The Briefest of Encounters with the Doubtful Guest

It was only natural for a penguin to wear a striped scarf, she thought. It would be so cold at the south pole, and his mother wouldn't want him catching pneumonia or croup or any number of unpleasant and unnamed viruses. It was the tennis shoes that puzzled her. She wondered where he had gotten them, but much more, she wondered how he tied the laces when they came undone. Flippers were hardly conducive to manual dexterity, after all. "Hallo," she said to him.

He blinked at her twice, inclining his neck toward her by way of greeting. He paused, as though he recalled her vaguely from somewhere else, and looked as if he was about to say something in return, but didn't. That was to be expected, though, especially since penguins cannot talk.

"Lovely weather today, isn't it?" she asked, forgetting about the patch of fog and sleet they had had earlier in the morning. The stranger bobbed his head once in assent after looking up at the sky at the vanishing traces of cumulostratti. His scarf waved mournfully in the last of the morning gusts.

"Do you think it will rain any more today?" she asked. The stranger blinked twice and nodded twice. She neglected to take notice, her muzzle pointed skyward. "I haven't made my mind up about it yet myself. You really can't tell in weather like this."

The stranger made no response other than to wrap his scarf around his neck another turn.

"Well," she said, picking up her shopping basket, "Have a nice day. Goodbye." With that she departed, but a sense of confusion and half-recognition hung over her, and one that she'd forgotten to put something on her shopping list, only to remember it again once she got home. Stamps, perhaps, she thought. She was quite incorrect; it was plum jam, but she'd also forgotten a set of knitting needles and a roll of tape. She pondered once more about the penguin. It was the tennis shoes she couldn't get past.

The stranger himself was also pondering. As he trodded off, he couldn't help wondering where he had seen a dragon with a shopping basket before.


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