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.