by Katherine Parker


Overheard from the next aisle.

“He needs a job. You should hire him.”
“No thanks, I don’t need a penguin.”
“He’s got a sick missus and an egg at home.”
“An egg, huh?”
“Yeah, and he’s been out of work awhile.”
“Wha’d he do?”
“I’d rather not say.”
“Why not?”
“It’s embarrassing.”
“Well . . . because it is.”
“Tell me why.”
“Because, it’s . . . porn.”
“Yeah, penguin porn.”
“The penguin did penguin porn?”
“He’s famous for it.”
“The penguin is a penguin porn star?”
“There’s quite a niche market.”
“A niche market for penguin porn?”
“Yup, turns out, there are quite a few freaks.”
“Freaks who watch penguin porn?”
“Yeah. Personally, I think it’s the whales, but who knows.”
“What whales?”
“Those killer whales.”
“Killer whales watch penguin porn?”
“Yeah, they’re kinda sick.”
“I wouldn’t have known.”
“Yeah, they keep it quiet.”
“Why’d he get laid off?”
“Creative differences.”
“What kind?”
“They wanted him to quack.”
“Yeah, like a duck.”
“Penguins don’t quack.”
“That’s what he said.”
“But they wanted him to do it anyway?”
“Good for him, for sticking to his principles.”
“That’s what I said.”
“Why doesn’t he get a real job if he’s been laid off?”
“Doesn’t have any other marketable skills.”
“Oh, he’s a specialist?”
“Yeah, he specialized in penguin porn.”
“Couldn’t he get skills?”
“I’ve told him he doesn’t need skills.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s a penguin. All he has to do is waddle and look cute.”
“Who would pay him?”
“He could set a cup out on the street.”
“How would that work?”
“He’d look cute and people would put money in the cup.”
“Seems like begging.”
“It wouldn’t be begging. I think they call it busking.”
“He’d just look cute, how is that busking?”
“He could set up near a fountain and do tricks in the water.”
“That could work.”
“Yeah, except he can’t swim.”
“He what?”
“He can’t swim.”
“He’s a penguin. All they do is swim, waddle and look cute.”
“Never could. His mother was a kelp addict.”
“The penguin’s mother was an addict?”
“Yeah, he was a kelp egg.”
“That’s a rough start.”
“He’s had a rough life.”
“But, he has a wife and an egg now?”
“Turned his life around, good for him.”
“Not really. Penguin porn stars are all kelp addicts or snort cod.”
“Penguins snort cod?”
“Yeah, kelp is the gateway drug. Cod’s hard core.”
“He’s an addict?”
“Well, he was, but he got clean.”
“Wha’d he use?”
“Kelp. He never got into the hard stuff.”
“What about his wife?”
“She didn’t get into it either.”
“No. I mean, was she in porn?”
“Yeah, that’s how they met.”
“She was a penguin porn star, too?”
“Oh, no. She didn’t have ‘the look.’”
“Penguins all look alike.”
“To us, yeah, but to them and the whales . . .”
“Wha’d she do?”
“Costuming, I think.”
“They need costumes for penguin porn?”
“Yeah, gotta set the mood, you know.”
“Is she still working?”
“No, she’s sick.”
“How sick?”
“She’s on disability.”
“Penguins have disability?”
“Yeah, but it isn’t enough for them and the egg.”
“Why’d they have the egg if they couldn’t take care of it?”
“When they had the egg, he was still doing penguin porn.”
“And now, he’s unemployed.”

Walking around the end of the toy aisle, I snatched the stuffed penguin from the associate. “Go home. The penguin can have your job.”