. Hopper called out quick and silent, “Help!” Then up ahead he saw some kelp, a long tube-like plant that grows on the sea-bottom and grows up to the surface in thick patches. He swam desperately to reach it before the seal caught him.

The seal was not many feet behind him when Hopper entered into the kelp where he was able to hide from the seal who pushed himself madly through and around the plants, looking for the little penguin.

Hopper, finding himself concealed from the seal, swam to the surface to get some air and to look around. He could see no penguins. To the west was open sea. To the east in the distance was land, the South American continent. To the northeast not far away was an island. All around in the water he could see the round forms of seal heads. He could hear them arfing.

What should he do? It was a long way to land. To head out to sea was to swim against the current and to be easy prey for seals patrolling the area. His best plan, he decided, was to head for the island. They wouldn’t expect him to enter their territory. He figured he could swim under water, coming up for air only a few times. Then maybe they wouldn’t see him.

He didn’t know exactly where his pursuer was now. The problem with the kelp was that even though he was hidden, so was his enemy. He needed to head for shore without the seal’s knowing which way he was going, so the seal couldn’t warn his comrades.

He decided to wait until he knew where the seal was. He stayed motionless at the surface, looking periodically under water. Then not far from him a black whiskered nose poked out of the water, drawing in deep breaths. Hopper remained motionless, forming a plan in his mind.

Then he skimmed on top of the water to the outer edge of the kelp patch. When he saw that the seal spotted him, he dove under water. The seal was after him, swimming furiously.

Hopper darted back into the weeds, swam among them to the left and waited. Soon the seal dashed into the weeds at the same place Hopper had and proceeded straight ahead to the middle of the kelp patch.

When Hopper saw he wasn’t going to be seen he swam out of the kelp, all the way around the patch and headed for the island. He figured the seal would be looking for him in the weeds long enough for him to make it to shore unannounced.

In a few minutes, Hopper could see his plan had worked. He had eluded the seal in the kelp, but now as he poked his head out of the water about 10 yards from shore, he could see a whole colony of seals lounging on the beach.

It was a sandy beach with a few large rocks from which seals scanned the waters for potential victims. Beyond the sand was a good-sized rocky hill about 100 yards from the water. He counted about 40 adult seals and many pups. He watched the crowd for a few minutes to see what they were doing. The mothers were mostly preoccupied with watching the pups. Many of the others were sleeping, talking together, or looking out at the water.

He looked up, saying, “Help!” and then, “Well, here goes!” He swam slowly to shore and nonchalantly began waddling and hopping toward the hill. No big seals were near him where he landed, and none had spotted him. Some pups were playing not far away. He walked past them, but when they noticed him, he said, “Hi there, fellows. What are you playing?”

One youngster responded, “Hi. I’m See. These are my friends, Si and So. We’re playing Nosepush. The first one to push a kelp bulb with his nose from here to where the sandy beach becomes rocky up there toward the hill, wins. Do you want to play with us?”

Hopper looked quickly around. Apparently no adults had seen him yet. He answered, “That sounds like fun!”

“What’s your name?” asked See. Hopper told him his name and took his place between See and Si, who provided him with a kelp bulb.

“All right, go!” yelled So. The four began nosing their kelp up the beach toward the rocky part. Hopper did amazingly well for someone who had a beak instead of a seal nose, but he fell behind the others.

Up on a rock the pups’ mothers were talking about their pups and other seals. Si’s mother noticed the race going on and that Si was winning. “That a way, Si, Honey,” she called. Then she noticed Hopper following along. She asked the other mothers, “Who’s that little slow fellow there. He’s a strange-looking one.”

So’s mother said, “He looks a little deformed, doesn’t he?  Poor fellow. It’s nice of our boys to play with him.”

See’s mother, who had a little better eyesight, said, “I don’t believe that’s a seal, girls. I believe that’s a…a penguin, maybe a Rockhoppper penguin.”

Hopper finished the race and said, “Thanks for the good time, fellas. It was really kind of you to let me play.”

“Would you like to play some more?” they asked.

Hopper replied, “I’d love to, but I must keep going.” Off toward the hill he continued.

Soon he heard a lot of excitement among the seals on the rocks. He heard the word, “penguin,” spoken many times with great excitement. “Here they come,” he thought as he continued hopping as fast as he could toward the hill. All the adult seals were now after him.

One was coming out of the water behind him, yelling, “There you are, you little trickster! You’ll pay for taking a good meal from me! You’ll take its place as my meal!”

Hopper kept hopping toward the hill. The sound of the seals’ arfing was getting closer and closer. The hill was slowly getting closer. They were closing in from the sides with no seals in front of him. All he could do was go straight ahead toward the hill. Now as he approached it he could see it was actually a cliff about 50 feet high. He looked up at the cliff, and then turned around to see the seals. The whole crowd of them had him surrounded on three sides, now 15 yards away.

The seal from whom he had escaped yelled at him, “I guess you’re not tricky enough! We’ve got you now!”

The seals closed in on him, closer and closer. Suddenly a little seal voice was louder than the rest, “Daddy, daddy, what is everybody doing to my friend, Hopper?”

Hopper’s foe answered, “See, my boy, don’t you know what this Hopper is? He’s a penguin! We don’t have penguins for friends. We eat them!”

“But Daddy, he played with us!”

This discussion created a diversion for Hopper to quickly examine the cliff, find a route up, and begin hopping his ascent. The seals were shouting, “Hey, look at that! Hey penguin, you can’t do that!” They rushed at him and lunged up at him. One narrowly missed grabbing him, but he had just gotten above his reach.

Up and up he hopped with angry arfs sounding farther and farther below him. Finally he was at the top of the cliff. He looked down at the angry mob. “No hard feelings, I hope!” he called down.

The little voice called up to him, “Goodbye, Hopper!”

Hopper called down, “Goodbye, See! Goodbye, Si and So! Thanks for the nice game!” Then he hopped out of sight toward the other side of the island.

Now that he was out of danger, he realized how tired he was, and he remembered all that had happened that day. He was separated from his friends and had narrowly escaped with his life. He missed Magellee, Magadon, and Magdalena and wondered if he could catch up with them. He wanted to keep going to find them, but he knew he couldn’t go any farther today.

Lying down near the top of the cliff, he could hear the seals below talking about him. “So you let one get away, ay Seep? That little runt sure pulled one over on you, heh-heh.”

Seep answered furiously, “You better watch your tongue, and that goes for the rest of you sorry group of seals! You let him walk right past you, playing with our pups! Well, we’ll get him! You in with me on this? That penguin won’t get off this island! He’ll be heading for the northern side. We’ll be waiting for him there!”

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 9

flap1_9-1-13jpg

 

Hopper finally finds some friends, but is still going the wrong way to find his home.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 9

 

Island of Penguins

 

 

In the distance he saw an island. He swam for it with all his might. He crashed through the surf and tumbled onto the sandy shore, shouting, “Yaaaa-hoooo! Finally I’m home!”

He looked right and left. Far down the beach he thought he saw a waddling form. He hopped and waddled as fast as he could, shouting, “Yo-ho, there! Hey there, cousin!”

Soon he was face to face with another penguin. It seemed like years since he’d seen one, although it had really only been a few weeks. Hopper, excited and out of breath from his long swim and hop, gasped, “Hi there! My name is Hopper. I’ve come home!”

“Well, hello,” said a young female penguin. “You are a different sort, aren’t you? There’s never been anyone named Hopper here, and certainly nobody who looked like you.”

“You don’t understand. My dad told me that he and my mom weren’t my real parents, and I must go find my real parents. He sent me here, to the Falklands, where the Rockhoppers live.”

His new acquaintance giggled, “You are a strange one, for sure. This place is not the Falklands. It is called Ballanero. And I’ve never heard of Rockhoppers before. We are Magellanic penguins.”

Hopper’s heart sank so low he felt it not only in his stomach, but also in his legs and his feet. It weighed him down, and he collapsed to the sand, crying out, “Oh, no, where is my home? Are you sure there aren’t any more like me here? Are there other penguins?”

She replied, “There are many, many of us, but none like you.”

“Can I meet them? Maybe there will be someone who can tell me where my home is.”

“Come with me,” she said. “I’ll take you to see my dad. He knows just about everything anyone needs to know to be a penguin in these parts.”

“Thank you very much,” said Hopper. “And what is your name?”

“My name is Magellee,” she said as she started waddling inland.

As Hopper followed her he began hearing a noise he’d never heard before, although in some ways it seemed familiar. It grew louder the farther they went on, and soon he could see that the source of the noise was many, many Magellanic penguins. It seemed they were all talking to each other at the same time as they stood around the holes in the base of a hill where they had their nests.

Suddenly they caught sight of Magellee and Hopper, and much of the noise turned into a braying sound like a donkey. Someone called out, “Hey Magellee, who’s your new friend? He’s a funny-looking fellow!” Many more sounded in agreement.

“His name is Hopper,” replied Magellee.

“Hopper! What a name!” came a chorus of penguin voices.

Magellee continued, “He’s looking for his home. He seems to have lost his way…”

“Well, this sure isn’t his home, is it!” shouted one belligerent-looking penguin named Magus, but was usually called Maggot. “The funny-looking fellow can’t even find directions. Hey Hopper, where did you learn to navigate, at a school for peccaries? Ha! Ha! Ha!”

They all laughed and continued shouting similar insulting remarks.

Normally a mild-mannered penguin, Hopper was growing angry. He’d had a long, tiring, and disappointing day, and now these penguins who didn’t even know him were making fun of him. The yellow crest above his eyes bristled, his eyes sparked, and he said, “I don’t know what happened, but I know this, my dad Emmett is the best navigator of all the Emperors. He taught me everything he knows…”

“Taught you everything he knows, and you still don’t know anything! Hooo hoooo heeee hah hah…”

Making fun of Emmett was about all Hopper could take. He was about to challenge them all to a fight, but his conscience reminded him that that wasn’t the way to handle it. He turned around and headed back toward the sea. Tears were starting to stream down his face.

Then Magellee called to him, “Wait, Hopper! Don’t mind them. They’re actually just a little afraid, because they’ve never seen anyone like you, and they don’t know what to do. Besides, we haven’t gotten to see my dad yet. He won’t treat you like that.”

Hopper began to calm down, and after a few minutes he said, “Okay.” They walked in silence for a ways down the beach. By the time they reached the burrow where Magellee’s family lived, the word was buzzing all over that a strange penguin had come. Most of the penguins were gabbing to each other as they stuck their heads out of their holes, but one distinguished-looking penguin appeared to be waiting for them, standing outside the entrance to his burrow.

“Hello, Magellee dear. I hear you’ve found a new friend.”

“Hi, Daddy. This is Hopper. He’s looking for his home, and he thought this would be it. He’s had a very disappointing day. Hopper, this is my daddy. His name is Magadon.

Hopper said, “Hello, sir. Magellee was telling me perhaps you could help me find my home.”

“Welcome, Hopper. For now, what you need is rest. Come on in to our home.”

As they went into the burrow, Hopper met Magellee’s mother, Magdalena, a kind and gentle sort who constantly tried to make sure everyone was comfortable. It seemed to Hopper she went out of her way to make him feel at home. She reminded him a little of Emily, and he missed his old home in Antarctica. He wondered if he ever should have left.

The remainder of the evening was pleasantly spent with Magadon telling stories of his adventures out at sea, not far from here in the Pacific waters off the coast of South America. Then he said, “Enough for tonight. We must all get some sleep. Tomorrow we will hear your story, Hopper, and we’ll see if we can do anything to help you along. Goodnight, all.”

With that he closed his eyes and began snoring.

The next morning as Hopper awoke he found he was alone in the burrow. He poked his head outside and saw a huge crowd of penguins waddling toward the sea. He was torn with the feeling of being left behind by his friends and wanting to join them and the feeling of fear that all the others would continue to ridicule him.

His disappointment came upon his heart again until he remembered that Magadon said today they would talk about his situation. But where were they going now? Anyway, he had to find out what was going on, ridicule or not, so he hopped out of the burrow after the others. Somehow he managed to find Magellee in the crowd and made his way toward her. “Hey, where are you all going?” he called.

“We’re getting our breakfast, of course,” she said. “Come join us. We didn’t want to disturb your sleep. We could tell you were exhausted.”

So Hopper swam out with Magellee and together they ate their fill of fish and krill. “Great fishing here,” said Hopper as they headed back to the burrow. When they got there, they found Magadon and Magdalena waiting for them. “I trust you had nice sleep and a good breakfast, Hopper,” greeted Magadon. “Now we must hear your story and see if there’s a way we can help you.”

Hopper then related his story—how he came to be born and raised in Antarctica, why he left and how he ended up here. He concluded, “Sometimes I think Emmett must have given me the wrong directions, but that doesn’t seem likely, because he’s the best navigator among the Emperors, except for his brother, Emp.”

“No,” said Magadon, “it’s unlikely he steered you wrong. Without doubt the storm threw you off your course, and you, being alone at sea for the first time, didn’t know how to compensate. Take heart, young fellow, you have a home. You’ll find it. For now, however, why not rest with us for a while? In a month we will be migrating north for the winter. I have heard of other types of penguins farther north than we go. Come with us, and we’ll help you on your way. You see, we are near what is called the Straits of Magellan, and that is why we are called Magellanic penguins. Around here I haven’t seen any like you, and I haven’t along the way where we’re going, but perhaps the ones farther north are your kind.”

 

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 8

flap1_9-1-13jpg

Here Hopper finds a friend who needs help. He also has some brushes with dangerous creatures as he continues seeking his home in the wrong direction.

To read from the beginning, go here.

 

Chapter 8

 

A New Friend

 

Rest wasn’t an option for Hopper as he swam on for hours through a strait that was taking him west to the Pacific Ocean. He kept expecting to be able to head north at any time, but a barren landscape was always on his right.

Finally in the mid afternoon he decided to stop for a rest. He was tired, discouraged, and lonely. “I must go north!” he kept thinking. “I must find my home! Oh, help!”

He popped out of the waves onto a rocky shore and hopped up on some rocks to think and look around. Just then he heard a buzzing sound nearby. He turned his head, and something shiny green flew by almost quicker than his eyes. Then he saw it heading for some nice yellow flowers growing up on the hill above the beach.

Hopper hadn’t seen any flying birds before, except seagulls and other sea birds, and he watched with great fascination as the little bird zipped back and forth among the flowers, sucking nectar from each one as he hovered in mid-air. Then it looked like he might fly away up the hill, so Hopper called out to him, “Hey there, little friend! Have you been in these parts long?”

The little bird started zipping up the hill, then quickly changed directions, came back toward Hopper, and hovered right in front of his beak. In addition to its green body it had brown wings, a white throat with brown spots, and an orange head. He answered, “Well, I’ve come from far to the north to get here. I come back here every year.”

“You’ve been to the north?” Hopper asked excitedly. “Then maybe you can tell me how far I have to go to my home. Have you seen any penguins near here?”

“Well, if you go about 50 miles up the strait to the west, you will find a place where you can swim to the north, and there will be many islands. There is one I call the Island of Penguins. Many of your cousins live there.”

“Yaaaa hooo!” yelled Hopper. “I’m almost home! Thank you, my little friend! By the way, what’s your name?”

“My name is Hummer. I’m a hummingbird, a Greenbacked Firecrown hummingbird.”

“It’s great to meet you, Hummer! I’m Hopper. I’m a penguin, a Rockhopper penguin, and a penguin heading for a home he’s never seen. I’m going to meet my mom and dad.”

“Excuse me, Hopper, before you leave, could you help me with something?”

Hopper’s heart sank a little because he was so excited to get going again. He figured he could be home by the next day. But he said, “Sure, Hummer, what is it? I’m sorry. I’ve been so concerned about my problems, I didn’t even notice or think that you might have your own.”

Hummer said, “Well, I’m down here getting nectar for my mate. She hurt her wing and can’t fly. If I don’t move her to a safer place, she will die, and I can’t do that by myself.”

“Well, let’s go!” said Hopper. As they started up the hill, Hummer explained, “With a little rest her wing will get better, but where she is now…well, there are many enemies.”

“Enemies?”

“Yes, like the fox, the puma, and the caracara.”

Hopper gulped a quiet “Help!” as he continued his climb, which was his first on rock instead of ice. He found it an exhilarating experience, and he did it with ease, just as if he were made to climb.

As Hopper climbed, Hummer would fly ahead to check on his mate, Hummeressa, and then fly back to guide Hopper in the right way. Finally after about an hour, Hummer said, “She’s just around the next corner.”

Hopper made his way around a large rock with Hummer flying beside him. Just as they came around the corner, a large gull-like bird landed between them and Hummeressa with its back toward them. The bird struck up a conversation with her, saying, “So the poor little birdee cannot fly. That is too bad. Such a thing might end up a small meal for a caracara!”

Hummeressa replied, “Leave me alone, Johnnie Rook! Why don’t you go file your beak on an armadillo or something!”

While they continued their friendly conversation, Hopper had a plan. “You go fly around his head to distract him while I sneak up behind him and bite him in his tail feathers. That’ll teach him a thing or two.”

Hummer took off shouting at the bigger bird things like, “You’d better mind your manners!” and “One step closer to her and I’ll peck you on the head!”

Johnnie Rook watched as Hummer flew toward him and then darted back and forth in front of him. It made him a little dizzy, but he pretended it didn’t bother him, and said, “So the little lady has a hero here to save her. Isn’t that cute!”

In the meantime Hopper had quietly hopped up behind the bird, and now he grabbed him by the tail-feathers. “Yaaaah!” shouted the caracara, and he took off into the air, leaving a number of feathers in Hopper’s beak. He circled around and screamed at Hopper, “You’re a little bit out of your territory, aren’t you, Penguin? Someday I’ll make sure you’re sorry I didn’t eat you when you were just an egg!” Then he flew off.

Hummer said, “Ah don’t worry about him. He’s just a big windbag. We can take Hummeressa to safety now.” Hopper gently picked up Hummeressa in his beak and followed Hummer to the place he had picked out.

To most animals it would have been a little hole in a pile of rocks, but to the hummingbirds it was a cave. Hummer flew back and forth, picking up straw and leaves to make a soft place where his mate could rest. “I don’t know how we could ever thank you, brave Hopper!” said Hummeressa as she was finally resting comfortably in her hiding place.

Hopper felt a little sheepish and a little choked up. No one had ever called him brave before. Indeed, hardly anyone, except his parents, had given him such a nice compliment.

Now he knew it was time to continue his journey, and once again he had to leave some newfound friends. In such a short time these hummingbirds had found a special place in his heart. So after a few sad good-byes Hopper started down the mountain. Hummer called after him, “Watch out for the fox and the puma!”

Below him Hopper could see the narrow strait of water, which would soon lead him home, or so he thought. “Yup!” he said to himself. “Just a few more hours of swimming and I’ll be home. I’ll see my mom and dad whom I’ve never seen!”

On the other side of the strait was a large island, and beyond that was the blue of the ocean he had crossed to get here. He thought fondly and a little sadly of Emmett and Emily. They were such good parents to him.

Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a quick movement behind some rocks to his left. “Yo, there!” he shouted in a friendly tone. “Who’s my friend behind the rocks? My name is Hopper.”

A gray snout and some pointy ears peaked up over some rocks. A gray fox, actually somewhat frustrated that he’d been spotted, came out smiling and said, “Say there, my fine friend! If I’m not mistaken, you would be a penguin, wouldn’t you? Some of my best friends have been penguins. When I spotted you walking along there I said to myself, ‘My, isn’t that a fine-looking penguin! I must invite him to my place for a visit and for a fine meal.’ The name’s Graif. My friends call me Graif. You can call me Graif if you like. How about it, my fine friend, Hopper?”

“Well, Graif, actually I’m on my way home—to meet my parents. I’ve never seen them before. I’m really looking forward to getting there.”

“Where do they live?”

“A ways up the strait, less than a day of swimming.”

“Hopper, what you need before you undertake this journey is a good meal. You don’t want to show up there all bedraggled and worn out!”

It dawned on Hopper that this was the fox that Hummer had warned him about, so he said, “Thank you, Mr. Fox, er Graif, but I really must be going. I’ll be all right.”

Graif’s countenance changed. His eyes flared in anger, and he said, “So you’ll turn down the offer of a friend, will you? I guess I’ll have to drag you there for a fine meal—mine!” Then he wrapped his paw around Hopper’s neck and began dragging him back toward the rocks.

Hopper called out, “Help!”

“There’s no one who can help you here, Penguin!” growled the fox. “You’re all alone up here!”

Suddenly something brown and much bigger than the fox sprang out from behind the rocks and bowled over Hopper and the fox. The force of the collision made Hopper roll head over heels down the mountain. He just caught a glimpse of the fox running from a large cat, which was the Puma, who intended to make a fine meal of him if she could catch him.

Hopper found himself back down on the beach, quite dizzy and sore but unharmed. He looked up and said, “Thank you!”

After resting a while to regain his composure, he said, “Here I go!” and dove into the sea, heading west. He swam for miles, resting occasionally to eat. After a time it seemed the strait was getting wider. “I must be getting closer!” he said excitedly.

A little farther on he could see the strait had indeed widened, and it looked like it might even turn to the right shortly ahead. He dove his head under and swam as fast as he could, gliding along through the waves like a porpoise, down and up again.

Soon he could see that it did indeed turn to the right—to the north! “Finally!” he yelled. “Back on course!”

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 7

flap1_9-1-13jpg

Chapter 7 finds Hopper still traveling alone, hoping to arrive soon at his home, but finds disappointment.

To read from the beginning, go here.

Chapter 7

 

Drifting North

 

Hopper continued riding on his log because the current was still taking it to the north. He knew what direction he was going, but he was still unaware that he was much farther west than when he started. Not even considering that possibility, he forgot to use all the direction-finding techniques Emmett had taught him.

On to the north he drifted. If he’d been on his original course, by now he would be close to his new home. Emmett had told him, “Keep going north, and you’ll get there at the right time,” and “You’ll know the place when you get there. You’ll know it’s your home.” But he hadn’t said how long the trip should take.

Now Hopper had been drifting on his log for what seemed years to him. Still surrounded by the endless blue, he couldn’t see any land and had nobody to talk to. How he missed Emily and Emmett! And how he wished the dolphins had come with him!

Then he started thinking about what Emmett had said about sharks and seals and their kin. He began to feel afraid as he sat on his lonely log. That night as darkness deepened around him, he called out a sad, “Help!” and fell asleep.

The nights were indeed getting longer, but still not all that long, and he woke up with the sunrise and stretched his wings and legs. He hopped from one end of the log to the other for exercise. Then he looked to the north, and in the distance he saw LAND! And it looked like it might be some islands. “This must be the place!” he thought. “I’m going home!” he shouted, and dove into the sea.

Once again under water he heard that eerie sound. “What is that?” he thought. “It sounds like someone is talking to someone else, but it’s not someone like me.” The sound seemed a little closer now.

On he swam as fast as he could. He was so excited, and shouted to himself, “I’m almost home!”

Soon he was crashing through the surf near the shore. He bounced without harm like a rubber ball off the rocks and then hopped out of the water onto the beach.

“Here I am!” he yelled. He looked right—no penguins. Again he shouted, “Here I am! I’m home!” He looked left—no penguins. No one was coming to meet him.

“Mom! Dad! It’s Hopper! I’m here!” Now he was hopping down the beach, looking inland for a place where Rockhoppers would live, and he was beginning to feel slightly worried. Maybe this wasn’t the place.

Emmett’s words rung in his ears, “You’ll know your home when you get there.” Then he knew he wasn’t home.

“But where am I?” he wondered. “And why am I not home?”

It hadn’t yet occurred to him that the storm had changed his course. If he had known that, he would still have a fairly short swim to the east to the Atlantic Ocean and north to the Falklands.

Hopper’s heart sank in disappointment, and he sat for a while wondering what had gone wrong. Doubts troubled him about Emmett’s directions and teaching about navigation. After all, he was getting a little old. But he shook off his doubts. He knew Emmett was trustworthy. He was the finest of Emperors and the best at sea of any.

Hopper knew somewhere on his journey he must have erred. Then he remembered the storm and the fact that he had been unconscious for a while. “Aha!” he said. “I must have been taken by the current while I was riding on the log. I recall Emmett told me the current goes east in these waters, so I must be too far to the east, and still a little south. So I’ll head west and north. Soon I’ll be to the Falklands.”

What he didn’t realize was that the storm was an unusual and very severe one that actually blew him against the usual current about 300 miles to the west, bringing him now to the southern tip of South America, really not too far southwest of the Falkland Islands.

He decided to head back to the water and swim west near the shore until he could head north again.