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Just a Waddle Away

Josie Pendergraf's Penguin Adventure

By Bonnie Joy SludikoffPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Just a Waddle Away
Photo by FETHI BOUHAOUCHINE on Unsplash

Josie Pendergraf shivered, wiping another splash of water off her cheek. She couldn't tell the difference between the ocean water and her tears.

Mama smiled, somehow managing a giggle.

"Snuggle up little penguin," she said soothingly, opening her arms for the little girl to curl in deeper.

They'd been floating for what seemed to be weeks, but in reality it had only been a few hours. It was dark and after several frenetic waves of struggle, the lifeboat had finally grown quiet.

"Mama?" Josie asked with her high-pitched voice, but her mother put her fingertip to her lips.

Jaqueline whispered in the little girl's ear. "Just an adventure, darling. Nothing to be afraid of."

Josie was scared, but too tired to struggle. She squeezed into her mother's arms as tightly as she could, doing her best to ignore the damp fabric of her dress.

The five year old was small for her age, but precocious enough to understand an act when she saw one. But part of her hoped it would continue.

After a nap of some indeterminate length, Josie was stirred awake. It was still pitch black out and the lifeboat was taking on some bigger waves. But somehow, it seemed all of the grown-ups were asleep, as well as the other children, most of whom were younger than her.

Josie sighed. She heard a small, helpless whimpering, but it took her a few minutes to realize it was coming from her. She was afraid, of course. She tugged on mama's frilly collar, but she did not wake. She wondered if she'd scold her for waking her up.

She herself felt so much colder since being stirred out of sleep. She was getting colder and hungrier and the whimpering, which seemed to be somehow outside of her own body, grew louder.

Then a song came, seemingly disembodied. It was a lullaby.

'Hush m'baby. Hush don'cha cry. For mama'll sing ye a lullabye. Hush m'baby, dear one be calm. For mama will make ye feel safe b'for long.'

It was quiet, like noise coming from another room.

Josie stayed snuggled in her mama's arms, but used her peripheral visual to look around the boat. Everyone seemed to be sleeping.

When the song stopped suddenly, Josie tried to sit up, but she settled when the lullaby started up again.

'When my baby fears the roaring wind. When my baby fear's the storm. Oh my baby I'll bring to my arms. With mama she'll be warm.'

Josie wondered if anyone else could hear the quiet lullaby or if it was just in her head. Nontheless, she closed her eyes and snuggled her mother even tighter.

When she woke up, her mother looked different. Not the way she normally looked in the morning. All of the women on the lifeboat looked the same. With a sort of blue-ish tint and some extra lines around their eyes.

"How much longer, mama," Josie's asked her mother.

"Just another waddle-waddle, little penguin!" Jacqueline said with a playful wink.

"Waddle-waddle," Josie repeated in a silly voice that made her mother let out a giggle that set free a deep cough.

The heavy-set man beside them out an exasperated sigh and muttered something to Jacqueline, but Josie could not hear her reply from where she laid, with her head resting in her mother's lap.

Now the clouds were out. Josie looked up into the sky, silently begging the sun to come out. It seemed even colder than the night before. Her dress stuck to her skin, but when she pulled it away, it only snapped back making her more uncomfortable.

She could hear some women chatting a few feet away. She made eye contact with one of them and they stopped suddenly, the way grown-ups always did when they'd been caught saying things not intended for children.

The man at the front of the lifeboat made some sort of announcement, but Josie missed it. She was lulled into sleep again.

They followed this pattern of tears and songs and naps for what seemed like forever. But after some time, Josie woke up from her nap to find that her dress was dry.

"Mama?" she asked.

She found herself in a parlor with light green wallpaper and books too high to reach. Just outside the room were voices, but she could not understand any of the words.

"Mama?" Josie said again, meekly.

Something stopped her from leaving the room, so she sat.

No one came back to tell her how many more waddles or even where the water closet was. She tried to sit quietly, but after awhile she heard those same disembodied sobs.

A women with harsh wrinkles around her mouth came into the room, already looking disgruntled. She put down a heavy plate with some crackers, cheese, and fruit.

Then she stopped for a moment to stare at the little girl, who opened her mouth but did not immediately speak.

"Mama?" Josie asked and the woman looked down for a moment.

The little girl stared until she couldn't anymore. She snatched a cracker off the plate and got so distracted in the wonderful feeling of chewing, she didn't notice when the woman left.

Before long Josie fell asleep again.

When her mother woke her up with a kiss on the cheek, Josie reached out and flung both arms around her neck. Her mother took her by the hand and took her along, waddling into the next room.

Josie did not know what adventure lay ahead, but she knew she was safe.


About the Creator

Bonnie Joy Sludikoff

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