Ernest The Flat Penguin

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The planet has a belly, a cold, icy gut which sticks out like a melting cake with too much powdered sugar on it. This place is called the Antarctic, although no ants are believed to live there.

It is here where you will find the penguin, for the penguin loves the cold and frost. There are thousands and thousands of penguins here, all huddled up together for warmth. One such penguin was Ernest.

Ernest loved nothing more than to wander off, honking and waddling as he went. It was easy for Ernest to do so because his mother loved him very much. When a penguin is loved and kissed by his family, his chest puffs out and his honk is loud, when a penguin is sad he becomes flat, the very saddest of penguins are little more than big flapping feet and a pair of eyes. If you ever see a flat penguin, you must rush over and give it a hug.

Ernest’s mother would often warn Ernest not to wander off too far, the Antarctic was a dangerous place for a lone penguin, and without sufficient kisses he could become so flat he wouldn’t be able to see over the snow. Ernest would just roll his eyes, assuring his mother that he was safe and wouldn’t adventure too far.

Winter in The Antarctic is a very dark place; the sun would barely shine at this time of year meaning a winter’s night could last for months. It was on one of these sprawling dark evenings that a storm began to wail, making the ocean fizzy and throwing snow into the air.

The last time there was a storm as large as this Ernest had been looking over the edge of the ice, which is when he saw a huge whale, no more than a few feet from him. Ernest squealed and ran behind his mother who assured him the whale meant no harm. As Ernest watched the giant whale swim past, he was in awe of his size, a hundred foot long, spraying water 20 feet high from a hole at the top of his head. It was from this moment on that Ernest decided he wanted to be a whale. Every day he would puff his chest out, which was filled with all the love his mother had given him, fill his mouth with snow and spray it into the air, covering all those he passed.

Ernest’s mother told him to stay close as the cold wind started to whistle through the huddled penguins, but something had caught Ernest’s eye. As the waves crashed against the ice, it threw the water in the air, just like the whale had, and Ernest was so excited meet him again.

He looked left; no one was looking, he looked right; all the grown-ups were busy discussing which fish they would be having for their dinner, he looked up…. then remembered penguins don’t fly. Gently he shuffled towards the edge of the iceberg, eventually running as fast as he could. “Flap flap flap flap flap flap” went his feet.

It was just then that an almighty crack was heard; Ernest looked behind him and saw, to his horror, the edge of the iceberg breaking away from all his penguin friends and family, with him on the other side. “HONK!!!!!” Ernest cried “HONK!!!!!” But the storm was so noisy no one could hear him.

Ernest became very sad and began to deflate, becoming smaller and smaller until he was no more than a pair of sad eyes and feet. He cried for his mother, but being so flat, no one could see him.

Standing on the edge of the ice, looking at his reflection in the freezing cold water, Ernest began to cry, each tear making ripples in the water. What was he to do?

Suddenly an almighty “Whoosh!” came from beneath the ocean’s surface, followed by a gigantic spray of water, completely soaking Ernest, which was when he saw the eye. This eye was bigger than any he had seen before, bigger even than a whole penguin filled with love. Ernest squealed in terror.

“Don’t be scared little penguin” came a booming but friendly voice. “I was just wondering why you were here all alone and looking so sad?” Ernest’s appeared from beneath the snow, to see the whale, even bigger than he had imagined, resting his head upon the edge of the ice.

“I… I am trapped here, I miss my mummy and I can’t get back.” Feeling a little braver, Ernest moved a little closer, peering at his reflection in the whale’s enormous black eye. “Why don’t you swim back?” Asked the whale “You are a penguin after all.” “I … I can… do that?” “Of course you can, you can swim as well as any creature.” Ernest suddenly grew a little, feeling so lucky to be a penguin all of a sudden. “What’s your name my little friend?” — “Ernest” he replied with his chest filling up a little more. “Pleased to meet you Ernest, I’m Max. I tell you what, climb on my back, if you feel you cannot swim, I will take you there myself, how does that sound?” — “That would be great!”

Max lowered his head so Ernest could climb onto him. Sitting between the whale’s eyes, Ernest was ready for his return journey home. His new friend began to swim very fast, causing Ernest to scream in delight “HONK!” Ernest squealed. “OK, are you ready to try yourself?” “Yes!” Ernest’s chest was now as puffed out as ever, causing him to feel as big as a whale.

Gently Max lowered Ernest into the water, Ernest was scared. “Don’t let me sink Max!” he cried, but before he even finished the sentence he was floating without any support. “Now paddle my little friend”. Ernest took a deep breath and with all his might began to paddle as fast as he could. He could see his family getting closer and closer and he realised he could not only swim, but he was faster than Max. “I’m swimming, I can swim!”

Before long he was at the edge of the iceberg and could see his mother looking for him. He felt very guilty to have left her and made a promise to himself to never wander off like that again.

Max lifted Ernest onto the ice with his nose, wishing him a fond farewell. “Don’t forget my little friend, as long as you have love, your heart will be as big as any whale.” — “Thank you Max, I hope I see you soon” — “Of course you will, but next time when there isn’t such a dangerous storm.” Ernest smiled as he watched the whale leap into the air, crashing into the water and soaking him, as he “Honked” a heart-felt goodbye.

Ernest ran as quickly as he could, ducking between all his penguin friends until he reached his worried mother. “Where on earth have you been?” she cried, “I’m sorry Mum, I won’t wander off again and I’m glad to be a penguin.” Confused, his mother thought about asking what this meant but wrapped her wing around him, happy to have him safe and Ernest grew as large as any penguin could.

© Copyright Dean Stephenson 2012

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