Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 12

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Danger continues to follow Hopper, and now he finds the whole Pacific Ocean against him.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 12

 

A Wanted Penguin

 

I hope I don’t meet any more sharks,” said Hopper as he floated along with the current the next day. Then he heard a buzzing noise that seemed familiar to him, followed by a familiar buzzy voice saying, “Hopper, my friend!”

“Hummer! How are you, and how is Hummeressa?”

“All is well for both of us. She has made a complete recovery. But I have something else I must tell you. I can’t stay out here long. Hummeressa and I were flying north up the coast, and yesterday we flew by the island of fur seals. We go by there often, but yesterday the seals seemed to be all worked up about something, so we flew down to see what it was. We heard them talking about you. They were furious that you had eluded them on two occasions. They’ve put a reward on your head and sent messages along the coast to all the seals and sea lions. Whoever catches you and brings you back to Seep will be treated like a king and given a year’s supply of fish. You must stay away from the coast, and even out here you must keep alert for them.”

“Have you seen my friends?”

“Yes, they’re a ways ahead of you. I told them you were okay. I’m sorry for the disappointment you had there. I didn’t realize they weren’t the family you were looking for. My advice to you is to go with the current to a group of islands you will find in about three weeks if you don’t stop somewhere along the way. The seals will expect you to return to the coast to your friends, and I think you would be trapped.”

Hopper said, “But they told me there was another kind of penguin along the coast not far from here. Perhaps that is where my family is.”

“No, Hopper. I’ve seen that penguin, the Peruvian penguin. He doesn’t look like you, but on those islands (and remember, you are looking for an island), I’ve heard there is yet another kind of penguin. Perhaps he is the one you’re looking for.”

“Then I’ll go there. Thank you, my good friend.”

“I will always be grateful to you, Hopper, for saving Hummeressa’s life. I must return to her now. Farewell!”

“Goodbye, Hummer!”

After Hummer left, Hopper felt very alone. He’d been separated from his friends, and now his life would be in continual danger. He knew he couldn’t trust seals anyway, but now they were looking specifically for him, not just any old penguin.

Hopper looked toward the coast. In that direction were his friends. Also in that direction somewhere, perhaps anywhere, were those who wanted to hurt him. He could see neither. The Andes Mountains towered above him, seeming to rise straight out of the sea.

“Why me?” he asked. “I didn’t intend them any harm.” The mountains didn’t answer, but they increased his feeling of being small and alone.

So on he swam to the north toward some unknown islands where there might possibly be penguins, and even less probably his family.

Several days later he was 1000 miles to the north. He noticed the air was getting warmer, but the water was still cold as he traveled in the current. The cold was more to his liking. He wondered how much farther he had to go. He was lonely. He had no one to talk to. He missed Magellee. He missed Hummer. He missed Emily and Emmett. Would he ever have a home and friends who would always be his friends?

His thoughts were interrupted by that sound again, once again nearer. “What is that?” he thought. “Last time I heard it was when the shark was after me. Could the shark be back?”

He swam a little faster, even though he realized it probably wouldn’t do any good. A shark is much faster, and there’s no place to hide out here in the ocean. You just have to hope one doesn’t catch sight or scent of you.

He decided to swim under water for a while to see if he could see or hear what was there. The eerie sound grew slowly louder, but he could see nothing. He couldn’t really tell if it was ahead or behind him.

He returned to porpoising, nearly at top speed, and then he checked under water again. The sound grew nearer. “Help!” he said.

Porpoising again, he saw what he thought was an island ahead and a little to the west. “I’d better head there,” he said. “This couldn’t be the one Hummer was talking about, could it?”

In a half hour the island was near, and he could see it was part of a small group of islands. The near one rose quite a ways out of the water, apparently formed by volcanic activity. Could this be home? There was no time to think about it. The sound grew nearer and nearer.

He swam with all his might and made it to shore, hopped onto the sandy beach and said, “Whew, I made it!”

Just then a long tentacle arm with huge round suction cups on it snaked out of the sea and wrapped around Hopper before he had a chance to look up and say, “Thank you!”

Instead he said, “Hellllp!” as the thing pulled him back into the water. It was a squid, a giant squid. He knew that, although he couldn’t see much of it besides this long tentacle that held him. He was helpless against it.

Then there was a disturbance in the water. Something happened to the squid, and it let him go! He was sent flying into the air, turning over and over again before he landed in the water a few feet from shore.

He couldn’t tell what happened, but he caught a glimpse of the squid’s brownish body, and also something blue as he was hurtling through the air. Then as he hit the water he heard a tremendous slapping sound on the water where he had seen the squid. Then all was quiet.

Hopper hurried out of the water and away from the reach of any tentacles. “Whew, thank you again,” he said, looking above. “I’ve heard of giant squid, but I wasn’t sure if they were real or just legends. But who, besides you, knows what dwells in the depths of the seas?”

Hopper wasn’t too anxious to get back into the water, so he decided to walk along the beach for a while. He turned to the right and hopped along a sandy beach that was bordered by some low rocky hills. Beyond them were higher hills.

After about a half hour he put his head in the water to listen for any sign of danger. He heard the sound, seemingly farther away than when the squid grabbed him. “Better not get in now,” he said as he continued down the beach.

Ahead of him was a ridge of rock that jutted toward the water, nearly cutting off his route along the sandy beach. As he was going around it he heard water splashing, and then he heard voices. He recognized them immediately as seal voices.  He stopped short, hoping they wouldn’t see him. From their conversation he could tell that they hadn’t yet.

“Ah, this looks like a good place to rest,” one was saying. Hopper heard them flop down on the beach with a sigh.

Another voice said, “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind having that reward. Can you imagine just sitting back on the beach while they bring me my meals every day for a year?”

“That would be nice, all right. But we’d better remember what we’re out here for. It’s not too likely we’ll find that little penguin, but Seep wants him, and he doesn’t care who brings him in. Our pay is pretty good just for running this errand.”

Hopper’s heart was racing. He knew they were talking about him. These seals had gotten here from Seal Island just after him, and now were seeking to spread the news about the reward, as Hummer had told him.

Hopper knew he had to keep from being seen, but he wanted to know what these seals were up to. He peeked around the corner. There they were, lounging on the sand, ten yards away, in the shade of the rocks.

“One of the seagulls who watch the Magellanic penguins for us told us this Hopper fellow was heading north. Apparently he’s a Rockhopper penguin who got separated from his family and is hoping to find them again. Seep is willing to pay a lot to make sure that never happens.”

Hopper’s heart was dropping lower by the second. All he wanted was to find his home, and now the whole world was against him. He decided to go inland to escape the seals’ notice. Keeping the rock ridge between him and the seals, he began climbing toward the center of the island. He could still hear them fantasizing about the life of luxury.

Suddenly an idea occurred to him. He needed to go north, but the seals were heading that way also. He must find a way to make them think he was heading another direction. How could he do that without being caught?

He crept around to a point right above the seals and hid behind a rock. One of them said, “Well, I guess we’ve rested here long enough. Better get back to our mission. Back to the water and north to the Galapagos!”

As they started pulling themselves toward the water, they heard a voice calling from the hill, “Wait, not so fast, my fine friends! Why don’t you stay and have a good meal with me before your long journey. You need a little sustenance to help you on your way.”

The seals stopped, and the younger one said, “Say, that sounds like a good idea.”

The other nudged him, saying, “Shh. Let me handle this. It’s a fox.” And to the voice he said, “That is mighty kind of you, sir, but we have an important errand to run, and we’ve delayed too long already. Er, by the way, have you seen a little penguin named Hopper pass by this way?”

“Why, sure, my fine friend. He too was a good friend of mine and had a nice meal with me. Then I sent him on his way to the coast of Peru where he said his family lived.”

The seals looked at each other, each knowing what the other was thinking, and said together, “Peru, or a nice meal!”

The older one said, “We’ve got to get back to Seep about this!”

The seals dragged themselves quickly back to the water and headed south.

Soon Hopper was able to return to the beach, continuing his walk along the shore to the other side of the island. Then he listened again in the water. Not hearing the ominous sound, he dove in and resumed his northward journey.

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 10

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Hoping to find a way to his family going north, Hopper begins a migration with his new friends, but his plans and hopes are interrupted…

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 10

 

Maggot and the Seal

 

Soon after coming to live with the Magellanic penguins, Hopper gained their respect, in spite of the initial ridicule. The only exception was Maggot, who continued to make fun of him whenever he could. When the others commented on Hopper’s great swimming and fishing ability, Maggot would say he must have had enough practice wandering around the ocean. If the others marveled at Hopper’s great agility on the rocky cliffs behind their burrows, Maggot would say he didn’t have any reason to fear falling, because if he did, those ridiculous yellow feathers on the side of his head would cushion the fall.

The day arrived for their migration to the north. Hopper was excited to be moving again with the possibility of heading home. He walked silently with Magellee and her parents while his mind raced with the thoughts of meeting his real parents and his relatives.

Thousands of Magellanic penguins and one Rockhopper dove into the sea and began porpoising in a generally northerly direction, eating breakfast as they went. They would be at sea for about four months. Their route would take them along the many coastal islands for about 400 miles. Then they would head out to sea to catch the northerly-flowing Peru Current, which would take them far to the north along the South American coast. Another advantage of heading farther out would be to avoid the many seals lurking among the islands.

So they continued for many days, swimming and eating. One morning as he swam next to Magadon, Hopper dove under for breakfast, and as he did he heard that eerie sound again. “What is that?” he wondered to himself.

When he resurfaced he noticed a grim look on Magadon’s face. He glanced around at the others and saw that no one was smiling, except a few young penguins. “These,” he thought, “are on their first sea journey, but the older ones know something.” Then he asked Magadon, “What’s the matter, sir?”

He replied, “In a few miles we’ll be able to head out to sea, but first we must pass by these islands where the seals seem to wait for us. Last year we lost many of our friends here. We’re hoping we can make it by here this year without being seen by the seals.”

On they went nervously for a few hours, hoping they wouldn’t be spotted. Then ahead on their right was an island where Magadon said the seals lived in great numbers. If they could get past that island they could then head out to sea and begin to catch the northbound current. If they headed out now they would be swimming against the current, which flowed to the east. Progress would be difficult and slow, and they would be much easier prey for the seals. Farther along they could get away from the effects of the eastbound current, but in those few miles they had to risk being spotted by the seals.

As Magadon was explaining these things, Maggot swam over to Hopper and said, “Hey there, Hop! I hope the little cliff-lover isn’t wishing he was back in the burrows, heh-heh.” After a few other similar remarks he swam off to the right.

Suddenly, of the corner of his eye Hopper saw out a round, brown shape appear near Maggot. Instantly he knew a seal was closing in on his persecutor. Now the seal had Maggot in his mouth and was diving under water.

Without much thinking Hopper dove under and swam in the direction of the seal. He saw Maggot struggling to free himself as the much larger and stronger seal was diving deeper. Hopper swam with all his might after them.

Deeper and deeper they went, but with a great effort Hopper was able to catch up and take the seal by surprise by biting his back left flipper with his strong beak. Not being used to this sort of attack by a penguin, the startled seal turned around to see the source of the pain in his flipper, and as he did so he let go of Maggot, who was badly shaken up and bruised, but not seriously hurt. He floated back up to the surface and then limped after the other fleeing penguins.

Hopper swam a quick ring around the seal, which caused the confused fellow to turn in circles. Hopper circled him again and then took off. When the seal stopped turning and realized what had happened—that he had been attacked and fooled by a penguin, and he would be the laughing stock of seals—he was furious. He swam after Hopper who by now had a good lead.

Hopper couldn’t out-swim his bigger foe for long. The seal was closing in. Hopper called out quick and silent, “Help!” Then up ahead he saw some kelp, a long tube-like plant that grows on the sea-bottom and grows up to the surface in thick patches. He swam desperately to reach it before the seal caught him.

The seal was not many feet behind him when Hopper entered into the kelp where he was able to hide from the seal who pushed himself madly through and around the plants, looking for the little penguin.

Hopper, finding himself concealed from the seal, swam to the surface to get some air and to look around. He could see no penguins. To the west was open sea. To the east in the distance was land, the South American continent. To the northeast not far away was an island. All around in the water he could see the round forms of seal heads. He could hear them arfing.

What should he do? It was a long way to land. To head out to sea was to swim against the current and to be easy prey for seals patrolling the area. His best plan, he decided, was to head for the island. They wouldn’t expect him to enter their territory. He figured he could swim under water, coming up for air only a few times. Then maybe they wouldn’t see him.

He didn’t know exactly where his pursuer was now. The problem with the kelp was that even though he was hidden, so was his enemy. He needed to head for shore without the seal’s knowing which way he was going, so the seal couldn’t warn his comrades.

He decided to wait until he knew where the seal was. He stayed motionless at the surface, looking periodically under water. Then not far from him a black whiskered nose poked out of the water, drawing in deep breaths. Hopper remained motionless, forming a plan in his mind.

Then he skimmed on top of the water to the outer edge of the kelp patch. When he saw that the seal spotted him, he dove under water. The seal was after him, swimming furiously.

Hopper darted back into the weeds, swam among them to the left and waited. Soon the seal dashed into the weeds at the same place Hopper had and proceeded straight ahead to the middle of the kelp patch.

When Hopper saw he wasn’t going to be seen he swam out of the kelp, all the way around the patch and headed for the island. He figured the seal would be looking for him in the weeds long enough for him to make it to shore unannounced.

In a few minutes, Hopper could see his plan had worked. He had eluded the seal in the kelp, but now as he poked his head out of the water about 10 yards from shore, he could see a whole colony of seals lounging on the beach.

It was a sandy beach with a few large rocks from which seals scanned the waters for potential victims. Beyond the sand was a good-sized rocky hill about 100 yards from the water. He counted about 40 adult seals and many pups. He watched the crowd for a few minutes to see what they were doing. The mothers were mostly preoccupied with watching the pups. Many of the others were sleeping, talking together, or looking out at the water.

He looked up, saying, “Help!” and then, “Well, here goes!” He swam slowly to shore and nonchalantly began waddling and hopping toward the hill. No big seals were near him where he landed, and none had spotted him. Some pups were playing not far away. He walked past them, but when they noticed him, he said, “Hi there, fellows. What are you playing?”

One youngster responded, “Hi. I’m See. These are my friends, Si and So. We’re playing Nosepush. The first one to push a kelp bulb with his nose from here to where the sandy beach becomes rocky up there toward the hill, wins. Do you want to play with us?”

Hopper looked quickly around. Apparently no adults had seen him yet. He answered, “That sounds like fun!”

“What’s your name?” asked See. Hopper told him his name and took his place between See and Si, who provided him with a kelp bulb.

“All right, go!” yelled So. The four began nosing their kelp up the beach toward the rocky part. Hopper did amazingly well for someone who had a beak instead of a seal nose, but he fell behind the others.

Up on a rock the pups’ mothers were talking about their pups and other seals. Si’s mother noticed the race going on and that Si was winning. “That a way, Si, Honey,” she called. Then she noticed Hopper following along. She asked the other mothers, “Who’s that little slow fellow there. He’s a strange-looking one.”

So’s mother said, “He looks a little deformed, doesn’t he?  Poor fellow. It’s nice of our boys to play with him.”

See’s mother, who had a little better eyesight, said, “I don’t believe that’s a seal, girls. I believe that’s a…a penguin, maybe a Rockhoppper penguin.”

Hopper finished the race and said, “Thanks for the good time, fellas. It was really kind of you to let me play.”

“Would you like to play some more?” they asked.

Hopper replied, “I’d love to, but I must keep going.” Off toward the hill he continued.

Soon he heard a lot of excitement among the seals on the rocks. He heard the word, “penguin,” spoken many times with great excitement. “Here they come,” he thought as he continued hopping as fast as he could toward the hill. All the adult seals were now after him.

One was coming out of the water behind him, yelling, “There you are, you little trickster! You’ll pay for taking a good meal from me! You’ll take its place as my meal!”

Hopper kept hopping toward the hill. The sound of the seals’ arfing was getting closer and closer. The hill was slowly getting closer. They were closing in from the sides with no seals in front of him. All he could do was go straight ahead toward the hill. Now as he approached it he could see it was actually a cliff about 50 feet high. He looked up at the cliff, and then turned around to see the seals. The whole crowd of them had him surrounded on three sides, now 15 yards away.

The seal from whom he had escaped yelled at him, “I guess you’re not tricky enough! We’ve got you now!”

The seals closed in on him, closer and closer. Suddenly a little seal voice was louder than the rest, “Daddy, daddy, what is everybody doing to my friend, Hopper?”

Hopper’s foe answered, “See, my boy, don’t you know what this Hopper is? He’s a penguin! We don’t have penguins for friends. We eat them!”

“But Daddy, he played with us!”

This discussion created a diversion for Hopper to quickly examine the cliff, find a route up, and begin hopping his ascent. The seals were shouting, “Hey, look at that! Hey penguin, you can’t do that!” They rushed at him and lunged up at him. One narrowly missed grabbing him, but he had just gotten above his reach.

Up and up he hopped with angry arfs sounding farther and farther below him. Finally he was at the top of the cliff. He looked down at the angry mob. “No hard feelings, I hope!” he called down.

The little voice called up to him, “Goodbye, Hopper!”

Hopper called down, “Goodbye, See! Goodbye, Si and So! Thanks for the nice game!” Then he hopped out of sight toward the other side of the island.

Now that he was out of danger, he realized how tired he was, and he remembered all that had happened that day. He was separated from his friends and had narrowly escaped with his life. He missed Magellee, Magadon, and Magdalena and wondered if he could catch up with them. He wanted to keep going to find them, but he knew he couldn’t go any farther today.

Lying down near the top of the cliff, he could hear the seals below talking about him. “So you let one get away, ay Seep? That little runt sure pulled one over on you, heh-heh.”

Seep answered furiously, “You better watch your tongue, and that goes for the rest of you sorry group of seals! You let him walk right past you, playing with our pups! Well, we’ll get him! You in with me on this? That penguin won’t get off this island! He’ll be heading for the northern side. We’ll be waiting for him there!”