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 15

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

To read from the beginning, click here.


Chapter 15


Fernandina Island


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is this your home?” asked Hopper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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