This short story formed the basis for a Yorkshire Tale after my daughter got me to climb Pen y Ghent in January!
Sat on a deck chair, relaxing in bright sunshine on a white sand Caribbean beach, was a polar bear, sipping slowly on his pina colada. Glancing to his right, and realising that he probably required another six or seven such drinks in this heat, he saw a small figure in black and white approaching.
‘Waiter,’ he cried, ‘I need another tray of drinks.’
The penguin was quite put out. He approached with disdain.
‘Whoever you are sir, I am not a waiter! I am a penguin.’
‘A penguin? Never heard of such, but you do look like a bird, I’d say, but with a worrying pair of wings.’
‘Really!’ said the offended penguin. ‘Well, I have never seen your like before but you are certainly very huge indeed, and as white as the snow in my land of snow.’
‘How very odd,’ continued the polar bear. ‘I too come from the land of snow but have never seen you, or any other penguin, before today on this white sand beach. Have you come here for a summer holiday?’
The penguin was most perplexed.
‘Indeed not,’ he answered. ‘I’m on a winter break.’
The polar bear was becoming irritated.
‘You, my dear penguin, are clearly suffering from jet lag! The month is July. It is summer.’
The penguin fell about laughing at this. July yes, summer no.
‘If I were you, giant snow white, I would lay off the alcohol!’
The penguin turned and headed slowly back across the beach, whistling Winter Wonderland as he went.
The polar bear put down his drink, put on his pair of dark glasses and countered with a very loud humming of In The Summertime.
Their brief encounter was over for the time being but, later, that evening, back in the hotel that they unknowingly shared….
‘Waiter!’, shouted the polar bear, with a giant raised paw waving slowly, but this time in jest. He was sat at a very large table in the hotel dining room and had just seen his new acquaintance, the penguin, entering the room. The penguin waddled over.
‘May I join you?’, he said, springing up onto the chair opposite as if leaping from the Antarctic sea to escape a killer whale. ‘My word, you do have a pile of food to get through for dinner. What is it?’
The polar bear surveyed the seven plates of food in front of him with a satisfied smile.
‘These, my friend, are what they call burgers. I have found that they fulfil my daily needs as long as I eat a hundred or so. A bit limited taste-wise but not bad with ketchup. Not a patch on seals though.’
The penguin gasped. He knew all about seals!
‘You eat seals! That is very disturbing. Back in the land of snow, seals are my enemy. Seals eat us penguins. My Aunt Lucy, well, I can’t talk about it.Too upsetting.’
‘Good grief’, said the polar bear. ‘Well, what do you penguins eat? It is so very odd that I have never seen you in the land of snow.’
Just then, the real waiter arrived at the table and the penguin ordered sole mignon, or to be precise, three plates of sole mignon. The waiter gestured to his assistant who placed three plates of fish down in front of the penguin. He always ate sole mignon.
‘Ah, so you penguins eat fish!’, exclaimed the polar bear. ‘I too eat fish, but regard them primarily as nibbles, a snack really.’
The penguin thought as he ate. So, polar bears eat seals and fish. Seals eat penguins and penguins eat fish. He pieced together his knowledge of predicate logic that he’d been taught at the Open University summer school. So, in the food chain that would mean that…!!!
The polar bear, too, was puzzling over the information received, but he couldn’t get over the fact that, before this morning’s beach encounter, he’d never met a penguin. The two of them finished their meals.
‘Sorry, my dear fellow’, said the polar bear, ‘but I must take my leave. I’ve got to pack my suitcase. I’m on the 7 o’clock flight in the morning, back to the land of snow. You too?’
‘No’, replied the penguin, a little annoyed but also possibly rather relieved. ‘I was told that I couldn’t get a plane back to the land of snow until the day after tomorrow.’
This too puzzled the polar bear.
‘Well, that does mean that currently you are indeed a flightless bird!’, he guffawed.
The penguin laughed and they parted as friends, never, of course, destined to meet again back in their respective lands of snow. But then again, you never know!