Fly Like a Penguin, Vol. 1, Chapter 30

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

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 30

Back to South America

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

 

 

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 29

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Having escaped from the Aquarium, Hopper and his mate find themselves in the Mississippi River heading south, which is the direction to their home. Danger lurks in the river along the way, but they also find new friends and one important character, Emp the Wanderer.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 29

Life in the Mississippi

After such a long time, it felt so good to be in the water again! Even though it wasn’t salt water, it was wet, and they felt greatly invigorated.
They dove under water and caught some fish and then porpoised around just for fun. They laughed at the thought of all those scientists running after them.
A number of boats were in the lake, and they hadn’t been paying much attention to them. There were sightseeing boats, ocean going freighters, small pleasure craft, and lots of sailboats.
One small boat came closer, little by little. Then Hopper noticed it was full of scientists. He recognized some of them from the Oceanarium. They were trying to sneak up on them. Hopper and Eudy dove under the boat, and the scientists headed out away from the shore to keep the penguins from swimming far off into the vastness of the lake.
Hopper and Eudy swam toward shore under water. As they came up for air, they could see two other boats closing in on them from the sides. Hopper said, “I don’t know if we can out-swim these guys. Their boats are faster than we are, and we have to come up for air. How long can we keep going?”
“We have to try,” said Eudy.
Hopper said, “I have an idea. Let’s dive under heading away from the shore, and then turn around under water and head for shore. Maybe we can find a hiding place until they give up the search.”
So when they dove under heading away from the shore, the boats headed out a ways. When the penguins surfaced in a few minutes, the boats were farther away, and the scientists were watching for them to come up farther out. Hopper and Eudy dove under again and headed toward shore.
Not far from the Shedd Aquarium is the place where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan. At that place is a lock system to keep the Chicago River water out of Lake Michigan. The lock is like a movable dam that opens to let boats pass from the river to the lake, or from the lake to the river.
As the two penguins headed to the shore, they found the lock opened to let a big boat into the river. They swam in beside the boat, because it wasn’t one of those being used by the scientists. It served as a cover for them. Soon they found themselves in the Chicago River with the locks closed and their pursuers on the other side.
The river wasn’t much to their liking, but they swam on in the murky, smelly water. They had to dive occasionally to miss being hit by boats of all sizes, but continued on, unnoticed by the millions of people all around them.
From the river they swam into the Ship and Sanitary Canal, which eventually came to the Illinois River, which flows into the Mississippi River. This is where Hopper and Eudy found themselves in a number of days.
Swimming down the Mississippi was fairly peaceful. Their main concern was to avoid being spotted by people on the boats, especially passing by St. Louis, which they did at night.
When they needed to rest they could let the river carry them, so they were always moving, although they wondered where the river was taking them. About the only time they got out of the water was when they thought it was best to hide from boats by concealing themselves in the grass at the water’s edge.
As they passed through Memphis, they were getting braver and decided to go through in the daytime. They swam under two bridges with many cars zooming over them. The noise was unnerving to them, but they continued on.
About a half mile after the second bridge they saw a little girl of about six sitting on the bank of the river. She was staring at the water and looking very sad. She saw the penguins, but didn’t seem to pay much attention to them as they floated by somewhat nervously. They knew they’d been spotted. What if this little girl said something and the scientists were after them again?
“Hi, little birds,” she said. They pretended not to understand and swam a little faster. Yet they felt sorry for her, because she looked so sad.
Then they heard a woman’s voice calling from the ridge far above her, “Marie! Come quick up t’ the house! Ya got a phone call. It’s yo’ daddy!”
“Really?” she shouted. “Daddy? Yippee!” And up the hill she bounded out of sight.
The penguins continued their journey down the river, cutting the border between Arkansas and Mississippi, and then Louisiana and Mississippi, and finally into the final stretch through Louisiana. It was getting hot for penguins, but a certain excitement was growing in each of them. For one thing, they could tell the ocean was getting nearer. And Eudy was also feeling a familiarity with this area. She felt she’d been near here before.
Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans she exclaimed, “I know what it is! We’re near my old zoo. This river goes right by it in the city of New Orleans. You know what, Hop? Your Uncle Emp is still there, still wanting to get out. We have to try to get him out.”
“Yeah, we can’t just pass by on our way to freedom and leave him there, but how can we do it?”
“If we can get out of the Oceanarium, we can get him out of the zoo.”
Hopper looked up and said, “What shall we do?”
Just like the time he’d been told, “Help your friend,” he received the answer, “He’s your uncle!” So they knew they must get him out, and the way would be provided.
On they swam, closer and closer to New Orleans. At night they could see the city lights. The next morning they figured this would be the day they would come into the city.
They were floating along, talking about freeing Uncle Emp, when suddenly Eudy went under water with a gurgly, “Help!”
Hopper dove under and saw her being carried down by a huge alligator. Hopper flew under water at top speed and rammed his beak into the reptile’s back. It didn’t seem to faze the alligator, but it was painful for Hopper.
Then he tried beaking its belly. It may have tickled him a bit, but he still held on to Eudy. Hopper swam around to the front of the beast and looked him in the eye, and then swam toward the varmint, intending to beak its eyes out. The alligator opened its jaws to bite Hopper, thus letting go of Eudy. Hopper quickly grabbed her and swam for shore.
The alligator was briefly surprised and confused, but recovered and swam after them. Hopper wasn’t sure how Eudy was. She wasn’t moving and he had to carry her. The alligator was gaining on them, but Hopper found incredible strength to propel himself to shore and to drag Eudy up the bank and into the trees.
The alligator came out of the water shouting, “What do little black and white foreigners like you think you’re doing in my river? I better not find you in here again! Next time you’ll be swimming in the digestive juices in my belly before you knew what hit you!”
Hopper didn’t pay much attention, but dragged Eudy farther into the woods. When he felt safe he stopped and looked at her. She was lying still, not breathing.
“Help,” said Hop. “Do I have to be alone again? Do all my friends have to leave me?”
Eudy opened her eyes and said, “Sure is hot here, isn’t it?”
Hopper hopped and shouted as he looked up, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“I don’t think I like it here much,” she said.
“Neither do I,” said he, “but you’re alive!” Then he looked at her closely and said, “How are you? Is anything hurt?”
“I’m a little sore, but I’ll be all right. It sure is hot, though. We need to get back in the water.”
“Yeah, I know, but the big guy with the teeth warned us to stay out. He’ll be waiting for us.”
They stood and thought for a while, and then Hopper said, “There have been lots of little streams flowing into our river. Maybe there will be more we’ll come to if we head into the woods and walk along with the river for a while. If we get too hot we’ll have to take our chances in the river.”
They looked up, asking directions, and felt they should follow the river on foot through the woods.
It was slow and frustrating, especially since they knew they were getting close to the ocean and to New Orleans where Uncle Emp was. Now they were walking in a hot forest, not really knowing where they were going or how long it would be until they could return to the water.
They walked all that day and into the next. In the early afternoon they heard laughter ahead of them. The accent of the talking they could hear was unfamiliar to Hopper, but Eudy said, “It sounds like rabbits. Maybe they’re friendly ones who can tell us a better way.”
They crept behind some bushes and watched the rabbits, about ten of them around one sad-looking bunny. “Jump, Gump, jump!” they yelled with a mocking tone. “Jump, Gump, jump! Jump, Gump, jump! Jump, Gump, jump! Gump, jump, Gump!…” Then they all laughed and hurled insults at the poor rabbit, whose name apparently was Gump.
He just sat there with his head down and said quietly, “Aw, c’mon, Harey, you know I can’t. I’ve tried, and I can’t.”
Then Harey replied, “You have the nerve to talk to me like an equal, and you call yourself a rabbit! Come on, fellas, let’s fix this fluff of fur. We don’t need his kind around here giving us real rabbits a bad name.” With that, the ten bared their teeth and closed in on the helpless Gump.
The yellow feathers on the heads of Hopper and Eudy stiffened, and they charged out of the bushes saying things like, “Ah, rabbits, my favorite food!”
The ten bad rabbits, who had never seen a penguin before, scattered, saying things like, “Let’s get out of here and leave Gump to them!”
Gump cowered on the ground as the penguins hopped up to him. “Do it quick,” he said. “I’ve never been eaten before, and I don’t think I’m going to like it very much.”
Hopper answered, “Well, generally the food I eat doesn’t suffer long. One quick snap of my powerful beak and bam! That’s it. You don’t feel anything any more.”
“Hopper!” reprimanded Eudy. “What are you doing? This poor bunny has been kicked around by his fellows for no good reason, and now he thinks we’re going to eat him, and you’re acting like we really are!”
Hopper replied, “Oh, yeah. Sorry, Gump. I couldn’t resist. No, we’re not going to eat you. We’d like to be your friends, and I’m sorry if I scared you.”
“Who are you guys, anyway?” said Gump.
Eudy answered, “We’re penguins, Rockhopper penguins, and we’re a long way from home.”
Then they all walked along together toward New Orleans and told their stories to one another.
Gump, as it turned out, was a very intelligent rabbit, but he couldn’t hop as most rabbits do. He could only walk, and that is why the other rabbits were ridiculing him.
As they traveled, the penguins gave Gump some hopping lessons, and gradually he began to catch on. By the end of the second day he was hopping about as well as the average rabbit.
He hopped around and around the penguins for joy. He hopped away and then back again. “Hey,” he said, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I can hop like the rest. I just needed someone with some patience to help me. Yippeeeeee!”
The next day they all hopped on. The penguins were starting to drag from the heat, and they were very hungry and thirsty. “We need to get back to the river,” said Hopper. Eudy agreed.
Then they spotted a little river ahead of them, and shouted, “Aha! A place to cool off and get some food! Maybe we won’t have to return to the big river yet.”
In they dove, drank some water, and caught a few fish, which wouldn’t have tasted very good if they hadn’t been so hungry. They popped out of the water to where Gump was waiting for them. Now feeling refreshed, they were ready to continue their journey.
“How will I get across the river?” asked Gump. “I can hop now, but I can’t swim like you guys.”
“Hop on my back,” said Hopper as he jumped back into the water. So he ferried Gump across the river, and they continued their trek through the woods.
The penguins and the rabbit became good friends as they traveled the next few days. He enlightened them on the ways of this area and its creatures, which ones were friendly and which ones should be avoided, especially the alligators.
“I’ve heard there’s one huge alligator who thinks he owns the whole Mississippi River. He’ll eat any creature he finds swimming in “his” river. He’s been known to grab animals who were walking along the bank of the river. Some say he’d even attack people he caught swimming in the river.”
Hopper said, “That must be the varmint who caught my friend Eudy here and warned us to stay out of the river.”
“No doubt,” said Gump. “And I think he’d like to get a second chance at you two.”
After a while they came to another little river, a welcome sight to penguins who were not well equipped to travel through the woods in a climate that to them was very hot. They dove in and had their fill of fish.
Then they began to wonder why they were walking when they could be swimming. They realized it was fear that was keeping them out of the big river. At the same time they saw it was part of the plan to meet Gump.
After hopping out of the water, they approached Gump hesitatingly. “Uh, Gump,” said Hopper. “We need to head back to the River.”
“I know,” said Gump. “I’m sure glad for this time we’ve had. I wish there was something I could do for you.”
Eudy answered, “We were only doing what we were called to do. And now we have a new calling in New Orleans.”
Gump knew they were talking about the plan to free Emp from the zoo, because they had told him about it earlier. They talked for a little while longer. Then Hopper ferried Gump across the little river, they said some affectionate good-byes, and the penguins swam downstream to the Mississippi.
“What do we have to be afraid of?” said Hopper. “We can swim faster than that big blowhard alligator.”
“Who’s a blowhard?” growled a mean alligatory voice.
Hopper answered, “Oh, uh, the all-invader. It’s an incredible creature. Wherever you are, it invades, and irritates you. He’s sometimes called the all-irritator. You never know when it’ll come. You wouldn’t believe it.”
“And I don’t think I do believe it. I thought maybe you were saying ‘that blowhard alligator,’ and were possibly referring to me.”
Hopper replied, “Would I say such a thing about such a fine, respectable blowhard as you? But if you don’t believe me, I guess I can’t change your mind. If you think you’re a blowhard, far be it from me to try to wrongfully influence you otherwise. So I think instead of trying, I’ll just say ‘good-bye.’”
Hopper and Eudy took off at top porpoise speed and were soon well away from the alligator. As they were almost out of earshot they heard the alligator yell, “I’ll get you yet! Time is on my side!”
“No, it isn’t,” shouted back Hopper.
“Yes, it is!” returned the alligator.
Soon they were drawing near the city, and they had to slow down because there were so many boats. They were a bit unnerved, and spent a day hiding in the grass by the river.
They wondered how they could ever get into the zoo, and free Uncle Emp, and they said many “helps”. Continuing on to the ocean wasn’t even a consideration, even though it would be so much easier, and more comfortable, and the ocean was calling them. They could smell it in the air. But they knew they must get old Emp out where he could be free in the sea once again.
They continued swimming, and finally the city came into view. Now they sped along at a fast pace, following the curves of the river into the city. As they rounded one of these bends, Eudy exclaimed, “There’s the zoo!”
They climbed out of the water and up to the fence surrounding the zoo grounds. After finding a penguin-sized hole under the fence, Eudy said, “Over this way to the penguin house!” It was a much cooler day than most, and they felt more comfortable than they had in a long time. It was actually a very chilly day for people, especially people of the South, but quite nice for penguins.
They hopped rapidly across the zoo grounds. Not many people were in sight. Still they tried to take cover behind bushes as they moved along.
Then ahead of them across the green expanse, they saw a tall bird-like form moving somewhat in their direction. It didn’t fly. It didn’t run. It actually waddled, and it was drawing nearer.
Eudy said, “Hey, that looks like a penguin, an Emperor Penguin!”
“That is an Emperor penguin!” said Hopper.
“That’s Uncle Emp!” shouted Eudy.
Indeed it was Uncle Emp. He was about to pass by them when Eudy called to him, “Emp! You got out! How did you do that?”
Emp replied, “Well, Eudy, my little Rockhopper friend! And you must be Hopper, my nephew I never knew I had! And how could you be my nephew? Well, we must keep moving. We’ll have time for all these things later. I can smell the sea, and it’s beckoning me!”
They turned toward the river at full land speed. Now they could hear a crowd of people approaching rapidly and shouting, “There he is!” and “Look! There’s those two Rockhoppers!”
In short order they were diving into the river with the crowd of people gathering on the bank, saying things like, “Boy, that was close! We almost got them!” and “We’ve got to get those birds! They can’t make it on their own!” and “Head for the boats!”
The penguins headed downstream, now led by the great traveler, Uncle Emp, or Emp the Wanderer. He could smell the direction to go with his eyes closed, and he could hear the right way with his nostrils plugged, and he was so excited to be back in the water, free to wander and explore!
Now my good (and perhaps somewhat critical) reader is likely thinking, “This is a little far-fetched, isn’t it, that old Uncle Emp just happened to escape on the same day that Hopper and Eudy arrived at the zoo, and they didn’t even have to do anything?” Well, this will all be explained.
As they porpoised along toward the sea, Hopper asked, “Hey, how did you get out of the zoo? I thought we were going to get you out.”
“Rabbits,” said Uncle Emp.
“Rabbits?”
“Yep. Rabbits.” Then he told them what had happened.
When the penguins headed back to the River, Gump headed for New Orleans as fast as he could. The ground seemed to be flying under his feet, or maybe he seemed to be flying over it, because now he could run and hop. His heart was filled with gratitude.
He decided to check the city parks for any other rabbits who might come with him. Besides, they could probably direct him to the zoo.
At the first park he came to, he was in some bushes, a likely rabbit hiding place, when he was startled momentarily by people talking. After he got over his original shock, he peeked out to see two men sitting on a park bench.
They were ragged looking, except one had on new-looking pants. These fellows looked like they lived on the park bench. Their newspaper was their blanket. Beside the bench were a suitcase and a trunk.
“Hey, did ya see this article in the paper here?” said one. “It says some little girl in Memphis saw some penguins swimming down the Mississippi. When she told her daddy, he found out that two penguins had escaped from the Oceanarium in Chicago. Imagine, penguins in the Mississippi. Be a shame if they became alligator food.”
“Yeah,” said the other. “Hey, how do ya like my blue jeans? My mother made them. She’s a tailor, ya know.”
“Yeah, fine. I guess some scientist fellows are aiming to catch up with those penguins and bring ‘em back to Chicago. I say let ‘em go. If they’ve gone to all that trouble, I say let ‘em go.”
“Yeah. You know what my daddy did? Well, I followed in his footsteps, and here I am…”
Anyway, Gump was off in a flash. He rounded up all the rabbits he could, and headed for the zoo. He also enlisted the help of all the rabbits living on the zoo grounds.
Because it was a cold day for Louisiana, quite cold for people, but almost comfortable for penguins, the zookeepers let the penguins outside for a while. People could come by and look down into a pit with a better view of the magnificent Emperors and Kings that were there. However, not many people were there that day.
Gump located the penguins with the help of the zoo rabbits and led the charge into the pit with what seemed like millions of rabbits. This was quite annoying to the penguins, and all but one of them backed away to the extremities of the pit and even back into the penguin house. One brave penguin stood to watch this strange outpouring of rabbits into his cage.
“You must be Emp the Traveler,” said Gump to the tall, dignified old penguin.
“Yes,” he answered, “but I haven’t traveled in a long while.”
“Well, it’s time to travel again. You must go quickly and get your friend, Eudy, and your young nephew, Hopper, back to the sea before the scientists catch them and return them to captivity.”
As they were talking, the rabbits were piling on top of each other, making a ramp from the floor of the pit up to freedom.
“Up you go, Mr. Emp!” said Gump.
Emp said, “How will you get out of here?”
“Some will use the ramp, and the rest of us will jump, and if we can’t make it we’ll entrust ourselves to the zoo keepers. I think they will treat us kindly.”
“Yes, they’ve been good to me, but I sure want to be free to travel again. There are so many things I’d like to see. So, here I go, and many thanks to you!”
Emp then went up the ramp of bunnies, and soon joined Hopper and Eudy.
“Good old Gump!” said the Rockhoppers. “He really wanted to do something for us, and he sure did! I don’t know how we could have gotten you out of there. Many thanks be to the one who holds us in his plans, and to Gump and the bunnies!”
The ocean beckoned them onward. They felt freedom was about to overtake them as they porpoised along. Their beaks were set like flint toward the south and the sea.
Then they saw a row of logs across the river in front of them. “Ramming speed!” called Emp.
“Ramming speed?” asked the Rockhoppers.
“Ramming speed!” repeated Emp, and off he went at ramming speed.
Hopper said to Eudy out of the corner of his beak, “I guess we better do ramming speed,” and so they did. Ramming speed was quite fast, and it appeared they were going to ram their beaks into the logs, which they were approaching rapidly. In fact, they were now so close they could see they weren’t logs at all, but many alligators waiting for them, trying to act like logs.
Now their great jaws were getting ready to invite the penguins in for a meal.
“Okay,” said Emp in the above water portion of their porpoising, “When I say, ‘Now!’— fly!”
“Fly?” said the Rockhoppers.
“When I say, ‘Now!’—fly!”
“Okay.”
They approached the gators, and Emp said, “Now!’ just as they were about to ram them. The jaws were opened wide as the penguins porpoised higher than they ever had before, over the open mouths, clear to the other side of the log-jam. They splashed down into the water and continued south at ramming speed.
“I’ll get you yet, you little wise guys that dared to come into my river!”
Hopper wanted to yell something back at the old blowhard, but decided against it. The sea was calling him. Freedom was ahead.
They entered that final wide stretch of the Mississippi just before it is swallowed up by the ocean. Actually the ocean here was on either side of them, separated by a narrow strip of land and vegetation.
The smell of the sea was all around them. They could even taste it a little as it mixed in with that dirty river taste.
“Going home!” sang Hopper.
Then what they saw dampened their enthusiasm. Waiting for them, a line of small boats stretched across the river.
“Ramming speed?” asked Hopper.
“No, indeed,” answered Emp.
“I thought we’d be freed!” said Eudy sadly.
They swam on in silence, unable to think of any more rhymes that really fit the situation.
Then Emp said, “The ocean is calling us, and that’s where we’re going.”
The boats were about 100 yards away. The penguins had slowed down, and the alligators were catching up from the rear.
“Head for the bushes on the left, “ shouted Emp.
As they climbed out of the river they heard excited shouts from people ahead of them, and angry yells from alligators behind them, saying, “There they are!”
The boats and alligators began converging toward the spot where the penguins had left the water. Then they saw each other. The alligators thrashed angrily in the water. The scientists in the boats said things like, “Whooa, oh, oh…!” Confusion set in, but there were no casualties. The penguins crashed through the bushes, and soon found themselves in the sea, swimming free toward the south.

 

 

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 28

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Hopper finds a temporary home in Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium where for the first time he meets other Rockhopper  penguins, as well as some other species. Of course, we know he can’t stay there…

To read from the beginning, click here.

 

Chapter 28

Chicago

Every little movement of his cage seemed like a wave to Hopper, and he was hearing many unfamiliar sounds. He didn’t like feeling trapped in the dark, but perhaps it was better than seeing what was going on around him.
He lost track of time. In a while he could tell his cage had been put in a resting place. He wasn’t moving anymore, but then there was a very loud sound, and everything shook. Then he felt like something was happening. He was moving again, but not especially fast.
Then suddenly he was pushed to one side of the cage. “We’re moving!” he thought. Then he felt a bump, and a strange sensation came over him. He remembered the man’s words, “And now, you’ll finally get to fly.”
“Wow! Am I flying?” he thought. “But how could I be flying in this cage?” His mind was spinning so fast that he couldn’t deal with it all, and he fell asleep. As the airplane took him to Chicago, he was dreaming about flying with Hank the hungry hawk and about flying through the water to escape seals.
The seals had just about caught up with him, and he was flying out of the water on to the shore, and about to land on the hard rocks, and then bump! He awoke in his dark cage, and could tell he was still moving, but slower. Soon the movement stopped, and after a while he heard voices. Then someone picked up his cage.
For the next few hours he heard many different sounds as he was being moved around. Finally, he heard a woman saying, “So this is my new Rockhopper?”
“Yes indeedy, ma’am. They say there be a penguin in there.”
“Well, thank you, sir.”
“Okey-dokey.”
He heard footsteps and a door close. The cover came off the cage. A kind-looking lady with blue eyes was looking at him, smiling. Hopper didn’t return the smile. The light was bright and he was uneasy about being held captive in a strange place.
“Welcome to Chicago,” said the woman. “After I check you over, I’ll take you to your quarters with the other penguins.”
After what seemed a long time being poked, having his feet and wings pulled, and his head turned from side to side by the woman’s gentle hands, Hopper was carried down the hall and into another room.
A man said, “Hey, our new Rockhopper! Hello, little fellow! How do you like Chicago?”
Hopper didn’t mean to seem unfriendly, but he refrained from answering as the woman handed him over to the man and left, saying, “See you later, little penguin!”
Hopper acted as if he didn’t hear her, and the man carried Hopper toward a little door on the other side of the room. “See that door?” said the man. Hopper didn’t answer, and the man continued, “That door leads to your new home. In there are other penguins—some Rockhoppers, some Magellanic, and some Gentoos. They will be your friends and family.
“By the way, what’s your name anyway? What could we call you? They say you were found in Puget Sound. I wonder how you got so far from your home. You’ve done a lot of traveling. We could call you Traveler; no, how about Pilgrim?”
“Pilgrim, indeed!” thought Hopper, who didn’t appreciate having a new name.
“Well, Pilgrim—yes, I like that name—how’s it going, Pilgrim? You look like a fine young penguin, Pilgrim. Well, Pilgrim, it’s time to see your new home!”
When the man opened the door, Hopper saw a huge room that looked like the outdoors. He saw rocks to climb and water to swim in. But what Hopper noticed most were the penguins. He saw Magellanic penguins and Gentoos, both of whom he’d seen before, and then he saw other penguins, little stocky ones with long yellow feathers sticking out above their beady red eyes.
“Hey,” he thought, “Rockhoppers!” and he almost wept for joy.
“Hey, everybody!” said the man. “Here’s a new cousin! This is Pilgrim, a Rockhopper who’s traveled far and wide to come to this home here with you.” Then he gently shoved Hopper through the door and closed it behind him.
“Hello, everyone,” said Hopper. The other penguins didn’t seem very friendly. Some glanced at him and looked away, continuing to stand as they were, some with their wings outstretched. Some didn’t even look at him. Some were swimming in the moat of water at the other end of the room. All of this troubled Hopper. He was so happy to see other penguins, but they didn’t seem to care that he was there.
Twenty-nine other penguins lived there, four Magellanic, eighteen Gentoos, and seven Rockhoppers. He made it eight.
He moved uneasily into the center of the room. He waddled up to a Magellanic penguin and said, “Hi.”
“Hi,” she said softly, but continued looking straight ahead away from the door. So Hopper continued on to each penguin standing on the rocks and got similar responses from each of them. He went down to the water to greet the swimming penguins, who didn’t seem to pay much attention to him, either.
Then he saw what they were looking at. This room almost had the feel of any outside home for penguins, but at the far side of the room, just beyond the swimming moat, was a glass wall, and beyond it were people watching them. They were smiling and pointing at them, but he couldn’t hear them. Now he understood the other penguins’ strange behavior. They didn’t want the people seeing them talking.
Hopper turned with his back to the people, so they couldn’t see his mouth as he said, “Hello everyone. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. Maybe we can talk tonight when the people can’t see us.”
He thought he saw some slight nods and smiles on their faces. He spent the rest of the day swimming, standing on the rocks with his wings out, wandering around his new home, and eating the food provided by the people. He was feeling happy. Finally he was with other Rockhoppers. He’d found a home.
When the lights were turned off and the people were gone, Hopper shouted, “Can we talk now?”
“Shhh!” answered many penguins. “The people who feed us will be here for a while. We can’t let them know what we’re really like.”
So for another hour or two they talked, but quietly and cautiously, keeping their eye on the door. Finally the door opened, the man brought in some fresh fish and krill, and then he said, “Goodnight, everyone! I’m going home.” He closed the door. They listened quietly until they could hear the door in the other room close.
Then they all erupted in shouts of “Hooray! We can play!” And play they did. They rolled and hopped and waddled and shouted and swam and carried on for hours. After all that they stood around and talked. Hopper told them his life story, and they all grew fond of him and welcomed him warmly into their family.
Time passed and Hopper was enjoying his stay at the Oceanarium. The penguins had accepted him, and the people were good to them and always made sure they had enough to eat. The place was comfortable, and he had everything he needed to enjoy himself.
All of the penguins told Hopper how they had ended up at the Oceanarium. Some had been brought there from their homes in places like the Macarie Islands or South Georgia. Some had been at other zoos. He liked hearing all their stories.
One in particular got his attention. One young female by the name of Eudychrys had been at a zoo where Rockhoppers shared the same area as Emperor penguins.
“One of them,” she said, “had been accidentally caught in a fisherman’s net in the north Pacific and ended up being brought to the zoo. He had all kinds of stories to tell. He had traveled all over the seas and befriended whales and other penguins, and even turtles and tortoises. He, of course, came from Antarctica, but just loved adventuring. He was getting pretty old, but still was hoping to escape from the zoo and be out in the sea again.”
As Eudychrys was telling this story, Hopper became more and more excited. “My uncle!” he cried. “My Uncle Emp! He’s still alive! He used to travel about with my dad, Emmett, until he suddenly disappeared. Everyone thought he was probably dead. He’s alive!”
Eudychrys said, “Yes, Emp was his name. He was the nicest of the Emperors. He didn’t look down his beak at us other penguins.”
“Yeah, that sounds like my uncle. My folks are like that, too. The other Emperors looked down on them because of it. If only all the others knew how great my folks and Emp are!”
That night when Hopper would normally be sleeping, he was awake, thinking about Uncle Emp and his desire to be free in the sea again. Then he heard that voice, saying, “What are you doing here, Hopper?”
“Isn’t this my home?”
“Is it?”
“Well, I’ve felt at home here, but really I guess I know it isn’t. What should I do?”
“Escape.”
“How?”
“I’ll open the door for you.”
“Then where should I go?”
“I’ll show you.”
“When should I go?”
“Be alert. Be ready to go at any time.”
“Okay.”
“One more thing, Hopper. Don’t go alone.”
“You mean I get to have company this time?”
“Yes, take Eudychrys with you.”
“Really? Will she want to?”
“She’s been waiting for you for a long time.”
A few days later, something caught Hopper’s attention by the door. It was a rock. Maybe it had always been there. It was just a rock, but Hopper had a plan. He told Eudychrys his plan.
That night their feeder opened the door, greeted the penguins, and began giving them their food. Hopper nonchalantly waddled over to the door. The man said, “Hey there, Pilgrim! Aren’t you being friendly today! How are you liking your stay here?” Hopper didn’t answer. He acted like he didn’t understand what the man said. Then the man said, “You aren’t thinking of leaving us are you?”
Hopper’s knees started shaking and his heart beat rapidly, but he tried hard to conceal his surprise, and the man added, “Naw, I didn’t think so, Pilgrim!” He continued with his duties, addressing each of the penguins.
Now Hopper rolled the rock over to the bottom of the doorway, thinking, “I hope the man doesn’t notice this.” Then he wandered away from the door and over to where Eudychrys was eating some fish. He nodded at her and had some fish, too.
In a while the man shouted, “Goodnight, friends. I’ll see you tomorrow!”
“Maybe not,” said Hopper quietly as the man closed the door and was gone. Then Hopper said, “Well, Eudy, let’s see if our plan worked.” They hurried over to the door, and could see light around the edges of it. It wasn’t shut tight! They could hardly contain their excitement. Then the light went out. The man hadn’t noticed the rock or the fact that the door wasn’t shut completely, and now he had left for the night.
There was enough room for Hopper and Eudy to get their feet into the crack of the door. They pushed with all their strength, and the door opened wide enough for them to squeeze through. Hopper pushed the rock away and let the door close behind them. They were now in the people’s workroom.
It was dark and quiet. They looked the place over and found no way out. The other door was there, but it too was closed. “Creator,” said Hopper, “You said you would open the door, and I believe you. I see you opened the first door, and whatever doors remain, you can open them. Thank you.”
They stood there in the darkness as their eyes adjusted. Hopper pointed across the room and said, “Let’s go stand by the door until it opens. It might not be opened for long.”
They hopped over and stood under a table that was beside the door. They waited and waited in the dark, at least 15 minutes. Then they heard footsteps in the hall outside, the doorknob turned, and the door opened. A woman, the same kind woman with the blue eyes, came in and put something on the table above them, and then left. The door closed behind her.
Their hearts sank. “Ah, we lost our chance,” moaned Hopper. “We should have moved more quickly.”
But Eudy said, “Maybe she’ll come back.”
And sure enough, she did come back, put something else on the table, and left again.
“Maybe she’ll come back again,” they said.
Soon she was back. This time she put the doorstop in place to prop the door open, and made some more trips back and forth with more stuff. Finally she stopped right by the table and stood there working with all the things she had brought in.
She left the door open while she worked.
Hopper and Eudy looked at each other. They looked at the open door. They looked at the legs of the woman. Her legs moved to the end of the table farthest from the door. Hopper gestured with his beak toward the door. Slowly and quietly they waddled out the door, down the hall, and up some stairs.
At the top of the stairs, they found another open door, apparently left open by the woman bringing in her materials. Through that door they found themselves in another hall, which was dark, except for a light in the distance. They headed left down the hall toward the light, which they found was mounted high on the wall above a set of six glass doors that were shut.
Beyond the doors was another set of six glass doors, and beyond them was the outside!
“Two more open doors and we’re out of here,” said Hopper.
“Maybe there’s another door already open,” said Eudy.
They waited in the darkness a few minutes to see if the doors opened, but they didn’t. They decided to remember the location of these doors and go see if any other doors were already open.
Trying to keep track of where they were, they wandered down the hall. They found some stairs going down to the right. They heard water and hastened toward it.
At the bottom of the stairs they found a large pool. In it swam a small white whale.
“Hey there, Mr. Whale, how’s it going?” called Hopper.
“Well, I’m not particularly going anywhere, if you get my drift.”
“Don’t seem to be drifting anywhere either, heh-heh,” added Hopper. “What do you call yourself, anyway?”
“Whell,” said the whale.
Hopper waited awhile for him to continue. Then he tried to get him to finish answering his question. “Well…?”
“Yes,” said the whale. “Whell.”
Hopper decided to pursue a different topic and asked, “Do you know any way out of this place?”
“There’s no way out of this tank, and I can’t see much of anything else. Why would I want out of here?”
“I don’t know about you, but we’re looking for a way out. It’s time for us to move on. There’s an open door for us somewhere, and we need to find it. See you later, Mr. Whale.”
“You can call me Whell if you like. Goodbye, little penguins.”
Hopper and Eudy found some more steps leading down to a dark hallway with windows on one side. Behind the glass was water. In the water they could see a white whale, but he couldn’t see them.
“Hey, there’s Whell,” said Eudy.
They continued on and came to another window with dolphins behind it swimming unaware of their presence. They were having a wonderful time gliding through the water, and sometimes jumping up and coming down with a great splash.
Farther on they came to a glass enclosure on the other side of the hall. “Hey, there are some penguins,” said Eudy. “Maybe we can help them get out of there.”
They watched the penguins until they realized that they knew those penguins. These were their friends, and this place had been their home an hour earlier.
They decided to move on before their friends saw them, so they continued in silence. They passed some sea otters and climbed some steps that led them back up to the hall they were in before.
They returned to the door that led to the outside. The door was closed, and they couldn’t budge it. Two tired Rockhoppers looked at them, reflected by the glass in the door. “This is the way out,” said Hopper, and Eudy agreed. “We’ll have to wait until it’s opened.”
Not far from the door they found a place to hide among some fake trees that were planted around the Oceanarium as part of the design to make this place look and feel like the outdoors where these creatures would naturally live. Here they would wait and watch for the door to open. Hopper said, “We’ve got to get out before they notice we’re gone. So let’s keep watching.” Soon they were asleep.
In the morning they were awakened suddenly by lots of people coming and going down the hall. So far no one had noticed them standing there with their wings outstretched.
A few people used the door they were watching. These were scientists and other people who worked here, and the door remained closed behind them. The penguins stood silently watching and waiting.
Later they noticed a lot of people roaming the hall, and going down the stairs they’d gone down the night before. These were the tourists who came to see the dolphins, seals, penguins, whales, and other creatures. One little girl looked at them and said, “Look at the cute penguins, Mama!”
Her mother said, “I wonder who made those! They look so life-like!”
“But, Mama, I saw one of them blink!”
“Come on, honey, let’s go see the real penguins.”
A short time later they saw a crowd of people gathering outside the door. Sensing their time was getting near, they watched the door with great anticipation.
A woman with a light green jacket arrived and opened the doors. The people started filing in and stood in the hall near the doors. Hopper said, “Let’s go before the last of that group gets in. We need to act nonchalant, like we work here.”
With that, they waddled out of their hiding place with their beaks in the air, past the lady in green, who was looking the other way, past the line of people coming in the door, while some said, “Ah, look at the penguins,” or “What a place; they even let the critters roam free like it was their natural habitat. I can’t wait to see the whale!”
Soon they were through the second door, and they were outside! They thought they heard the woman yell something, but freedom was calling louder. They followed the walkway for a short distance, then turned left through some bushes and came out on a sloping lawn.
They hurried down the slope until they came to a wall, where they had to hop down onto a concrete walkway. Up until now they had been able to see Lake Michigan not far in front of them, but now blocking their view was another concrete wall which they couldn’t see over, and it was too high for them to climb.
Then they heard excited shouts behind them and could see many green-jacketed people running down the slope toward them. Hopper and Eudy turned left, hopping at full speed along the walkway, with the Oceanarium building on their left and the insurmountable wall on their right.
They could hear the people shouting things like, “We have to get them!” and “Quick, someone cut them off before they get to the end of the wall!”
The penguins continued hopping as fast as they could. The people were getting closer. Then ahead of them they saw a break in the wall where they could either go to the left up a grass slope toward the building or to the right down to the lake.

They were almost there, and then they could see more people coming down the slope. They were almost cut off! Just barely making it to the break in the wall before people reached them, they hopped down toward the lake.
They heard the people shouting and saying things like, “No, penguins, you don’t want to leave us!”
Hopper and Eudy looked at each other and said, “Oh yes we do!” and dove into the lake.

 

 

 

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 27

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

To read from the beginning, click here.

 

Chapter 27

Attle and Friends

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

 

 

 

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 26

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

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 26

Puget Sound

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

 

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 25

Bhill the Blue Whale leaves Hopper to continue his journey alone, leaving him on the northern coast of Washington State, where he finds a new friend, a new enemy, and a new direction.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 25

Washington

Listlessly Hopper swam east into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He wasn’t at full strength. Three days in the hot belly of a whale had sapped much of his energy. He’d had krill to eat in there, but the heat was nearly unbearable for someone who was born and raised in Antarctica. Much longer and he wouldn’t have come out alive.
Now as he swam along slowly he was even having a hard time catching fish to eat. At least the water temperature suited him better now.
He swam near the shore of Washington’s northeastern coast where the great evergreen forest meets a sandy beach, and little rock islands stand as sentinels in the water. Hopper swam cautiously in this new country, watching the skies for any birds of prey, the waters for seals or any other potential foes, and the land for hungry looking creatures. He was thinking he might need to rest on the beach before long.
Plenty of seagulls were flying around, but they didn’t seem to take any notice of him. He doubted if they knew the ones who were serving the Great White Seal, but still he didn’t trust them. Even though he was no longer the Number One Enemy of the Pacific, and that was a great relief, it was still hard to relax. He had gotten used to potential danger lurking behind every wave.
He was exhausted after swimming for a few hours, but didn’t want to rest in the water because right now the current was flowing toward the west. Finding one of the rock islands an inviting place to rest, he hopped out of the water onto a ledge and stood there with his wings outstretched and his beak in the air.
A flock of bluish-colored ducks flew northward far above him. “Hey, those look like Harlequins,” he said to himself. Then the thought of his great friend brought a mixture of happiness and sorrow to his heart. How he missed that duck! He couldn’t help singing aloud:

A Quacker and a Hop
They say this friendship has to stop
But together we will stay
Until we go our separate ways
A penguin and a duck, hey!
A penguin and a duck, ho!…

After he finished his song and was beginning to grow thoughtful about his old friend and all the good times and adventures they’d had, someone on the rocks above him said, “Whoever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends? And what’s a penguin, anyway, eh?” This was an accent Hopper hadn’t yet heard. He looked up and saw a brown, furry fellow peering down at him.
“Hello there. My name is Hopper, a penguin, a Rockhopper penguin. I’ve been traveling a long time, and I’m a long ways from home. How about you? What are you, some sort of rodent, I suppose?”
“Well, technically, I guess you could say I’m a rodent, but I don’t like that label. Some folks might think I’m a rat or something. I’m a lemming. I’ve been traveling for a long time also. I’ve come from far to the north.”
“I suppose your name is Lemmy?”
“No, that was my brother’s name.”
“Lenny?”
“No, that was my cousin. My name is Meadowlark.”
So these two, a penguin and a lemming, became good friends. They both had great stories to tell and took turns telling them. Time and space don’t permit the telling of all the adventures of Meadowlark Lemming.
They spent the night on their little island, and the next morning headed east. Meadowlark had to swim to shore and then run along the beach while Hopper swam near the shore. Sometimes he’d come ashore and hop along beside his little friend.
Once as they went together Hopper asked, “Have you met any people during your travels?”
“Well, not face to face, but I saw some of their boats from a distance. Mama always told me to keep my distance from them, but if I ever saw them I must act scared.”
“Quack and I saw some once, and we actually were scared. We panicked and took off.”
“Why? What did they do to you?”
“Well, actually nothing. We were just plain scared. We couldn’t help it. I hope I don’t see any more of them, but if I do I really hope I can resist the temptation to talk to them.”
They continued along this beautiful, desolate shore for a number of days. Then they both started feeling more and more uneasy. Something was changing, but they weren’t sure what. They thought they heard strange sounds. Some seemed vaguely familiar to Meadowlark, but he couldn’t say why.
Then Hopper said, “Aaaa, what’s that?”
Meadowlark followed his gaze out to sea and said, “That, my friend, is a boat.”
“A boat? What is a boat? What kind of creature is that? Is it friendly? It sure is big.”
“The boat is made by people. They ride in it.”
“People? Oh no.” Then they saw another boat, and then another. “Why are there so many people here?” asked Hopper.
Meadowlark said, “People tend to live close together in places they call cities. We must be getting close to one now.”
Indeed, they were approaching the city of Port Angeles. One might wonder how such a big city could have been moved from Southern California, but closer inspection will reveal that it is a different place in many ways. Hopper was shaking as he hopped. He wanted to swim away as fast as he could, or maybe head south into the woods and into the mountains. Anywhere but here with all these people. They might make him talk.
They came to a river as the sun was beginning to set. “How about if we stay here for the night and make our plans for tomorrow?” said the lemming.
Upstream a little ways they found a grassy place to rest by a huge fallen log. If danger came Meadowlark could hide under the log and Hopper could dive into the river. They sat in silence as it grew darker, both thinking what they should do.
Hopper said, “How about if tomorrow night we swim around the city?”
“I can’t swim that well.”
“You can ride on my back.”
“That’s a right noble plan, but I think I must explore these mountains. I’m heading upstream in the morning. How about you, eh?”
Hopper was glad to have a reason to avoid the city and said, “Sure. That sounds like a great adventure!”
A short time later they heard very faint footsteps in the darkness. They thought they saw something pass by them, a lumbering form of something much bigger than they were. Meadowlark quickly and quietly found his place underneath the log.
The creature lumbered on a ways, then stopped. Hopper could see it waving its nose back and forth, and then it turned with its nose facing them. Hopper stood still, hoping it wouldn’t notice him. The thing was big, and it was heading toward him. Hopper remained motionless, hardly breathing, but when it was within a few feet of him, he said to the creature, “Hi there, how are you tonight?”
It replied, “I’m hungry. What are you, anyway?”
“I’m a penguin, a Rockhopper penguin.”
“Never heard of you. You don’t look like you taste very good, either. But there’s something under that log that smells like a good dinner, so step aside while I proceed to dig it out of there.”
“Nice night, isn’t it?” said Hopper. “By the way, what are you, anyway?”
“What d’ya mean, ‘What am I’? I’m a bear, a black bear. Haven’t you ever seen a bear before?”
Hopper, who had never seen a bear before, replied, “Never seen one as big as you. You’re name wouldn’t be Barely, would it?”
“No, that’s my twin brother. My name is Blarely, and I have a cousin named Barry. My mother’s name is Barley and my dad is Birney. My mother taught me how to dig little edible critters out from under logs, and now I never fail. Speaking of which, I believe I need to find my meal now. Step aside, please,” said Blarely the Black Blear, er Bear, as he nudged past Hopper, making the penguin lose his balance and tumble into the river, shouting, “Hey, Whoa!” and then Splash!
Blarely proceeded to dig after the lemming, even though he didn’t know what it was, and even if he were told it was a lemming, he wouldn’t know what that was. All he knew was that it smelled like food, and his powerful claws were digging after it.
Meadowlark had nowhere to go. It looked like the end for him. He had no chance against a bear. He said a weak, “Help!” and then resigned himself to become part of the food chain.
Then came Hopper’s voice from the river, “Hey Blarely, want a fish?”
“Quit bothering me, pinhead, or whatever you call yourself. If I wanted to fish, I wouldn’t be digging for this little rodent here, speaking of which I will have him in my belly in very short order. I can tell he will be a tasty meal.”
Hopper, who was still weak from the effects of his whale ride, was beginning to feel helpless in his desire to help his friend. He wasn’t sure if he had the strength to catch a decent fish, and even if he did, it might be too late, and the bear would already be having lemming for his midnight snack.
He looked up and said, “Please help Meadowlark,” and then dove underwater.
Soon he spotted a good-sized trout. New strength came to him as he sped toward it. He grabbed the fish with his strong beak. A great struggle followed, but eventually the trout tired, and Hopper hauled it ashore and up the bank where he laid it beside Blarely, who was still digging. Hopper was overjoyed to see he hadn’t reached Meadowlark yet.
Blarely was saying, “You might as well give up, rodent. I’ll have you in a few seconds.” Then he began to reach with his paw to grab Meadowlark.
Hopper said, “I didn’t ask you if you wanted to fish, but do you want a fish?” He pointed a wing at the fish flopping around by the bear.
“Hey, that’s a nice looking fish there,” said Blarely. “How’d a little pendin like you catch such a big trout?”
“It’s what I do,” said Hopper.
“Hey, a guy like you might come in handy around here. Could you catch me another one?”
Hopper, who was feeling weaker, said, “Well, I think so.”
The bear began eating the fish, so Hopper dove in again. He saw a big trout, but he couldn’t catch it in his state of fatigue. He was certain he wouldn’t be able to wrestle it into submission. There was a smaller one. He sped after it and caught it by the tail. The little fish didn’t appreciate the beak on its tail and thrashed wildly. Hopper wasn’t sure if he could even hold on to this little fish, but he didn’t let go.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the fish tired out and Hopper hauled it ashore and up the bank and laid it beside the bear, who had just finished the other fish and was continuing to dig after Meadowlark.
“Here’s your fish, Blarely,” panted Hopper, who felt about ready to collapse.
Blarely looked around at the fish, and then at Hopper. The fish didn’t look very big next to the bear. “You call that a fish?” he said.
Hopper said, “Well, I thought it was a fish. It looked like one. It fought like one. Where I beaked its tail, it tasted like one. What do you call it?”
Blarely said, “Come over here a little closer so I can hurt your feelings.” Hopper waddled a few inches closer to the bear who continued his complaint. “This little thing flopping around here doesn’t deserve the name of fish. You say this thing gave you a good fight. Well, you must be the poorest excuse for a puny little pengon that ever passed these parts.”
“I know I am, but what are you?” replied Hopper.
“I,” said the bear, “am a hungry black bear named Blarely, and I’m tired of you interrupting my digging, and not only that, you try to pass off this little floppy thing here as a meal. I have a good mind to try something new for my midnight meal, and that would be you!” With that the bear pinned Hopper down with his great paws as Hopper was saying, “Help!” The bear’s teeth began closing on Hopper’s belly.
“Stop, that tickles!” shouted Hopper.
The bear opened his mouth to say, “It won’t for long!” and began to close on the little penguin again. Then suddenly he stopped, lifted his head in the air, listening and smelling. “Arg, gotta go!” he said. “If you don’t mind waiting here until tomorrow night, we can pick up where we left off.” Then the bear was gone.
Hopper looked up and said, “Thank you, again!” Then he called, “Hey Meadowlark, are you all right?”
The lemming replied, “I’m fine, with many thanks to you. Hey, what happened to the bear, eh?”
“I’m not sure. Something scared him, I think.”
Then they heard a strange noise on the river, a splish, splish, drip, drip, sound. They looked and saw lights on the water, and then they heard voices, saying, “Yeah, this is the best fishing place in the area. We’ll have our limit in less than an hour.”
“Well, we’ll see…”
Hopper wanted to scream, “Aaaaaaaaa…,” but he was too tired and he knew he would reveal his presence to these…people! People! The very thought made him cringe, and now here they were—two men in a boat in the river he’d just been in.
Meadowlark’s whispering broke him out of his panic-stricken thoughts, “Come on, Hopper, let’s move around to the other side of the log. They crept around the log and found a place beside it where they could lie down, hidden in the grass.
“Oh please don’t let them find us,” moaned Hopper as he fell into a deep sleep.
He began to dream: He was walking upstream with Meadowlark along this beautiful river as it flowed through a magnificent forest. Eventually they climbed higher into the Olympic Mountains. They met deer, elk, marmots, and other friendly creatures. They encountered no enemies and were thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Hopper felt like staying on permanent vacation here. He was lounging with his feet in an ice-cold blue lake, spending many days at ease there. One day in his dream, a crow flew to him from across the lake and said, “Hey, Hopper, you should swim to the other side of the lake and climb up that hill over there. Just beyond the summit there’s an old goat who can give you anything you want if you ask him.”
“How could a goat do that?” asked Hopper.
“He’s not just a goat. He’s a very special, ancient goat. C’mon over. He’d love to see you.”
“But why? I’m happy here. What else would I want?”
“Well, how about your family and home. Don’t you want to go home?”
“Oh yeah, home. I want to go home.”
“Then come on. He can send you home with the blink of his eyes. Think of it. No more struggles with creatures who want to eat you, no more long journeying, no more traveling in places unsuitable for a penguin, and no more people.”
“Yeah, that sounds good—home, my family, no more struggles…” Into the water he jumped and started swimming to the other side of the lake.
In his sleep Hopper was thinking, “No, don’t go over there, Hopper! Don’t go!” Dream Hopper swam on. “Turn back, Hopper! It’s not too late!” On he swam, hopped out on the far shore, and started up the hill.
From behind him he heard a low and loud noise coming from the lake. He turned and saw nothing but a ring of waves where something big had been. The sound was vaguely familiar. “Hopper, you fool! It’s Bhill! He’s warning you again!” Dream Hopper climbed on, thinking, “Home, family, no more struggles, no more people, no more people. I’ve got to get home and not see any more people…”
He approached the summit, climbed over it, and looked down the other side. “No! Turn back! It’s a trap! Listen to the warning!” In the distance he could see what looked like a white mountain goat. Hopper waved a wing. The goat nodded his bearded head.
Hopper hastened toward him. “No, Hopper, you nincompoop!” Closer he came to the goat. When Hopper was about ten feet away, the goat said, “So you want to be done with your struggles, do you? You want to be away from people? I can do that for you.”
The goat lowered his head, pointing his two sharp horns toward Hopper, and charged. Hopper was so surprised that he couldn’t move. There was no escape.
“No!” shouted Hopper aloud and woke up with his heart pounding. “Oh boy, am I glad that was a dream,” he said. It took a long time to calm down, but finally he did and went back to sleep.
Soon he was dreaming again. Here he was back relaxing at the lake in the mountains. He heard a voice, “What are you doing here, Hopper?”
“Well, I’ve been traveling the world, trying to help those I meet. I’ve fought off many enemies.”
“What are you doing here, Hopper?”
“I’m resting from my journey.”
“What are you doing here, Hopper?”
“Well, I’m…I’m…I’m…hiding, hiding from people.”
“Hopper, face your fear.”
Hopper awoke and it was daylight. Meadowlark was already awake and said, “Hey, Hop, I thought you were never going to wake up, eh? Boy, you look terrible.”
Hopper replied, “Why, thank you. I was given a message as I slept and I guess my sleep wasn’t so great.”
“What was it?” asked Meadowlark.
“I’m to continue on my journey even if I must face the possibility of meeting people along the way. I can’t go with you into the mountains. I must head east until I can head south to my home.”
So once again Hopper made a good friend, and once again he had to part from his friend. Meadowlark was called to adventure in the mountains. Hopper must travel to the east by sea. They said goodbye and continued on their journeys alone.

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 24

A turn of events perhaps unexpected by the reader, but many of the previous mysteries finally find their explanation, and the story has a vision of new life.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 24

The Whale

Less than two days after Quack’s return home, a great blue whale swam north off the coast of Washington state. He swam slowly on the surface. If someone had been watching from above, he would have seen a small black and white form lying on the whale’s head, near the blow-hole. If that imaginary person came lower for a closer look, he might have heard the whale’s low voice saying, “Hopper, Hopper, wake up, Hopper.”
Yes, Hopper! The little Rockhopper was alive, although he was unconscious riding on the whale’s head.
“Hopper, Hopper.” The penguin stirred a bit and groaned, “Oooh, where am I? Am I dead? Is that you, Creator? I didn’t think we animals had an afterlife. Ooooh.”
“No, Hopper, I’m not the Creator. I’m a whale. He made me, too.”
Hopper leapt to his feet and saw the waves splashing past him on both sides. “A whale!” His last memory was the whale’s mouth gulping him, and then all was dark and not very nice smelling.
“Don’t be afraid, Hopper. I’m your friend. Didn’t you ever hear about Jonah? He was swallowed by a great fish and lived in there for three days. I figured if a fish could do that, so could I. Now the seals think you’re dead.”
“What about Quack? Where’s he?”
“Well, Quack tried to run me aground for a few days, but I sent him home. I couldn’t tell him you were still alive. I was afraid he’d let the secret out. But he’ll be all right. He’s with his family now. He’ll be amassing a great duck air force to come after me. Then I’ll tell him what has happened.”
“You mean I won’t see him anymore?”
“You knew the time would come for you to go your separate ways. He had to return to his family. You knew that.”
“Well, yes. But we didn’t even get to say good-bye.”
Hopper rode in silence for a long time on the whale’s head. He thought of his great times with good old Quack, Harley Q. Duck, the best friend a penguin could have.
Then he started to wonder about this whale. How did he know what Quack was doing? How did he know about the seals’ attacks against him? How did he even know who he and Quack were? He almost felt as if the whale knew everything he’d been through.
“How do you know about Quack and me?” he finally asked. “And how do you know about the seals?”
“Well, Hopper, first of all, it’s not that I’m that smart or that great, although I am pretty big. In fact, I’m considered the biggest animal in the world. But there is someone who is a lot bigger than I am, even though you can’t see him, and he’s the one who has all the wisdom. I’ve swum with him for a long, long time, and he told me to watch out for you. He keeps me informed of things I couldn’t normally see.”
“But who are you?”
“I’m just a whale. My name is Whilliam Blue Whale. My friends call me Bhill or Bhill Blue. You can call me Bhill if you like.”
“Bhill? Bhill Blue? Dad Emmett told me about you long ago, at least it seems like long ago. I never thought I’d get to meet you!
“Ah, yes. Emmett is a great friend. I haven’t been around to see him in a long time, but I’ve been glad to watch over his boy.”
“So that was you who made that sound whenever danger was near? It was you who saved me from the shark and the squid, and who warned me not to listen to the Quetzal bird. I’m sorry I didn’t heed your warning. And then you remained silent before swallowing me so that the seals wouldn’t know you were coming. Was that it?”
“Yes, you’ve figured it out. And sometimes Hummer has told me more about where you are and what you’re doing.”
“Thank you for saving my life on this journey. I’ve been through a lot, but I guess I’m learning. I hope someday to swim and hop with our Creator as you swim with him now. Too often I forget to call on him, except when I’m in trouble.”
“Don’t worry, little fellow. It’s all in his plans.”
Hopper and his newly discovered friend were heading north off the coast of Washington, near the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where Puget Sound enters the Pacific Ocean. As they swam along they talked of many things. Bhill was able to fill him with rich thoughts just as old Mendicule and Galoppy had. He was thinking how great this was to have such a wise friend and to be able to travel with him in all the oceans. Maybe Bhill would even take him home.
Then Bhill said, “Well, Hopper, my little friend, here’s the Strait. I have to leave you here. I can’t go any farther. There’s no room for a Blue Whale there. And I’m called back to the south. There’s a certain young southern fur seal who needs my help. He was bold enough to speak out against how other seals had treated a certain young penguin. They all turned against him, and now he’s on his own. If they find him, well… I need to help him.”
“Is his name See?”
“Yes, that’s the one. I must go now…”
“But can’t I go with you?”
“That would defeat the purpose of the Jonah trick. The seals think you’re dead. You don’t want them to see you anymore. You have other adventures and other challenges to face, other creatures to deal with. Now you must swim east into the Strait, and I must head south. Good-bye Hopper, little friend. The great one who made us all will be with you.”
“Bye, Bhill Blue, and thank you for everything.”
Bhill lifted his tail in the air and then dove underwater. Hopper was left to swim on his own. He headed east. As he dove under he heard the once mysterious sound again, but this time he knew it wasn’t a warning, but good-bye.

 

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.”
“Yeah!”
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

California

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!