The story so far:
Chase examined the machine – more accurately, the assembly of machines into a greater machine – “greater” dealing solely with the size at this stage, as the contraption’s functionality hadn’t yet earned such a status. Wires connected his clock radio to a foot massager he’d received as a Christmas gift, undoubtedly something regifted as no one Chase knew would ever think of his feet. His mattress was upturned against the wall, the boxspring cover torn open, its coils punctuating whatever the penguin was constructing. The faint aromas of Lysol and ammonia drifted, and he faintly remembered inhaling that combination too much could lead to his fainting. He pinched his nose and hoped the penguin wouldn’t read that as him thinking the invention stunk (and why should the bird believe that? Did arctic waterfowl hold their beaks in disapproval?)
“Dude?” Chase began, “What is this thing?”
“It’s my ship.”
“If you’re going to ask dumb questions, the least you can do is help. Screwdriver.”
Chase located the tool and passed it to the requestor. The penguin wrapped his toes around it and manipulated the handle until it turned the necessary screws.
“You got a name?” Chase wished he had better questions, but it was late and he was too frustrated that his television had been dismantled to bother. Somewhere, Chase figured, someone was probably writing a self-help, coffee table book entitled “Chicken Soup for the Guy Who Has a Penguin in His Bedroom Building a Spaceship.” But such a book was not there for consultation.
“I do. Because you’ve been so kind as to lend me supplies from your stockpile, I will let you address me as Flipper.”
“Dude. Flipper’s a dolphin.”
Courtesy of his Nick at Nite education, Chase knew his Sea World animals. He even knew Shamu was a whale, but if asked what species, he’d have to guess.
“No, sir. I’m a penguin. Whereas you, sir, are a human who produces imbecilic remarks that waste oxygen and pollute the audiosphere. But kismet has apparently destined our paths to intersect at this precise location at this exact time, so I suppose we’ll need to accept our differences and progress forward from here.”
Somewhere in there was a curse word. Without full recognition, Chase sensed it. Talking penguins. Okay. It wasn’t the most shocking revelation he’d ever had. Heck, scientists fifty years ago found a horse who could speak.
“What now?” Chase inquired.
“Now I depart.”
The bird filled its lungs with air and swelled to nearly twice its original size. Clamping its beak on a crossbar (was that Chase’s shower rod?), it swung into a modified cockpit and squished into a seat.
That ship was not shape to get up to space, Chase thought. Or something involving shaping up and shipshape spaceships. Wow, it was late. He cleared his mind, cleared his throat, and asked what felt like a logical question to anyone looking for an excuse for playing hookie from the early shift in a Denny’s kitchen:
“Can I come too?”
(It beat “So penguins can fly now?”)
Keypads flickered with electricity, and Chase felt his hair reaching skyward. Correction: Chase was upside-down. In this reconstructed jalopy, he and Flipper soared upward into the night sky.