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.

 

A Night in a Canoe

Shortly after our high school graduation, my friends, Dave and Bob J., and I decided to see what it would be like to stay out all night in a canoe. I lived on the waterfront and we had a canoe, so it could be done. We shoved off from the shore and headed for the other side of the bay. Our side is Bremerton. The other side is the Other Side, where foreigners from South Kitsap County live. I’m not sure how far it is across, maybe a mile. Being on the Other Side was like being in a different country, one that could be seen from your own, but one you wouldn’t want to live in. But it could be visited by boat, and explored and conquered for the motherland. Our first mission of the night was to cross over and stake claim to this wild and unconquered territory.

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The Other Side

After accomplishing that objective, we once again set sail, following the coast of our new domain until we came to a narrow passage. At this place is a little inlet, once made famous by Namu the killer whale who was kept there for a time.

Farther along we made the discovery of Echo Passage, a place where if you yelled anything on a very calm night at, say, 1:00 in the morning, the very same thing would be yelled back at you. We were very proud of this discovery, and amazingly made it past this place with no attacks by the sleeping natives. Who knows how many of their curses fell upon us.

Now on the other side of this passage is Bainbridge Island. Of course, this too had to be conquered, which was done with no loss of life and no resistance from the natives. From there we headed back more in the direction of home. To continue as we were would lead us to Seattle, and we didn’t feel we had the time or the manpower to lay siege there. That had to be left for another adventure.

We followed the coast of the island for a while and then returned to our side of the bay, about a mile or two down the beach from home. Here there is a park, Illahee State Park. On our way there I saw a fireball meteor. I could actually see fire coming off it as it fell toward the earth.

We landed and began our exploration as an army troop seeking out the enemy, one like you might see in the movies. We were in character, and Bob J. assumed command under the name of Monroe. He led us well, but all discipline broke down when Dave, who probably had a name like Kilroy, called him “Marilyn.”

By this time we were getting pretty tired. We slowly paddled our trusty craft back home as the sun came up over Bainbridge Island. Mount Rainier glowed orange as it towered over the trees on the far side of the bay. We landed back at the home base around 5:00. The other two headed for their homes and I went to bed.

The canoe adventures of that summer will continue as the intrepid crew embarks on a quest to take Seattle.

The Penguin in Puget Sound

I posted this a few years ago, but I don’t know if anyone saw it. With the upcoming release of the Last Wave (Volume 3 of Fly Like a Penguin), I thought it would be good to share it again.

When I was a teenager, I saw a penguin floating on a log in Puget Sound. If you who aren’t familiar with that body of water, it’s the inlet from the Pacific Ocean that gives the state of Washington its great shape. Seattle is on the eastern side of the Sound, and my hometown, Bremerton, is on the west.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our house was on the waterfront with a porch along the whole front side, where you could stand outside, even on one of those rare rainy Washington days, and look aimlessly out at the water. The usual sights were seagulls, boats, including the ferry that went hourly to and from Seattle, other birds, seagulls, occasional jumping fish, seagulls, and boats, including canoes, rowboats, ski-boats, and yachts. Sometimes something more exciting might swim by, like a seal, or even more rarely, some whales.

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A Seagull, not a Penguin

But one day a penguin floated by. Penguins don’t live in Puget Sound or anywhere near that far north. The most northerly penguins are the Galapagos Penguins on the equator off the coast of Ecuador. I really don’t remember my reaction to seeing a penguin there. It must have been whatever a typical teen reaction might have been. I didn’t think about it much after that until many years later when I had my own kids. One day, the thought came into my mind, “Hey, what was that penguin doing there?”
From that question came the years-long quest to answer it. Indeed, it took nearly 20 years for the completion of the story, in which is answered not only that first question, but also where did that penguin come from, and where was it going? Originally publishing it as Fly Like a Penguin in 2004, later on I found there was more to the story. The first book was revised (improved) in 2012, and the name changed to The Long Way Home, being Volume 1 of the Fly Like a Penguin series. Volume 2, The Smell of Evil, was published later that year. Volume 3, The Last Wave, will be published March 15.  That will probably complete the series, although I have some ideas for spinoff stories.

The Last Wave
Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 3

The first two books are temporarily free, until I make some corrections and improvements in the writing, after which I will republish them. The Last Wave can be preordered and will be available for download next week.