Animal Dilemmas – Swan Penguin
For a first time in its life the Penguin felt tired. And it somehow knew that that is not temporary fatigue. The bulb was one thing but it merely served as an exclamation point after which old age begun. The Penguin was still hungry for mischief but would never have a bottomless sea of energy it had before. Now it had to be careful, to rest enough at night, eat right, drink enough water so it could have a few peak moments of youthfulness during the day.
It thought about the choices it had made. They have left it alone in the world. The other penguins were harmoniously boring and stack together sitting on eggs and sharing meals. Was that the right way? Was its eccentricity a gift or a curse? Was there someone else out there alike. Was life confined to this temperature controlled pond with the same set of three dozen penguins that judged it for who it was.
That was it. There was no choice. Nobody could take away from it who it was. Choice is an illusion, thought the Penguin. Indeed, its life had been drawn for it by its parents and the drunk giant that polished its egg. Its parents that the Penguin had never seen left it without direction only instinct. The giant had infused it with eccentricity.
Its life was confirmed to this zoo, an artificial world made for entertainment of other. And its choices no matter how good were also confined to the zoo. There was no escape, no omens or epiphanies penetrated the zoo. But the Penguin was not aware of this because it has never known the world outside. The zoo was the world to it, boundless and interesting, full of creatures and wonders. The Penguin loved every bit of it, the pond, the meal deliveries, the polished rocks, the knocks on he glass walls of the pond that it took for cues to swim like a shark.
The Penguin didn’t want its life to change but it knew it was about to.
It trotted about along the paved paths and it made the giants around it make away and take photos. The pain was still there. The Penguin wanted water. It jumped in the first pond it saw, green with mud and home of white birds with long thin necks. The water was disgustingly sweet. What was wrong with those birds, thought the Penguin and swam across as quickly as it could shaking the green water on the far bank.
The swans and ducks formed a wide circle around it and cautiously shielded their young. The Penguin was amused, that was the biggest trouble it has been so far, the pain was numbed by excitement. It looked around and saw the curious fear the those birds’ eyes. They reminded it of its own tribe. Clinging to habits and eggs desperate to continue the line they fell into the template of life. The Penguin smiled happy to have made such a wonderful mess of its life. It felt young again.
A crowd of giants had gathered in the railing around the pond.
A very large sawn stepped into the circle with spread wings and extended neck. The Penguin tried to extend its flaps but they hurt. The swan settled across form it and put its wings away.
‘What are you and do you want,’ said the Sawn?
‘I want to be entertained,’ said the Penguin.
‘You will not receive anything from us. Nor we will harm you. Where do you come from?’
‘I come from the cold. It’s awfully hot here. I don’t know how you manage.’
‘Why don’t you just leave. Go back to the cold.’
‘If I knew where it was I would but until then I am hungry.’
‘What is it that you eat?’
‘Fish usually but my mouth is terrible hurt so I would love to drink some blood.’
‘You are not going to find it here.’
‘Sure I will, just give me some time. Why don’t you go about to your boring business and I will go about mine.’
‘We have rules here.’
‘Rules are the real prison.’
Several other large swans had stopped into the circle formed an inner ring around the Penguin.
‘I am warning you,’ said the Penguin. ‘Let me be or I will kill you and everyone in your family.’
The swans took a step back.
‘He is a plum creature and is hurt,’ shouted the Swan.
More pain is coming my way, thought the Penguin. My old pain will feel like a good friend compared to this one. And this new pain once it settles will feel like a rotten fish head once I bite on a shiny bulb again. What a beautiful way to grow, kept musing the Penguin, revealing layer after layer of the essence of the universe.
The swans shrank their circle. The Penguin smiled.
‘I am warning you,’ it said. ‘I will snap your beautiful necks.’
The head Sawn kept forward. A shattering sounds filled the air. Several zoo keepers were banging their feeding spoons on the bottoms of the metal buckets. The birds scattered and the Penguin kept smiling.
The giants threw a net over it and took it away.
Another beginning, thought the Penguin.
all stories: Animal Dilemmas
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photograph by Mathew Henry