Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Penguins for Lunch

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Penguins for Lunch

Article excerpt

Though dabbling in all three elements, and indeed

possessing some rudimentary claims to all, the penguin

is at home in none. On land it stumps; afloat it

sculls; in the air it flops. As if ashamed of her

failure, Nature keeps this ungainly child hidden away

at the ends of the earth.

--Melville, "The Encantadas"

1. The Ice Floe Bar and Grill

"I'm a high-rolling entrepreneur on the free-market of love," Whistling Pete told his closest friend, Buster Davenport, one sunny afternoon at the Ice Floe Bar and Grill. "You don't blame Mercedes for selling cars, do you? You don't blame McDonald's for frying burgers, or the Japs for peddling cheap cars. Well, what I've got just happens to be what the lit. the girlies want. And when the little girlies want it, well. I don't mean to sound rude, Buster--but I happen to be just the guy that's gonna give it to them."

The Ice Floe Bar and Grill was one of a series of new up-market franchise restaurants that had recently opened all across the tundra. As part of their inaugural promotion campaign, the Ice Floe was offering dollar Margaritas during Happy Hour, along with all the free mackerel you could lay your flippers on.

Whistling Pete slid a creamy oyster into his throat and sighed. He patted his firm white belly, as if testing for tone.

"This is the life, Buster," he said philosophically, leaning back in his green vinyl lawn chair and folding his sleek muscular flippers behind his head. He and Buster were sitting on a veranda overlooking the outdoor pool. "Sunny days, starry nights, envelopes of rich fatty tissue to keep our butts warm, and loving spouses to go home to. What more could we ask? What more, that is, than maybe a hasty little frolic in the frost with one of yonder ice-maidens?"

Nodding towards the various lithe Penguinettes sporting themselves seductively around the pool, Whistling Pete clock-clocked his black tongue. His entire body shivered with a slow delicious enthusiasm for itself.

"Yeah, well, I just hope you know what you're doing," Buster said. Buster's gaze was roving back and forth across the restaurant and patio. He kept glancing sheepishly over his shoulders, as if he expected their indignant wives to appear at any moment brandishing blunt objects.

When the waitress came up behind him and said, "How you boys doing?" Buster nearly jumped out of his socks.

"Whoa, there, Buster--relax, old buddy. It's not the gendarmes, you know." Whistling Pete cautioned his friend with an upraised flipper and presented the waitress his best award-winning smile. "And how are you doing this afternoon, sweetie?"

"If you boys don't need anything," she said, "I'll go check on my other tables."

Buster, slightly out of breath, was still smoothing his ruffled tail feathers. "I guess I'll have another Margarita," he said, looking forlornly at his empty white side dish. "And if Happy Hour's still on, could you maybe find us a little more mackerel?"

Whistling Pete unashamedly examined the waitress's fatty deposits.

"Me," Whistling Pete said, "I'll have what some of what she's having."

He indicated the large commercial advertisement posted behind the bar. The ad featured a lithe, lovely Penguinette scantily clad in a white silk top hat and baggy white fishnet stockings. She was leaning against a sporty red snowmobile and stroking a large icy bottle of Smirnoff's.

The bold black caption exclaimed: IT'S PENGUINIFIC!

While Buster resumed his edgy lookout for wives, Whistling Pete appreciatively watched their waitress waddle back to the bar with their order.

"Vah-vah-vah-voom!" he said, and saluted her departing buttocks with the dissolving ice in his glass. Then he tossed down the slush with the last of his oyster sliders. His toes evinced a self-satisfied little wriggle. …

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