Penguin With the Red Suitcase


When he looks into the stars, he suddenly knows where the constellations will lead him.  The roadies, the crew, will all pack their stuff into the van and then they will start.

“Gerald,” one with a scruffy blonde beard says to him from the back seat, “do you have a smoke?”

He feels around in the pockets of his flannel shirt with his flipper, “sorry man, I’m all out.”

“Hey Rick!” Scruffy blonde beard yells to the driver on his left–he can’t remember the kid’s name, just joined the crew recently, from South Jersey so he’s got that accent–“can you stop at the the next gas station?”

“Yeah man, I gotta take a leak too,” Joey, who’s been with the crew since the beginning, chimed in.”

Rick, a big dude with a dark complexion and beard, bushy eyebrows, scowled and made a sharp right across the blaring horns of traffic to a corner station.  He wasn’t much for words.

As everyone got out to do their thing, Gerald set the suitcase he’d been holding on his lap onto the floor of the van, pulled the handle of the door open with his flipper,–something he’d gotten quite good at over the years– hopped down and waddled his flippered feet across the parking lot towards a thin stretch of trees (most gas stations don’t allow penguins into their restrooms, he’d found out quickly).

As he relieved himself into the poison ivy and shrubs all around, his mind drifted South, to the Southern sky, the constellations he used to witness back home on the iceberg in Antarctica.  He shook himself off, sniffed and rubbed his long beak, which was sore from the coke he’d snorted earlier that evening.

What was it?  August?  He sure wished winter was coming sooner.  That’s one thing he missed about being on the ice and no matter how many summers passed, it never seemed to get better.  Luckily, the guys were nice enough to keep a cooler full of ice for him in the back of the van he could plunge into whenever he needed it.  He could see one of them now heading back towards the van with a  big bag of ice followed by skinny little Joey with a  six-pack.

Great, he hated when he had to share the cooler with their beers.  He could really go for some water to plunge into right now, cold or not, and some fresh fish…  he looked through the bushes and tree trunks to see if maybe this gas station sat on a ravine with a stream in its crevice.  No such luck.  Plus, all the streams he’d swum in in Ohio were murky and dark with the smells of… well, he didn’t want to know what.  Maybe when they passed through Pennsylvania, he could convince them to stop in one of the mountain streams (it might even be cold!), but they were on a tight schedule…

“Gerald!”–he heard one of them yell suddenly–“get your ass back here!  We gotta make it to Pittsburgh by morning!”  He realized that it was the big guy who hardly said anything, Rick, and if he was saying something it had to be urgent.  He waddled as quickly as he could back to the van,–“yeah, had to make a stop, some of these dipshits had to take a leak,” he heard Rick talking to probably the manager on his cell phone. “…yeah, I know, we’ll be back on the road quick.” As Gerald hopped back onto the passenger seat and pulled his red suitcase back on his lap, Rick slammed his phone shut, shoved it in his pocket and roared the van out of the parking lot just as Gerald’s flipper had barely pulled the door shut.




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