Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 9

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Hopper finally finds some friends, but is still going the wrong way to find his home.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 9

 

Island of Penguins

 

 

In the distance he saw an island. He swam for it with all his might. He crashed through the surf and tumbled onto the sandy shore, shouting, “Yaaaa-hoooo! Finally I’m home!”

He looked right and left. Far down the beach he thought he saw a waddling form. He hopped and waddled as fast as he could, shouting, “Yo-ho, there! Hey there, cousin!”

Soon he was face to face with another penguin. It seemed like years since he’d seen one, although it had really only been a few weeks. Hopper, excited and out of breath from his long swim and hop, gasped, “Hi there! My name is Hopper. I’ve come home!”

“Well, hello,” said a young female penguin. “You are a different sort, aren’t you? There’s never been anyone named Hopper here, and certainly nobody who looked like you.”

“You don’t understand. My dad told me that he and my mom weren’t my real parents, and I must go find my real parents. He sent me here, to the Falklands, where the Rockhoppers live.”

His new acquaintance giggled, “You are a strange one, for sure. This place is not the Falklands. It is called Ballanero. And I’ve never heard of Rockhoppers before. We are Magellanic penguins.”

Hopper’s heart sank so low he felt it not only in his stomach, but also in his legs and his feet. It weighed him down, and he collapsed to the sand, crying out, “Oh, no, where is my home? Are you sure there aren’t any more like me here? Are there other penguins?”

She replied, “There are many, many of us, but none like you.”

“Can I meet them? Maybe there will be someone who can tell me where my home is.”

“Come with me,” she said. “I’ll take you to see my dad. He knows just about everything anyone needs to know to be a penguin in these parts.”

“Thank you very much,” said Hopper. “And what is your name?”

“My name is Magellee,” she said as she started waddling inland.

As Hopper followed her he began hearing a noise he’d never heard before, although in some ways it seemed familiar. It grew louder the farther they went on, and soon he could see that the source of the noise was many, many Magellanic penguins. It seemed they were all talking to each other at the same time as they stood around the holes in the base of a hill where they had their nests.

Suddenly they caught sight of Magellee and Hopper, and much of the noise turned into a braying sound like a donkey. Someone called out, “Hey Magellee, who’s your new friend? He’s a funny-looking fellow!” Many more sounded in agreement.

“His name is Hopper,” replied Magellee.

“Hopper! What a name!” came a chorus of penguin voices.

Magellee continued, “He’s looking for his home. He seems to have lost his way…”

“Well, this sure isn’t his home, is it!” shouted one belligerent-looking penguin named Magus, but was usually called Maggot. “The funny-looking fellow can’t even find directions. Hey Hopper, where did you learn to navigate, at a school for peccaries? Ha! Ha! Ha!”

They all laughed and continued shouting similar insulting remarks.

Normally a mild-mannered penguin, Hopper was growing angry. He’d had a long, tiring, and disappointing day, and now these penguins who didn’t even know him were making fun of him. The yellow crest above his eyes bristled, his eyes sparked, and he said, “I don’t know what happened, but I know this, my dad Emmett is the best navigator of all the Emperors. He taught me everything he knows…”

“Taught you everything he knows, and you still don’t know anything! Hooo hoooo heeee hah hah…”

Making fun of Emmett was about all Hopper could take. He was about to challenge them all to a fight, but his conscience reminded him that that wasn’t the way to handle it. He turned around and headed back toward the sea. Tears were starting to stream down his face.

Then Magellee called to him, “Wait, Hopper! Don’t mind them. They’re actually just a little afraid, because they’ve never seen anyone like you, and they don’t know what to do. Besides, we haven’t gotten to see my dad yet. He won’t treat you like that.”

Hopper began to calm down, and after a few minutes he said, “Okay.” They walked in silence for a ways down the beach. By the time they reached the burrow where Magellee’s family lived, the word was buzzing all over that a strange penguin had come. Most of the penguins were gabbing to each other as they stuck their heads out of their holes, but one distinguished-looking penguin appeared to be waiting for them, standing outside the entrance to his burrow.

“Hello, Magellee dear. I hear you’ve found a new friend.”

“Hi, Daddy. This is Hopper. He’s looking for his home, and he thought this would be it. He’s had a very disappointing day. Hopper, this is my daddy. His name is Magadon.

Hopper said, “Hello, sir. Magellee was telling me perhaps you could help me find my home.”

“Welcome, Hopper. For now, what you need is rest. Come on in to our home.”

As they went into the burrow, Hopper met Magellee’s mother, Magdalena, a kind and gentle sort who constantly tried to make sure everyone was comfortable. It seemed to Hopper she went out of her way to make him feel at home. She reminded him a little of Emily, and he missed his old home in Antarctica. He wondered if he ever should have left.

The remainder of the evening was pleasantly spent with Magadon telling stories of his adventures out at sea, not far from here in the Pacific waters off the coast of South America. Then he said, “Enough for tonight. We must all get some sleep. Tomorrow we will hear your story, Hopper, and we’ll see if we can do anything to help you along. Goodnight, all.”

With that he closed his eyes and began snoring.

The next morning as Hopper awoke he found he was alone in the burrow. He poked his head outside and saw a huge crowd of penguins waddling toward the sea. He was torn with the feeling of being left behind by his friends and wanting to join them and the feeling of fear that all the others would continue to ridicule him.

His disappointment came upon his heart again until he remembered that Magadon said today they would talk about his situation. But where were they going now? Anyway, he had to find out what was going on, ridicule or not, so he hopped out of the burrow after the others. Somehow he managed to find Magellee in the crowd and made his way toward her. “Hey, where are you all going?” he called.

“We’re getting our breakfast, of course,” she said. “Come join us. We didn’t want to disturb your sleep. We could tell you were exhausted.”

So Hopper swam out with Magellee and together they ate their fill of fish and krill. “Great fishing here,” said Hopper as they headed back to the burrow. When they got there, they found Magadon and Magdalena waiting for them. “I trust you had nice sleep and a good breakfast, Hopper,” greeted Magadon. “Now we must hear your story and see if there’s a way we can help you.”

Hopper then related his story—how he came to be born and raised in Antarctica, why he left and how he ended up here. He concluded, “Sometimes I think Emmett must have given me the wrong directions, but that doesn’t seem likely, because he’s the best navigator among the Emperors, except for his brother, Emp.”

“No,” said Magadon, “it’s unlikely he steered you wrong. Without doubt the storm threw you off your course, and you, being alone at sea for the first time, didn’t know how to compensate. Take heart, young fellow, you have a home. You’ll find it. For now, however, why not rest with us for a while? In a month we will be migrating north for the winter. I have heard of other types of penguins farther north than we go. Come with us, and we’ll help you on your way. You see, we are near what is called the Straits of Magellan, and that is why we are called Magellanic penguins. Around here I haven’t seen any like you, and I haven’t along the way where we’re going, but perhaps the ones farther north are your kind.”

 

Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 8

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Here Hopper finds a friend who needs help. He also has some brushes with dangerous creatures as he continues seeking his home in the wrong direction.

To read from the beginning, go here.

 

Chapter 8

 

A New Friend

 

Rest wasn’t an option for Hopper as he swam on for hours through a strait that was taking him west to the Pacific Ocean. He kept expecting to be able to head north at any time, but a barren landscape was always on his right.

Finally in the mid afternoon he decided to stop for a rest. He was tired, discouraged, and lonely. “I must go north!” he kept thinking. “I must find my home! Oh, help!”

He popped out of the waves onto a rocky shore and hopped up on some rocks to think and look around. Just then he heard a buzzing sound nearby. He turned his head, and something shiny green flew by almost quicker than his eyes. Then he saw it heading for some nice yellow flowers growing up on the hill above the beach.

Hopper hadn’t seen any flying birds before, except seagulls and other sea birds, and he watched with great fascination as the little bird zipped back and forth among the flowers, sucking nectar from each one as he hovered in mid-air. Then it looked like he might fly away up the hill, so Hopper called out to him, “Hey there, little friend! Have you been in these parts long?”

The little bird started zipping up the hill, then quickly changed directions, came back toward Hopper, and hovered right in front of his beak. In addition to its green body it had brown wings, a white throat with brown spots, and an orange head. He answered, “Well, I’ve come from far to the north to get here. I come back here every year.”

“You’ve been to the north?” Hopper asked excitedly. “Then maybe you can tell me how far I have to go to my home. Have you seen any penguins near here?”

“Well, if you go about 50 miles up the strait to the west, you will find a place where you can swim to the north, and there will be many islands. There is one I call the Island of Penguins. Many of your cousins live there.”

“Yaaaa hooo!” yelled Hopper. “I’m almost home! Thank you, my little friend! By the way, what’s your name?”

“My name is Hummer. I’m a hummingbird, a Greenbacked Firecrown hummingbird.”

“It’s great to meet you, Hummer! I’m Hopper. I’m a penguin, a Rockhopper penguin, and a penguin heading for a home he’s never seen. I’m going to meet my mom and dad.”

“Excuse me, Hopper, before you leave, could you help me with something?”

Hopper’s heart sank a little because he was so excited to get going again. He figured he could be home by the next day. But he said, “Sure, Hummer, what is it? I’m sorry. I’ve been so concerned about my problems, I didn’t even notice or think that you might have your own.”

Hummer said, “Well, I’m down here getting nectar for my mate. She hurt her wing and can’t fly. If I don’t move her to a safer place, she will die, and I can’t do that by myself.”

“Well, let’s go!” said Hopper. As they started up the hill, Hummer explained, “With a little rest her wing will get better, but where she is now…well, there are many enemies.”

“Enemies?”

“Yes, like the fox, the puma, and the caracara.”

Hopper gulped a quiet “Help!” as he continued his climb, which was his first on rock instead of ice. He found it an exhilarating experience, and he did it with ease, just as if he were made to climb.

As Hopper climbed, Hummer would fly ahead to check on his mate, Hummeressa, and then fly back to guide Hopper in the right way. Finally after about an hour, Hummer said, “She’s just around the next corner.”

Hopper made his way around a large rock with Hummer flying beside him. Just as they came around the corner, a large gull-like bird landed between them and Hummeressa with its back toward them. The bird struck up a conversation with her, saying, “So the poor little birdee cannot fly. That is too bad. Such a thing might end up a small meal for a caracara!”

Hummeressa replied, “Leave me alone, Johnnie Rook! Why don’t you go file your beak on an armadillo or something!”

While they continued their friendly conversation, Hopper had a plan. “You go fly around his head to distract him while I sneak up behind him and bite him in his tail feathers. That’ll teach him a thing or two.”

Hummer took off shouting at the bigger bird things like, “You’d better mind your manners!” and “One step closer to her and I’ll peck you on the head!”

Johnnie Rook watched as Hummer flew toward him and then darted back and forth in front of him. It made him a little dizzy, but he pretended it didn’t bother him, and said, “So the little lady has a hero here to save her. Isn’t that cute!”

In the meantime Hopper had quietly hopped up behind the bird, and now he grabbed him by the tail-feathers. “Yaaaah!” shouted the caracara, and he took off into the air, leaving a number of feathers in Hopper’s beak. He circled around and screamed at Hopper, “You’re a little bit out of your territory, aren’t you, Penguin? Someday I’ll make sure you’re sorry I didn’t eat you when you were just an egg!” Then he flew off.

Hummer said, “Ah don’t worry about him. He’s just a big windbag. We can take Hummeressa to safety now.” Hopper gently picked up Hummeressa in his beak and followed Hummer to the place he had picked out.

To most animals it would have been a little hole in a pile of rocks, but to the hummingbirds it was a cave. Hummer flew back and forth, picking up straw and leaves to make a soft place where his mate could rest. “I don’t know how we could ever thank you, brave Hopper!” said Hummeressa as she was finally resting comfortably in her hiding place.

Hopper felt a little sheepish and a little choked up. No one had ever called him brave before. Indeed, hardly anyone, except his parents, had given him such a nice compliment.

Now he knew it was time to continue his journey, and once again he had to leave some newfound friends. In such a short time these hummingbirds had found a special place in his heart. So after a few sad good-byes Hopper started down the mountain. Hummer called after him, “Watch out for the fox and the puma!”

Below him Hopper could see the narrow strait of water, which would soon lead him home, or so he thought. “Yup!” he said to himself. “Just a few more hours of swimming and I’ll be home. I’ll see my mom and dad whom I’ve never seen!”

On the other side of the strait was a large island, and beyond that was the blue of the ocean he had crossed to get here. He thought fondly and a little sadly of Emmett and Emily. They were such good parents to him.

Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a quick movement behind some rocks to his left. “Yo, there!” he shouted in a friendly tone. “Who’s my friend behind the rocks? My name is Hopper.”

A gray snout and some pointy ears peaked up over some rocks. A gray fox, actually somewhat frustrated that he’d been spotted, came out smiling and said, “Say there, my fine friend! If I’m not mistaken, you would be a penguin, wouldn’t you? Some of my best friends have been penguins. When I spotted you walking along there I said to myself, ‘My, isn’t that a fine-looking penguin! I must invite him to my place for a visit and for a fine meal.’ The name’s Graif. My friends call me Graif. You can call me Graif if you like. How about it, my fine friend, Hopper?”

“Well, Graif, actually I’m on my way home—to meet my parents. I’ve never seen them before. I’m really looking forward to getting there.”

“Where do they live?”

“A ways up the strait, less than a day of swimming.”

“Hopper, what you need before you undertake this journey is a good meal. You don’t want to show up there all bedraggled and worn out!”

It dawned on Hopper that this was the fox that Hummer had warned him about, so he said, “Thank you, Mr. Fox, er Graif, but I really must be going. I’ll be all right.”

Graif’s countenance changed. His eyes flared in anger, and he said, “So you’ll turn down the offer of a friend, will you? I guess I’ll have to drag you there for a fine meal—mine!” Then he wrapped his paw around Hopper’s neck and began dragging him back toward the rocks.

Hopper called out, “Help!”

“There’s no one who can help you here, Penguin!” growled the fox. “You’re all alone up here!”

Suddenly something brown and much bigger than the fox sprang out from behind the rocks and bowled over Hopper and the fox. The force of the collision made Hopper roll head over heels down the mountain. He just caught a glimpse of the fox running from a large cat, which was the Puma, who intended to make a fine meal of him if she could catch him.

Hopper found himself back down on the beach, quite dizzy and sore but unharmed. He looked up and said, “Thank you!”

After resting a while to regain his composure, he said, “Here I go!” and dove into the sea, heading west. He swam for miles, resting occasionally to eat. After a time it seemed the strait was getting wider. “I must be getting closer!” he said excitedly.

A little farther on he could see the strait had indeed widened, and it looked like it might even turn to the right shortly ahead. He dove his head under and swam as fast as he could, gliding along through the waves like a porpoise, down and up again.

Soon he could see that it did indeed turn to the right—to the north! “Finally!” he yelled. “Back on course!”