It was only a short trek from Elephant to Penguin, and this evening Chimpanzee made it in record time; 1 minute and 22 seconds.
Out of breath, Chimpanzee waved a hello to Penguin who paced around in his pool agitatedly.
“How… how… how are you?” wheezed Chimpanzee.
“I’ve been better,” replied Penguin, curtly.
“Oh, what’s up?” enquired Chimpanzee, finally regaining his somewhat gangly composure.
“Goodness Chimpanzee, you made it here from Elephants in record time!” Penguin said changing the subject.
“Yep,” said Chimpanzee with immense pride, “my best yet, 1 minute and 12 seconds,”
Despite generally being a good egg, Chimpanzee can’t help but stretch the truth a little, from time to time.
“Do you have a stopwatch or something?” enquired Penguin.
“Yep, swiped it from Keeper Tom,”
“Nice one,” Penguin said as they beamed at one another.
Getting one over on the staff at the facility was always a terrific boost for morale amongst the inmates, and Chimpanzee was an absolute master at this.
After a few moments, Chimpanzee recalled that Penguin was about to tell him why he was so tense.
“So tell me Penguin,” asked Chimpanzee, “Why so tense?”
“It’s Puffin,” replied Penguin.
“What’s puffin?” asked Chimpanzee a little bemused.
“Not what,” replied Penguin, again rather curtly, “Puffin, Puffin, over there,” he said pointing his flipper in the direction of the cage opposite.
“What’s Puffin done?” asked Chimpanzee.
“Nothing,” replied Penguin to the surprise of Chimpanzee before quickly adding, “Everything.”
“Everything, nothing? What is it specifically he has done to upset you?” said Chimpanzee scratching his chin in exactly the same way a simian Sherlock Holmes might.
“Everything!” repeated Penguin, making it no easier for Chimpanzee to comprehend the cause of Penguins apparent exasperation at Puffin.
“I don-,” started Chimpanzee before being cut off mid flow by Penguin.
“He’s so strange looking, I hate it, makes me sick, he’s so odd in his strange Puffin ways. I find him offensive to look at I cannot bare it anymore. Something must be done about him,” And with this Penguin turned his back not wishing Chimpanzee, his best friend (and Chimpanzee’s second best friend) to see him in such an angry state, for this was a rather unpleasant sight even for a closer personal friend witness.
Chimpanzee was speechless. What could he say? Clearly there was a problem; yet less clear was the cause, other than it appeared Puffins appearance.
“He’s just so… look at him, go on, look at him!” demanded Penguin.
Chimpanzee turn around to look at Puffin, although he was certain this would in no way elucidate Penguins anger.
Puffin was still up and standing at the front of his cage, possibly he had been awoken by Penguins tirade, or perhaps he just had not gone to bed yet.
“Evening,” said Puffin.
“Good evening,” said Chimpanzee.
“I don’t know either,” stated Puffin matter-of-factly.
“Oh,” was all Chimpanzee could muster.
“I’ve been here six weeks and for six weeks it’s been exactly the same. The shouting, the bullying the name-calling… I don’t know what to do frankly.”
“Oh dear,” said Chimpanzee.
“Clearly I’ve done something to upset Penguin, but other than just being here, I can’t for the life of me understand what it could be,” and at this Puffin nodded just once, a sad little nod that seemed to sum up both his frustration at the treatment by Penguin, and something more…
It was something much sadder and at the same time so common around the facility. Loneliness, that was it, Puffin was lonely. After all, as he had said, he had been here six weeks and this was the first time Chimpanzee had spoken to him, and all the other inmates regarded Chimpanzee as by far the friendliest animal around.
“I’m terribly sorry,” started Chimpanzee, “I’m Chimpanzee, I should have said hello when you first arrived,”
“Oh that’s okay,” replied Puffin holding out his wing through the bar, “pleased to meet you” and they shook, wing to paw.
“Oh for goodness sake!” cried out Penguin, whom Chimpanzee had inadvertently forgotten, “You’re making friends with him now!”
“Puffin, would you be so kind as to give us a few moments alone please?”
“Oh yes of course replied Puffin, I was on my way to bed anyhow.”
“Goodnight then Puffin, I’ll pop by tomorrow evening for another chat if that’s okay?”
“Oh that would be splendid,” and off he waddled to his hutch. As he reached the door, he turned, “Goodnight Chimpanzee,”
“Get lost!” Penguin shouted back.
“Penguin!” scolded Chimpanzee.
“What?” replied Penguin indignant that he had done anything wrong.
Chimpanzee waited a moment for Puffin to close his hutch door before he confronted Penguin.
“What has gotten into you?”
“What? What do you mean? I haven’t done anything, it’s him!”
“That’s nonsense, he seems like a perfectly normal fellow, in fact I’d say the only problem with Puffin is that he is clearly deeply unhappy – of which you are a part cause.”
Penguin was outraged; he flapped his little wings and ran to the top of his water slide before slide down it furiously.
“I can’t believe you’re siding with him; that little freak!”
“Penguin, don’t be so rude, Puffin might hear you”
“That’s okay,” came a muffled voice from Puffins hutch, “I’m used to it.”
“See” said Chimpanzee. “I don’t understand why you have such a strong dislike of Puffin. I can only guess it’s because of the way he looks.”
“Well,” said Penguin sheepishly (which was not an emotion Sheep reciprocate; they rarely if ever acted pengiunly).
“Is that it?” asked Chimpanzee before continuing, “is it the way he looks that upsets you so much?”
“No.” said Penguin in a way that strongly suggested he meant yes.
“Oh Penguin, I’m so disappointed,”
“But you have to admit he looks weird,” said Penguin desperately attempting to justify his outrageous behaviour.
“No, no I don’t” said Chimpanzee adamantly.
“Yeah right,” sneered Penguin.
“In fact Penguin, Puffin’s little black wings, shiny white tummy, black hood, intense, yet sensitive eyes, yellow feet and colourful beak remind me of another inmate held at this facility.”
“Oh really,” said Penguin, “Who?”
“You,” said Chimpanzee.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” cried out Penguin, “we look nothing alike”
“Really, have you looked in a mirror recently?”
“Well, no, I have one in the bottom of a closet somewhere…”
“Then I suggest you go and take a look.”
“Hmm,” said Penguin. “I’ll maybe have a look tomorrow morning, but I can’t promise anything.”
“Can you at least cut down on the bullying?”
“Not sure,” said Penguin, “He’s just asking for it...”
“He’s not really is he?”
“Maybe not actually asking for it, but still…”
“But still nothing. Now listen here, I am already late for a chat with the Meerkats, can I trust you to have a look in the mirror? Honestly, I believe you and Puffin have more in common that you may think.”
“Okay,” said Penguin, “But only ‘cause we’re friends; it doesn’t mean I agree with you or anything.”
“Well, that’s good enough for me.”
“Goodnight Chimpanzee,” said Penguin.
“Goodnight Penguin, speak again tomorrow.”
With that, Chimpanzee turned and started on his 3 minute and 32 second, trek to the Meerkat enclosure.
As he walked away, he felt deeply concerned by Penguins strong and somewhat violent feelings toward Puffin. He worried that even he may not be able to resolve it.
Then, just as he felt he was about to descend into another depression he heard something, almost out of his earshot that gave him a little hope.
Puffin (painted by his cousin)