Pengey Penguin is off to the park to share breakfast with his friend Quincy Bluebird. It's after Pengey finds out that penguins do not like huckleberries that he meets Frances the Ladybug, and when Frances teaches Pengey a thing or two about pets.
Pengey Penguin and the Ladybug
It was Saturday morning, so there was no school. Nevertheless, Pengey was up at the crack of dawn and in the kitchen, and trying to find something to eat. Wendy had the day off from work, and she was sleeping in.
Pengey trundled out of the kitchen munching on the last bit of tuna fish. Quietly, he paced around the hushed apartment. He watched as the first light began to cast a warm glow across the living room. He thought he might like to watch cartoons on TV, but his tummy was still growling from hunger⎯ and besides, he had seen all the cartoons, and he was bored with TV.
He went back into the kitchen and climbed his little stepladder up to the kitchen table, where he kept his snack food. Even though he knew he’d already eaten all the fish, he looked hopefully inside his small ice chest, but except for the melting ice, it was empty. He sat down on top of his stepladder. His tummy growled louder. “Drat it,” he pouted. “I ate it all.”
“Oh, what’ll I do?” Pengey said to himself. He climbed down his little ladder and trundled sadly into the living room again.
Just outside the French doors that led to the balcony, a little bluebird landed on the railing and started to sing. Pengey stood there and listened to the cheerful tune while the sunlight slipped above the city skyline and lit up the streets of Manhattan below him.
Pengey pushed open the old cat door and stepped out onto the balcony. The bluebird chirped a happy “Hello!”
Pengey cooed happily in return and asked, “Hi!” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Quincy,” said the bluebird.
“I’m Pengey Penguin. Wanna be friends?”
Quincy chirped, “Okay!”
“What are you doing this morning?”
“I’m flying down to Central Park to find some breakfast. Do you want to come along?”
Pengey pondered his options. He thought, If I go swimming at the duck pond, I can catch some of those little fish for breakfast and get some exercise too. If I have breakfast in the apartment, I’ll have to wait for Wendy to wake up.
Pengey’s tummy growled loudly. He patted it with his flipper. “I’d love to join you for breakfast,” he said. His tummy growled even louder. Pengey looked worriedly at it and patted it again.
“I’ll meet you downstairs,” he told Quincy. “But first I have to leave a note for Wendy, my human.”
“You have a human?” Quincy looked confused. “Why would you have a human?”
“She’s my best friend.”
“Best friend? A human is your best friend?”
“Yes,” said Pengey firmly.
“Well, okay,” said Quincy timidly. “If you say so. See you downstairs.” She jumped off the balcony and flew down to the street below.
Pengey quietly hurried back inside the apartment and over to the coat tree in the foyer. He slipped into his backpack and took a picture of the duck pond from a shoebox filled with photos. He hung the picture on a little hook next to the front door and went out. Now Wendy would know where he was, and she wouldn’t worry about him.
Pengey got off the elevator and trundled across the foyer to the sidewalk, where James the Doorman greeted him with a smile.
“Good morning, Master Pengey.”
“Off to the duck pond, are you?”
“My am. Thank you very much,” said Pengey. He waved to James. “See you later!” Then he trundled out to Eighty-Eighth Avenue and on toward Central Park.
As he waddled down the sidewalk, Pengey watched his neighbors taking their pet dogs out on a leash for a morning walk over in the park. Pengey was terrified of dogs, but he thought that they were elegant animals and he liked the way they played with their masters. He thought that maybe he’d like to have a pet one day.
It would be such fun. One the one flipper, if he had a pet he could take it for walks in the park. He thought that all his friends and humans with dogs would think that he was quite the responsible young penguin for having one.
Of course, he thought, it had to be a pet that wouldn’t eat him⎯so dogs were out of the question. He thought hard about pets as he trundled along.
On the other flipper, Wendy had told him that having a pet could be difficult. She said, it was best to have a pet from when it was a baby. She told him that you had to train a pet, feed it, clean up after it and exercise it every single day.
All of these things seem complicated because all of the humans with their dogs just seemed to be having fun. Pengey decided to check with Barrington Badger, to see what advice he could offer about in this matter of pets.
Quincy Bluebird was afraid of people, so she kept her distance from James. She hid in the laurel bushes that lined the sidewalk until Pengey caught up to her.
Nervously, she looked both ways. Then she popped out from the bush and flew alongside him. “Pengey Penguin,” she said, “I just don’t understand why you’re so friendly to humans.”
“What’s not to like?” said Pengey. “They’re perfectly nice creatures once you get to know them.” He stopped at the crosswalk and waited patiently for the light to change.
Quincy landed on a red fire hydrant next to where Pengey stood. “Call me a birdbrain if you want,” said Quincy, “but most of us who live in the park keep our distance from humans.”
Pengey said, “I noticed that. Maybe being friendly with humans is not in your nature.”
“Hum,” chirped Quincy. “I never thought of it that way.”
The crosswalk light changed. Pengey looked both ways, looked again, and scooted across the street, into the park. Quincy flew right beside him.
“Where are you going to have breakfast?”
“At the huckleberry bush. Trevor Robin told me the berries are ripe and ready to eat.”
“Huckleberries?” Pengey scratched his head with his flipper. “Do penguins like huckleberries?”
“How should I know?” chirped Quincy. “I’m a bluebird.”
“Do they taste like fish?”
“I don’t know,” laughed Quincy. “Bluebirds don’t eat fish.”
Pengey had to move along very quickly just to keep up, because Quincy Bluebird had seen the huckleberry bush. She paused in mid air for a fraction of a second and pointed with her wing. “Look! There it is,” she chirped. She fluttered back and forth very excitedly. “Oh, boy! I can hardly wait”
She hovered another moment and looked alternately at the bush and hesitantly back at Pengey. “Excuse me, I can’t wait,” she said. “See ya’ there.” And Zoom⎯off she flew.
Quincy reached the bush in six seconds flat. She wasted not a moment before gobbling down a tasty red berry. By the time Pengey reached the bush, Quincy was tearing into her third huckleberry.
He picked a berry and sniffed it suspiciously. “It doesn’t smell like fish,” he said.
But Quincy didn’t answer, because she was hungrily eyeing another berry.
Pengey thought that since Quincy liked them so much, the berries must be pretty good, and they were a lot easier to catch than fish.
Pengey’s stomach growled again. He thought, If I don’t eat pretty soon I’ll explode. So he tossed the huckleberry into his beak and bit down.
Pengey’s mouth filled with the sweet flavor of the ripe berry, but this was not a flavor that he was accustomed to. It was too sweet, and it didn’t taste like fish at all. “Yuck!” sputtered Pengey. “Yuck! Yuck! YUCK!”
He spat out the berry and looked around for some water to wash out his mouth with. The duck pond was less than a hundred feet away. He dash toward it, sputtering.
“Where are you going, Pengey?” shouted Quincy.
But Pengey didn’t look back. He just ran toward the duck pond yelling, “Penguins don’t like huckleberries.”
“Maybe they’re not in your nature.” Quincy yelled. Then she shrugged and gobbled down another berry.
When Pengey got to the duck pond, he dove straight in. The water felt cool and it washed the taste of the huckleberry out of his mouth. A moment later two mosquito fish swam by and Pengey gobbled them up. He was still hungry, but he was starting to feel more like his old self.
As he popped to the surface, he thought he heard a cry for help. It was a tiny voice, and he couldn’t tell where it was coming from.
He heard the cry for help again. It was clearer this time. It seemed to be very close to him. Feverishly he scoured the surface of the water, but he still couldn’t tell where the cry was coming from.
He used his flippers and swam slowly while he stared at the surface of the water. He heard the cry for help again. It was right in front of him.
Then Pengey saw her, a ladybug struggling to stay afloat.
“HELP!” cried the ladybug. “Please! Help me!”
Pengey wasn’t exactly sure what to do. Should he help her? She could have a stinger, she could be poisonous, she could have fangs, she might bite him. But the little ladybug was desperate ⎯there was no time to lose⎯he had to help her, or she would surely perish.
Gently, he surrounded the ladybug with his beak.
But what the ladybug saw was dark, awesome, and frightening. To her, it was a gigantic birds beak trying to gobble her up. She curled up in a tight little ball and screamed, “Monster!”
Pengey tried to lift the tiny ladybug out of the water, but she smelled and tasted awful.
“Yuck!” cried Pengey, and he instantly spat the ladybug out. He splashed his beak into the water and tried to wash the awful taste out of his mouth.
The ladybug struck the water and began to sink, but she struggled back to the surface of the water. “Please!” she cried out, “please HELP ME!”
Pengey was afraid that the ladybug might be poisonous. Still he felt very sorry for her desperately wanted to help. He pondered for a second and came up with the answer. “Yes!” he cried, as he saw a dried leaf floating by.
Very quickly, Pengey slid the leaf under the ladybug and lifted her out of the water. He held the leaf in his beak and watched while the ladybug struggled for breath, but he was anxious to put her down. He wasn’t taking any chances on getting bitten. Besides, he’d never talked to a ladybug, and he didn’t know if it was proper.
Pengey put the ladybug down on a water lily and watched as she started to regain her composure.
First, she coughed out quite a large droplet of water. Then she gasped hard for air and coughed several more times. She wiped a smaller droplet of water off one of her antennae. Then she unfolded her shell-halves and fluttered her little wings. Her wings vibrated very quickly and made a little buzzing noise.
She was still breathing hard when she folded her wings back under her shell. But she looked right at Pengey and said, “Thank you, kind sir. I surely would have perished if you hadn’t come along when you did.”
The ladybug spoke Insect, but she spoke it softly and elegantly. And as good luck would have it, Pengey understood her dialect of Insect, and he spoke it pretty well, too.
Pengey had to strain to hear her tiny voice. He leaned closer to the ladybug. “You’re quite welcome,” he said. “I would have saved you sooner, but you’re so little I couldn’t see you at first.” Stealthy, he tried to wash the awful taste of the ladybug out his mouth.
The ladybug brushed more water off her shell and said, “I am sorry to cause you so much trouble. How can I ever repay you?”
“Oh, it was no trouble,” said Pengey. “I would have saved you with my beak, but you tasted so . . . .” He was embarrassed and at a loss for words. “I . . . I,” he blushed, “I had to spit you out.”
“Yes, I’m so sorry about that” said the ladybug, sheepishly. “It’s my defense mechanism.”
“It’s how I protect myself. I don’t know how I do it, but whenever I feel threatened, a little blood sweats out of the glands around my legs. Predator animals who would eat me hate the smell and the taste.”
Pengey kept trying to wash the awful taste out of his mouth. He said, “I promise, I’ll never try to eat you.” Then he asked very humbly, “You’re not poisonous, are you?”
The ladybug blushed. “Oh, heavens no!” she said. “I’m not poisonous.”
Whew! Thought Pengey. Lucky for me!
“I am sorry. I’m so hungry that I’m forgetting my manners. My name is Frances. I’m a ladybeetle.”
“Pengey J. Penguin. I’m an emperor penguin. Did you say you’re hungry?”
“Yes, very hungry. But because I’m old and I have a bruised wing, I can’t fly over the duck pond to reach my feeding grounds.”
“How old are you?”
“Almost a year.”
“That’s not old.” Pengey said. I’m two and a half years old and I’m not old.
“How long do emperor penguins live?”
“My dad told me about forty-five years.”
Frances sighed, “You have many, many more years to live, but ladybugs only live for about a year. I’m afraid my days are numbered.”
Pengey felt very sad for Frances. Not only was she hungry, but she was old, too. “You must be starving,” he said.
Frances adjusted her left antenna. “It’s been over two days since I’ve eaten,” she said softly.
“Two days!” said Pengey. “I could catch you a fish, if that would help.”
“Goodness, a fish? I’m not even sure I know what a fish is. I eat plant lice.”
“Well, where can I find a plant lice for you?”
“On just about any flowering plant,” said Francis faintly.
But Pengey wasn’t listening. Pengey was thinking very hard. He thought, Wendy always does the grocery shopping at the grocery store.
He said, “I’ll go to the store and get one for you. Do I ask for plant lice?”
“Well no, you’d ask for aphids. Why?”
“So I can get one and bring it back for your breakfast.”
“Pengey,” Frances said, “aphids are far too little to pick up. You’d need a magnifying glass just to see them. Besides, I always eat five at a sitting.”
“Isn’t that a lot?”
“Not really,” blushed Frances. “Besides flower pollen and nectar, they’re practically the only thing I eat, and they’re mostly made of plant fluids. ”
Pengey scratched his head with his flipper⎯he thought aphids were very confusing. Frances noticed his confusion and said, “If you can get me over to the rosebush, I’ll show you what aphids look like.”
Pengey looked around for the dried leaf that he had used to save Frances, but it had floated away. “Just pick me up with one of your flippers,” said Francis.
But Pengey was still afraid that Frances was poisonous. He looked worriedly at his flippers and shook his head. “That won’t work. I need both flippers to swim.”
Oh! What to do? Frances and Pengey were in a quandary.
At that moment, a very large yellow-and-black monarch butterfly appeared, hovering in the right over their heads. The butterfly landed on the water lily, fanned its wings, and looked majestic. Frances and Pengey had the same idea at exactly the same time.
Frances turned and speaking in perfect Butterfly, said, “I don’t believe we’ve met. My name is Frances.”
“Hello there,” said the butterfly. “I’m Desmond. Is there something I can help you with?”
“I was wondering if you would be so kind as to give me a lift over the pond to the rosebush.”
“But you’re a ladybug. Ladybugs can fly. Is there something wrong?”
“I was attacked by a bird. It bruised my wing. I haven’t been able to fly across the duck pond for the last two days.”
“Defense mechanism fail?”
“Not completely. I’m alive, but sometimes playing dead doesn’t fool the birds.”
“Ha!” said Desmond. “We Monarch’s copy you ladybugs because of your defense strategy.”
Pengey was confused. The butterfly didn’t look anything like the butterfly. He said, “Pardon me for intruding. What do you mean, “copy” ladybugs?”
Frances translated for Pengey and Desmond, “Pengey wants to know how butterflies copy ladybugs.”
“Our wings are orange or yellow or white with black dots . . . the same colors as ladybugs,” said Desmond. “Predators that would eat us most often remember how bad ladybugs taste and they leave us alone.
Pengey said, “Hum.”
Desmond said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you bruised your wing.”
“It will heal soon enough, but right now I’m very hungry, and I can’t get to my feeding grounds.”
“Well, I’ve never tried flying a ladybug around,” said Desmond, “but I don’t see why not.”
Pengey watched as Desmond and Frances worked out the details of the rather scary flight across the duck pond to the shoreline some thirty-five feet away.
At last they were ready. Desmond tucked his feet firmly under Frances’s belly and flapped his large wings.
Liftoff was smooth and easy, and Frances felt safe tucked up in Desmond’s legs. But when they were about ten feet up, a breeze began to blow and Desmond began to lose his grip. The more the wind blew, the more he struggled to hold on to Frances, and the more and more wobbly the flight became.
Pengey watched him struggle, powerless to help.
A gust of wind blew Desmond into a nosedive. It looked to Pengey as if Desmond was going to crash into the water, and taking Frances with him.
Pengey swam into the flight path, just as Desmond yelled, “I can’t hold on anymore,” and dropped Frances and narrowly escaped crashing into the pond himself. Frances spread her wings and tried to fly, but it was no use. Down she fell, straight toward the water, where Pengey was swimming.
Pengey felt something fall on his head. It was very light, but he knew something was there, because it tickled when it moved around.
“Who’s up there?” he said.
“It’s me,” said Frances. She walked down Pengey’s face and stood on his beak. “Thank you for catching me.”
“You’re not going to make your yucky stuff again are you?
“No. I don’t feel threatened by you at all.”
“Well then,” said Pengey, “I’ll just swim to shore and take you to the rosebush.”
So he swam to shore with Francis on his beak, trundled to the rosebush, and placed his beak next to a proud red rose.
“If you don’t mind, Pengey” Francis pointed with her antenna⎯ “please set me over there on that sickly looking rose.”
She walked to the tip of Pengey’s beak and immediately picked up an aphid that was sucking the life out of the sickly looking rose.
“Is that an aphid?” said Pengey.
“Yes,” said Frances, “this is an aphid.”
Pengey looked at the aphid. It was only about the size of a pencil dot. “I don’t get it,” he said. “How can something that tiny hurt a rose bush this big?”
“By itself it could hardly hurt anything. But there are probably ten thousand aphids on this bush. If we ladybugs didn’t eat the aphids, they would kill all the rosebushes, and there would never be roses again.”
Pengey loved flowers and he grimaced at the thought of there never being roses anymore. His face twisted into a worried frown.
“It’s okay, Pengey,” Francis told him. “There are millions and millions of ladybugs. And we eat tons and tons and tons of aphids every day.”
“All is well then?” said Pengey.
“Yes, as long as there are ladybugs, plants beneficial to humans and animals will continue to give flowers and fruit.”
“Then there will always be roses?”
“Yes, Pengey. As long as there are ladybugs.”
“Oh good,” said Pengey. “I’ll have to go tell Wendy. I’m sure she’ll be happy to know. See you later.” And he dashed away toward Eighty-Eighth Avenue.
“Wait!” shouted Frances.
Pengey stopped and turned around.
“I would like to do something to repay you. After all you did save my life.”
“But you’re saving the rose.”
“I want to do something just for you.”
It was then that Pengey had a huge brainstorm. “I’ve got it,” he said. “Will you be my pet ladybug?”
“I’m not sure what a pet is. But of course. As long as I don’t get hurt, I’d be delighted to be your pet. What do I have to do?”
Pengey was very excited now. He could see himself walking casually through the park with Frances on a little leash. He thought, All the humans will envy me, that’s for sure.
He said, “You don’t have to do anything⎯not just yet. I have to get a leash, and then we’ll go for a walk.”
“Very well,” said Frances. Hungrily but daintily, she ate another aphid.
Pengey dashed away yelling, “Don’t go away! I’ll be right back!” He dove into the duck pond and swam to the opposite shore, where Barrington Badger and Sonja Bunny were relaxing in the morning sun.
Desmond landed on the rose bush. “Terribly sorry about dropping you, Frances,” he said.
“Please don’t apologize. I’m quite all right.”
“You weren’t too heavy for me. But that last gust of wind hit ten miles an hour. I can’t fly very well at all when it goes over an eight.”
“I understand, Desmond. Thank you for trying.”
“You’re sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine. Luckily, I fell on Pengey.”
“What’s Pengey up to?”
“I don’t really know. He wants me to be his pet ladybug.”
“His pet . . . ladybug?”
“That what he says,” said Frances.
Desmond looked very confused. “Yeah . . . ah . . . well,” he said, “I guess you know what you’re doing.”
“I’d just like to do something special for Pengey.”
“Okay. I have to meet my friends at the milkweed plant. See you next time.”
‘It will be my pleasure,” said Frances, as Desmond flew away.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the duck pond, Pengey and Barrington Badger were trying to decide what might make a good leash for a ladybug.
Barrington said, “Having a pet is a big responsibility.”
“For one thing, a pet requires lots of attention.”
“But she’s so little, and all I want to do is take her for a walk in the park. That’s why I need a leash.”
“Still, your ladybug friend is a wild creature, and she doesn’t know about the world of animals and men,” said the wise old badger. “She only really knows about saving the world from aphids.”
Just then Sonja Bunny hopped up. Sonja was a pure white Angora rabbit with very long and fluffy fur. “Hi guys,” she said. Want to join us in a game of kickball?”
“Well, not just this minute,” said Pengey.
“But Pengey,” said Sonja, “I need you on my team if we’re going to beat the animals from the other side of the park.”
“I can’t right now. I have to take my pet ladybug for a walk. I promised her. All I need is a leash.”
“What are you going to use for a leash on a ladybug?”
Sniffles Mouse walked up, kicking a little soccer ball. “Hi, guys!” he said. “What’s going on? Ready for the big game?”
“Not just yet. Pengey’s trying to make a leash for his pet ladybug,” said Barrington.
Pengey, Sonja, Barrington and Sniffles stood in a little
circle, trying to think of what would work for a leash.
“I know,” said Sonja. “You could knot some strands of my hair together.”
Pengey said, “I’ll need at least ten strands to tie together.”
Sonja frowned. “It might look silly to have a leash with ten knots in it.”
“If,” Barrington added, “there were someone among us who knew how to tie a knot.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Pengey and Sonja, speaking the same time.
They thought some more.
At last Sniffles said, “Has anyone tried spiders silk?”
“Hmm,” said Sonja. “It’s strong and very light. Maybe that’s what you should use.”
“I have to agree,” said Barrington. “I’ve had it stuck in my fur before. It’s very strong indeed.”
Pengey’s beamed. “Do you know a spider who can make it? He asked Sniffles.
“I do. Grumpy. She’s garden spider who lives in the bushes just above my nest.”
“Can we go and ask her if she’ll make the leash?” said Pengey.
Sniffles thought for a moment. “She’s always in a bad mood,” he said finally, “but it won’t hurt to ask her.”
So Pengey, Barrington, Sniffles, and Sonja went over to visit Grumpy Spider. She had just finished repairing a hole in her web that the wind had made that morning.
Sniffles said, “Excuse me, Grumpy.”
“My friend needs a leash for his ladybug, and he’s wondering if you could make one.”
“No. It’s time for my nap and I haven’t caught any flies since yesterday. Go away.”
Pengey, Sonja, Barrington, and Sniffles looked sadly at each other. It seemed hopeless. But just then, a big nasty horsefly flew into Grumpy’s web. She dashed across and spun a sack around the fly.
“It looks like you and your friends have brought me a little good luck,” she told Sniffles. “Who is it that needs the leash?”
Pengey raised his flipper and said, “That would be me, ma’am.”
“How tall are you?”
“Almost twelve inches,” said Pengey.
“Hmm?” said Grumpy. “I guess about eighteen inches ought to do it. I’ll make it four strands thick, so it’ll be strong and easy to handle.”
Pengey conferred with Barrington, Sniffles, and Sonja. They agreed that eighteen inches would be too short.
“If you please, ma’am. Could you make it longer? I don’t want my ladybug to be confined by the leash.”
Grumpy thought for a moment and then said, “Okay. I’ll make it as long as you like. Just tell me when it’s long enough.
Pengey, Sniffles, Barrington and Sonja smiled, while Grumpy started to unfurl her spider silk.
Pengey took it in his flipper and held it as Grumpy wove the leash. And she wove and wove and wove and wove. Before Pengey knew it, the spider silk started to get caught in his feathers.
“Okay,” shouted Pengey. “That’s enough.”
“I can’t stop that fast.” Grumpy shouted back, “You’ll have to take the rest.”
And out it came, another twenty-six feet of spider silk. Pengey was covered in the stuff.
Grumpy stopped weaving. “There,” she said. “How’s that?”
But by now Pengey was completely wrapped in spider silk. Even his beak was wrapped up tight. He was finding it difficult to talk, but he managed a muffled, “Thank you very much. I’ll try it out on Frances. ”
Barrington, Sonja, and Sniffles glanced at each other with amusement between as Pengey tried to trundle away all wrapped up in spider silk. He didn’t get very far before the silk tightened around his ankles and he fell heavily to the ground.
Barrington, Sonja, and Sniffles gathered around and looked at him as he struggled to get his beak open and break free of the sticky silk.
“Miff, muff, miff,” mumbled Pengey, as he lay on the grass looking up at his friends.
“I say, Master Pengey,” said Barrington. “It seems as though you’ve gotten yourself into a sticky bind.”
“Muff, miff,” said Pengey.
Sonja looked at Barrington and said, “I think he’s saying he needs a hand,” said Sonja. She knelt down beside Pengey and untangled his beak.
Pengey said, “Thank you very much, Sonja.
Sniffles and Barrington joined Sonja, and after some time they managed to disentangle Pengey from the sticky spider silk. But now they too were covered with it. While they tried crossly to remove it out of their own fur, Pengey started to back away toward the rosebush. He said, “I’m terribly sorry to have inconvenienced every one.”
Sniffles put one paw on the ground and stepped on a huge clump of spider silk. He hopped around, trying to scrape the silk off his foot. “Oh, no problem, Pengey,” he said. “Just make sure you tell us when you need some more help.”
Pengey continued to back away, blushing. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and tell Frances the bad news.”
“We’ll make every effort to drop by and visit.” huffed Barrington as he tried to pick spider silk out of Sonja’s fur.
Pengey laughed sheepishly and dashed to the rosebush. He looked all around the sickly rose where he had left Frances, but he couldn’t see her anywhere.
“Frances!” he shouted. “Francis!” Had something bad happened to her, he wondered.
But just then Frances crawled out from under a leaf. “It’s all right, Pengey!” she said. “Here I am. I was just going to take my after-breakfast nap.”
“But why did you go under the leaf? Aren’t you upside down like that?”
“Yes, but it’s very comfortable for me,” said Frances. “There’s always danger from wasps and birds, so I sleep where I can’t be seen.” She started to crawl back under the leaf.
Pengey said, “What are you going to do after your nap?”
“Eat some more aphids. That’s what I do. I help save the world from aphids.”
“Okay,” said Pengey. “Have good dreams.”
He walked back around the duck pond to the place where he had left Sonja, Barrington, and Sniffles. They finally got rid of the spider silk.
“Where’s your pet ladybug?” asked Sonja.
“She’s taking an after-breakfast nap.”
“Are you going to join us for kickball?” said Sniffles.
“Just as soon as I eat breakfast.”
“You haven’t eaten breakfast yet?”
Pengey tried to remember why he hadn’t eaten breakfast. He said, “It’s a rather long and complicated story. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Okay,” said Sonja.
So Pengey trundled back to Wendy’s apartment. He walked in just as Wendy was starting to cook breakfast. She said, “Hi Pengey,” she said. “Are you hungry or did you go fishing?”
“My am very hungry.”
She saw that his feathers were wet and that he was covered in spider silk. She picked him up and set him on the top step of his little stepladder. She said, “What’s all this? You’re all wet and covered with spiderweb? How did all this come about?”
“Penguins don’t like huckleberries, and ladybugs taste yucky, and spider silk is sticky.”
Wendy started to brush the cobwebs out of Pengey’s feathers. She said, “You didn’t hurt yourself?”
“Huh-uh. Frances is okay now.”
“My pet ladybug.”
“Do you have Frances with you? Can I see her?”
“No,” said Pengey. “She am on the rosebush by the duck pond.”
Wendy thought, to expect more details might be pushing it, so she said, “Didn’t she want to be you pet any more?
“Oh no! She is my pet. But she has to save the world from aphids.”
“Will you miss her?”
“A little. I’m glad to know she’s around. The world would be a sad without ladybugs.”
“That is true ,” said Wendy. “Do you still want a pet?”
“No, not really.”
“Why? You’ve been talking about pets for some time now.”
“There’s a lot to know before you can have a pet.”
“That is very true .” Wendy told him. “Having a pet is a huge responsibility. Will you still see Frances?”
Pengey twisted his beak into a little smile. “Yes, I can visit her any time I want if she’s still at the rosebush.”
Wendy put a plate of sliced-up tuna fish on the table and sat down with Pengey. While he gobbled up his tuna fish, she ate her English muffin.
“Are you going back to the park today?”
Pengey nodded yes and wolfed down another piece of tuna.
“And what’s going on there today?”
“Kickball! I’m on Sonja’s team.”
“That sounds like a lot of fun.”
Pengey laughed and said, “Yes, it will be fun.”
Wendy said, “You know? . . . You are a silly little penguin.”
Pengey laughed and said, “My am.”