The Eventual Parting of Mr. Penguin
by Christy McGee
Mr. Penguin watched through foggy binoculars his wife and their two offspring drifting ever further into the white arctic abyss.
Mrs. Penguin, for her part, waved back, unsure of whether her husband could still see her through the miserably thick fog, but holding out hope that her husband’s binoculars were worth the three and a half fish she had paid at the market that pleasant Wednesday eve of his thirtieth birthday. She encouraged the children to do the same as her, though they were scarcely old enough to understand the gravity of the situation, and fortunately not so young as to rebel against her wishes, making an already difficult situation more so.
As the last glimmers of black faded to icy whiteness, Mr. Penguin lowered his binoculars, revealing a tear that trickled down his cheek and quickly froze. His tear was, like himself, cold, directionless and still.
He knew in his tiny bird heart that if he let her go now, she would never return. She’d meet a new man, better and faster and stronger than he, a man who could provide in abundance for her and the children, a man… with two feet.
Penguin looked down at his left foot – black and leathery and evenly webbed; he paused, admiring the beauty of his perfectly healthy foot, something he’d taken for granted all those years, then sighed as he turned his gaze to his right side, where only a small wooden peg stood now. Penguin crept to the edge of the ice. Peg, foot, peg, foot.
He peered into the endless blue and considered for a moment diving in one more time. It would be the last peg-legged step he’d ever have to take, considering the impossibility of his producing enough force to get back on dry land without both feet. Extending his peg leg, Mr. Penguin stood shaking, hovering over the water, when a bubble appeared, causing a slight ripple beneath him. He jerked his leg back instinctively, recalling the horrific way in which he had lost the damn leg in the first place, and tentatively sniffed the air.
“Leopard seal farts…”
Before he could finish his thought, another bubble arose in the distance.
He sniffed again, “Yep, definitely a leopard seal… OH GOD! He’s headed right for them!”
Mr. Penguin panicked in a circle about his peg, “I’ve gotta save them, but how? I’ll never get there fast enough! I’ve gotta do something!”
Another ripple in the distance, “He’s almost there. How can I smell that from here? No time!”
With a gasp of air, Penguin thrust himself towards the water, only to be tripped by his peg, which he had screwed rather firmly into the ice through his circular pacing. With no time to lose, Mr. Penguin karate chopped his peg, leaving only the tip lodged in the frozen tundra. Into the crystal waters he plunged, flapping hard against the current as his peg leg wobbled up and down with every stroke.
Within moments, Penguin had the seal in his sights. The grey beast circled the massive brick of frozen water that held everything Penguin had ever cared about. It was now or never.
Penguin shouted at the seal, “Hey! Look at me!”
The seal considered the gimpy penguin for a moment, but found himself able to resist, and instead, launched himself up and over the iceberg to take a shot at the rest of the Penguin family. Mr. Penguin could hear the terrified screams of his youngest daughter as the seal fell back into the water, empty-handed.
“This is it,” Penguin thought to himself, “They’re going to die…”
Penguin grabbed the remnants of his peg leg and shook it violently, “Stupid piece of wood! I should have left you stabbed in the ice!”
Penguin gasped loudly, which is difficult to do underwater, and then went to dislodging peg from flesh and screaming all the while. The seal looked over, slightly concerned. Mr. Penguin pulled the peg out firmly and promptly stabbed himself in the stomach, since stomach was what he mostly was.
The leopard seal could no longer decline a free, albeit slightly insane, meal and hurdled through the water at Mr. Penguin full speed. Penguin gripped the fleshy end of the peg and held it out firmly, then closed his eyes, preparing for death.
A moment later, he felt a gust of icy air fill his lungs as he shot out of the water. Beneath him was a snapping leopard seal with a peg lodged deeply in his eye. Mr. Penguin squawked for joy, then stomped the peg for good measure as he launched himself through the air in victory.
He landed with a hard thud and spent a disagreeable amount of time in blackness, but when he awoke, he was happy to see his family beside him, his wife nursing him back to health while simultaneously shushing the eager children, and happier still to see that they had all made it to the beach, full of fish, sticks and a gradual incline to the shore.