Mike found a penguin on the beach. It wasn’t moving much and looked like it might be sick.
“Don’t touch it,” a passerby insisted. “It might have a disease.”
“All the more reason for me to check it out,” thought Mike. “Maybe I can help it.” So Mike gently lifted the penguin into a small sack and carried it home. The penguin did not resist.
Mike started by giving the penguin a shower with the hose to wash off the sand. He pulled open a can of sardines and offered one to the penguin, but the penguin just turned away.
“Maybe you just need some rest,” Mike said. Then he put an old pillow in a box and cut a hole in the front. He carefully placed the penguin inside.
“I’ll call you Pablo,” Mike said to the penguin as he turned out the light and got into his own bed.
The next day before dawn, Mike was awoken by a loud rolling honking sound. He hopped out of bed with his heart pounding. The penguin was standing nearby and staring up at him.
“You want some fish?” Mike said, to which Pablo responded with a light growling noise.
Mike walked to the fridge and pulled out the can of sardines. Pablo quickly
gobbled down every last bite, after which he fluffed his feathers as if in delight.
“You like that eh,” smiled Mike as he served himself his own breakfast of black toast and scrambled eggs.
After cleaning up, Mike grabbed his watering can and opened the door to head for the garden. Pablo shuffled after him, and as Mike did his chores around the yard Pablo stayed with him.
Around lunchtime, Mike turned on the hose to give Pablo a shower. “You’ve earned it buddy,” Mike said as Pablo shook the water from his feathers.
Several days went by this way with the two eating together and spending the day together in the garden. Pablo seemed to be getting stronger every day and even begin to help out by snatching beetles and slugs away from the vegetables.
Then, one day after Mike had a Reuben sandwich for lunch and Pablo gulped down a dozen peeled shrimp Mike looked at Pablo and said, “It’s time to take a walk to the beach.” So off they went.
As the duo trundled down the street toward the beach, people could not help but stop and stare. Mike’s annoying friend Benny happened by. “What da hell is that?” He nearly screamed.
“This is Pablo,” Mike simply said.
“Well pleased to meetcha Pablo,” Benny laughed as he reached toward the penguin. Pablo reared up, snatched Benny’s fingers into his beak, and shook them violently.
“Damn! That crazy bird’s got rabies!” Benny shouted as he lept back.
“Nah,” Mike shook his head. “He’s just shy of strangers.” To which Benny responded by marching off in a huff.
“You’re a good judge of character,” Mike winked at Pablo. “Benny usually only comes around to borrow money or something.”
When they finally got to the ocean, Mike stood a long time just watching the waves flow in and out. Pablo stood next to him preening his feathers with flicks of his beak.
“You can go if you want to,” Mike said without looking at Pablo. There was a sadness in his voice. Mike had forgotten how lonely he was until he met Pablo. The thought of him leaving filled Mike with an empty feeling of dread.
Pablo looked up at Mike and made a few soft squeaks. Then he ambled slowly toward the water. When he reached the edge of the surf, he cocked his head toward Mike as if inviting him to come along.
“You take care of yourself,” Mike called, as he wiped away a tear. And just like that, Pablo was gone beneath the waves.
Mike went home to a lonely dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce. He stowed the leftovers and cleaned everything before brushing his teeth. Not knowing what to do with it, he stowed Pablo’s box under his bed. His sleep was fitful, and when he finally did sleep he dreamed he was in the ocean swimming side by side with Pablo.
A few days later, Mike was pulling up weeds from the garden. He was thinking about what to make for dinner when he heard Benny’s voice in the distance.
“Hey Buddy!” Benny cried as he pranced into the yard. “Gotta a favor to ask ya.” Mike cringed at those familiar words. He stood to greet his so called friend with a handshake.
“I just need a hundred bucks,” Benny grinned. “You know I’m good for it.” But of course Mike knew Benny was definitely not good for it.
Mike was reaching for his wallet with a frown when the unexpected happened. There was a popping boom like a note from angry trumpet player. The sound made Benny jump as Pablo bolted out of nowhere with his wing outstretched.
“Get that thing away from me!” Benny squealed as he ran for the gate.
“Great to see you,” Mike smiled as Pablo rubbed his leg gently. He reached down to stroke Pablo feathers. Pablo made a rumbling purr in his throat.
“I have some filet of sole for you,” Mike said excitedly. One of your favorites as I remember.” And together the duo made their way toward the kitchen.