Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 28

flap1_9-1-13jpg

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 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 17

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

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 17

Out of the Pit

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

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 11

flap1_9-1-13jpg

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

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 11

 

Escape from Seal Island

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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