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emperor penguins

You should’ve seen him, though. It was like no one had ever done what he’d done or been through a winter like he’d been through. He was all puffed up and pleased with himself, squawking, and flapping his arms and lifting his legs.

His mate looked on, but he barely noticed her, barely noticed her at all as he was into telling her how he’d kept the egg the whole winter – the whole winter! – and nothing had happened to it, nothing, because he was a good penguin and he’d kept it safe just as he was meant to.

It had been cold too, you’ve never known such cold, and the wind had cut through his feathers and down to his skin. But he’d been clever, yes, cleverer than some others because he’d moved around this great circle we’d all made and huddled into us to keep warm.

He’d tucked his beak and head into his body and when he felt a push, pushed back. He’d squeezed between and eventually in front of two fat penguins who didn’t need as much protection as him because he’s only small.

And throughout he’d kept the egg warm beneath him, kept it protected from other birds pushing him and scratching with their vicious toes, threatening to break his egg’s fragile shell.

He’d done all of this and all without her. He’d waited and survived and cared for the egg while she was off doing whatever she was doing, not protecting the egg anyway, and while he was speaking his mate was looking on as if she would quite like a squawk too, maybe a flap of her wing and shake of her leg, but every time she went to he stopped her with something else.

Like a description of the night, the cold, cold night, the darkness so penetrating it turned us all grey and seal-like, the light so weak he thought he was dying, the snow so heavy he could barely brush it off, the frost so sharp and so icy and his body so numb he couldn’t tell whether he had wings anymore or whether he was actually moving his head to see if she was coming – she never was.

He told her about that and then about how he’d sacrificed a little warmth to help a smaller one like him and how he’d nearly had his eye poked out by a larger one.

He told her about everything, every minute detail until he ran out of squawk and stopped flapping his arms and just looked at her, whereupon she lifted her head and, with a great hack, spat out a fish, kicked it towards him and waddled away.

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14 thoughts on “And Then She Spat Out The Fish

  1. Brilliant. I love penguins, and you’re story reminds me of many if the reasons why. Amazing animals, and I’ve often wondered what the father penguin must think if being left alone to protect baby penguin egg. Now I know. 🙂

  2. Has happened to me. We talk up our value and then as if to compensate someone offers to buy a drink. My question; did the father then eat the fish or pick it up and heave it back at the Mom?

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