I once spent an entire day driving a penguin around New York City. I didn’t exactly ask to do this but I’ve been paid to do stranger things. My boss was a six foot four inch Samoan with a chipped incisor and permanently affixed antique aviator glasses. I was only allowed to call him Mr. McFitz. I knew that wasn’t his real name but he didn’t pay me to ask questions. What he paid me for was precise and accurate delivery of whatever was in the boxes that I loaded onto my rental truck.
One day after I had the truck pretty much full, McFitz [as I called him to myself] brought me my delivery route. He had this penguin behind him too. It was a strange penguin, didn’t really look like it was in a tuxedo, didn’t look particularly interested in anything either. It shat on the floor as I watched. McFitz said to me:Take my penguin with you today. Give it whatever it wants. Sure thing, Mr. McFitz. I replied. I picked up the penguin, which smelled like fish for some reason, and buckled him in the passenger seat.
My first stop was the City Cricketstocker. The penguin didn’t do much on the way there, just looked at me out of its little eyes and shat again, this time on the seat. I thought it might be a little warm for the critter, even though it was winter, so I turned rolled down the windows and turned on the air conditioning. I got some paper towel from the guys at the Knick to clean up the penguin shit in my truck. When I came back out, the penguin has somehow managed to unbuckle itself and was waddling around on the floor near the gearshift. It had also shat again, this time on my delivery notebook. I could tell this wasn’t going to be the best of days.
I hopped back into the truck, picked up the penguin and was promptly bitten. I figured it must be time for the penguin to eat so I got back out of the truck and went into a bodega for a tin of sardines or some anchovies or even lox if the place was kosher. I ended up getting all three, but by now I was way behind schedule. I was going to have to pick up my pace. Damn penguin. I opened the can of sardines and chucked it over to where the penguin was supposed to be. I said ‘supposed to be’ because the penguin wasn’t there. Shit. No, really, there was just a larger pile of penguin shit in the passenger seat. The penguin was sitting on the dashboard right behind the steering wheel and was staring at me.
I picked it up again, got pecked again, plopped it unceremoniously in its own penguin poo and took off for a place that specialized in jerked chicken and black market golf equipment. The penguin ate its sardines, quite sullenly I might add, and behaved itself.
When I came out of Ludwig’s Hole-In-One Jamaican Food, a short and fat and old Hispanic lady was peering intently at my penguin. For the record, I’d like to say that the penguin was peering just as intently at the old woman.How much for el pollo? Apparently she thought the penguin was for sale and thought it was some sort of chicken. The truck gave a lurch and rolled over the woman. I looked in the driver’s side window and saw that the penguin had released the hand brake. It was now firmly positioned behind the steering wheel and it gave me a look that said ‘Get in the passenger side or get lost.’ I clambered in on the passenger side, got penguin shit on my hand and was forced to sit in the poo that I had put my captor in not long before. I noticed that it had the imprints of two webbed feet right before I squished down on it.
The penguin took off, going the wrong way down The Avenue of the Americas, barreling toward Chinatown. We knocked over everything in our way. I still don’t know how many people we ran down, how many street vendors will vend no more. It was terrible. When we got to Canal Street I lost consciousness.
Two minutes later my alarm went off.