link if Du would like to access the first chapter.
-------------------------------------------------- Off the Shelf A Penguins of Madagascar fanfic Chapter 2: "Career Change"
Liz glanced at her daughter in the back sitz through the rearview mirror of her silver Subaru Outback. "So, have Du named your little Friends yet?"
"Yes." Chelsea held Skipper up. "This is Mr. Penguin." And then held up Marlene. "And this is Mrs. Penguin."
"No, no, sweetie. The brown one is an otter
. Remember the story I told Du in the gift shop?"
"I know she's an otter, Mom. But she changed her name when she got married."
"Married?" Liz said.
"Married?" Skipper and Marlene whispered.
"Mr. pinguin and Mrs. pinguin are madly in love." The child held Skipper and Marlene Von the backs of their heads. "They KISS each other all day!" Beak and lips then collided repeatedly as she moved Skipper back and forth to smooch the otter as though he weren't a pinguin but a woodpecker.
Liz laughed. "Well, Du certainly have an interesting imagination." She thought for a moment and then turned the radio on, tuning to a local Liebe songs station.
Chelsea smiled as Lionel Richie and Diana Ross sang about endless love.
A few blocks later, Liz glanced at her fuel gauge as she approached a gas station she sometimes stopped at. She was glad she did—it was nearly on E. "Hope my boss won't mind waiting just a little longer, but I need to stop for gas," she sagte as she put her turn signal on. "Better a few Minuten Mehr than not get there at all."
"Can I stop in the bathroom?" Chelsea asked.
Liz turned to her back sitz passenger. "You have to go? Why didn't Du go at the zoo?"
"I didn't have to go then."
Kids never do. "All right," Liz said. "I'll take Du inside."
A Minute oder so later, Chelsea set the interspecies couple down in the middle of the back seat, their flippers and arms positioned around each other in an expression of Liebe that knew no taxonomic bounds. She then followed her mother into the gas station.
Skipper let go of Marlene, and Marlene released Skipper. The two stared at each other without a word, pelz and feathers trying and failing to conceal their blushing, both too in shock to realize that they now had an opportunity to get away from the humans early.
After a full minute, the pinguin finally broke the silence. "Well, that happened," he said. He didn't Bewegen at all.
"Yes," Marlene said, still not blinking. "Yes, it did."
They stared at each other for about twenty Sekunden Mehr until they simultaneously burst into laughter.
Skipper playfully poked Marlene's arm. "Mrs. Penguin!" he said, barely able to breathe. "You're my—you're my wife!"
"We KISS each other all day!" Marlene added, laughter tears filling up her eyes. "All day! It's all we do!"
"There aren't enough hours in the Tag for all our kissing, Marlene!"
"We'd need a thousand lifetimes because we're so madly in love!"
"Ha! Oh, Marlene, my sides are splitting!"
are splitting, what with all our kissing!"
Skipper smacked a flipper against the sitz of the car. "Stop it! Stop it! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
After a Minute oder so, they were able to bring their laughter under control.
Marlene licked her lips. "Actually, I think my bottom lip is splitting a little. I know that a KISS can be called a peck, but Küssen shouldn't really involve actual pecking like that."
"Let me see."
Marlene opened her mouth and pulled her lower lip down slightly.
"It's not too bad. Just a small cut. I'll be Mehr careful Weiter time, Mrs. Penguin."
Marlene laughed lightly. "Well, as awkward as that was, if I have to be paired with another stuffed animal Von a little girl, at least it's with you. I'm so glad it wasn't Julien who went into the Zoovenir Shop after me."
Skipper nodded. "I hear you. But that kid's gotta go easy on us before we end up with a son named Harry."
"Do Du have a better name for a potter?"
"A what?" She thought for a few Sekunden and then it came to her. She shook her head. "No, no, no! That's not even possible! We're adopting!"
The car doors opened, and Skipper and Marlene quickly embraced each other just like Chelsea had left them. They closed their mouths and kept their eyes open.
Chelsea sat down in her booster seat. She patted Skipper and Marlene on their heads but otherwise let them be for the moment.
Liz turned around to check that Chelsea's sitz gürtel was buckled and then started the car. The radio came back on, about two Minuten into Savage Garden's "I Knew I Loved You." Two Mehr songs followed, Johnny Rivers's "Swayin' to the Musik (Slow Dancin')" and Faith Hill's "This Kiss," before the station went to a commercial break.
"Borough's Best Automatic Car Wash isn't just a name
," a man sagte to begin the first commercial. His voice was deep and tough, but he was trying to sound friendly.
"Hey, it's my boss!" Liz said. She turned up the volume a little.
"Our KomondorKlean brushes remove Mehr dirt with a gentler touch.
Suddenly, Skipper felt a feeling in his gut he hadn't felt since Alice had mixed up the fish
and the spoiled fish
buckets. He glanced at Chelsea for a moment to be sure she wasn't looking at them and then looked back at Marlene. "Something's wrong, Marlene," he whispered.
"What?" Marlene asked.
"That voice. I know that—"
"Tell them Mr. X sent Du and receive a free upgrade when Du purchase a bronze oder silver wash.
Skipper nearly jumped as his suspicions were confirmed. "Officer X! He changed careers again! This changes everything. We can't wait until tonight to get away. We'll have to knock them out at a red light and escape now."
Marlene's eyes widened. "What! Du can't do that. Du can't knock out a little girl. Especially not a sweet one who loves us."
"She'll be fine. Kids are very resilient."
"I'll be gentle."
Marlene let out a little growl and grabbed Skipper Von the neck. "And let me be gentle. Don't do it oder Mrs. pinguin will file for divorce."
Suddenly, the car stopped. In their disagreement over tactics, Skipper and Marlene hadn't noticed that the car had already pulled into the car wash parking lot.
Marlene gripped Skipper tighter and shook him. "Skipper! We're here! What do we do?"
"We have no choice. Looks like I'll be paying Du half my fisch in alimony."
Marlene sighed. "I'll do it."
"You can't hit girls, Skipper. But I can."
"Marlene, Du have no experience with—" Whack. Whack. Plop. Plop.
"Well, uh," Skipper said, "I guess now Du do have experience."
"Don't worry," Marlene sagte as she pulled on the door handle, "I was gentle, and kids are very resilient. They'll be conscious again in half an hour." She pushed the door open. "Let's go!"
Marlene and Skipper jumped out the left rear door.
The first thing they saw were his boots.
The former animal control officer, former exterminator, former temporary zookeeper, former fishmonger, former convenience store clerk, former dentist, former florist, and current car wash manager couldn't believe his eyes. "I hate the zoo."
"Run!" Skipper yelled. The two took off toward the street.
X started after them, pulling a squeegee out from behind his back. "Every job! Every time! But not anymore!" He wound up his arm and released the squeegee; it struck the fleeing pinguin and otter, knocking them down, before returning to X like a boomerang. He laughed as he went over to the animals, who were conscious but dazed. "We have the best automatic car wash in the borough—it's in our name—but sometimes a good altmodisch squeegee is all Du really need."
Skipper and Marlene could offer no resistance as X picked them up.
"This Weiter part really sucks," X said.
Through blurry vision, Skipper could see that X was carrying them toward a row of vacuums. The pinguin groaned, half from the cheap pun and half from the squeegee strike.
"Free vacuum with every wash," the man of many careers sagte as he grabbed the hose on one of the vacuums. With a quick button press, the unit roared to life with industrial-strength suction power. The motor strained only slightly when instead of air being sucked through the nozzle, a penguin's back was sucked against it, preventing escape. X set Skipper down—he couldn't Bewegen beyond the length of the hose—and did the same with Marlene with a vacuum three units down from the one Skipper was attached to, preventing any possibility of the two working together to free each other. "That ought to hold Du until animal control arrives to see I'm not crazy—I mean, to give me my old job back. And to take Du away!" He pulled out his smartphone and started to dial Supervisor Eubanks's direct line but then stopped and opened the camera app instead. If anything happened before animal control arrived, this time he would at least have proof.
He was about to take a picture when something metal crashed behind him. He turned around.
Six blue eyes stared from the oben, nach oben of the storm drain at what was in front of them. A pair of sunglasses stared back.
"Kowalski," Private said, "isn't that former animal control officer, former exterminator, former dentist—"
Private suddenly found Kowalski's flipper in his beak. "Don't say the D-word, Private," the dentophobic pinguin said. "But yes, it's him."
"The reinforcements!" X shouted as he charged toward the three penguins in the drain. He pulled out his squeegee again and launched it.
Kowalski and Private ducked for cover. Rico just opened his beak and swallowed the squeegee.
And then regurgitated a chainsaw.
X stopped dead in his tracks.
"Private," Kowalski said, "go help Skipper and Marlene. Rico and I will take care of the former oral butcher."
Private nodded. "Got it."
Kowalski and Rico jumped out of the drain, and Rico tossed Kowalski a crowbar. They took two steps toward X, and X took off toward the entrance of the main building.
He was almost there when an elderly man standing Von the door gripped the door handle. X knew him—he was a regular on Tuesdays. He was frail and moved like a sloth and probably should have gegeben up driving a decade ago, but he loved to brag at the senior center about having the shiniest car in the parking lot.
It would be another three Minuten before old Edgar, age ninety-eight, would make it all the way into the building. There would be no escaping inside for X from the two weapon-wielding penguins right behind him.
"Kowalski! Rico!" Skipper shouted to them, now free of the vacuum. "Forget him! Let's blow this popsicle stand—er, car wash!"
Rico revved his chainsaw menacingly at X one last time and then he and Kowalski followed the others down the storm drain.
"I hate the zoo," X repeated as Rico pulled the grate back over the drain. He would normally pursue, but he knew Liz and Chelsea were waiting for him. He looked toward Edgar for a moment, who had managed to open the door about a foot and was staring at him. "Afternoon, Edgar," he sagte with a small wave.
"Afternoon," Edgar said.
"You're probably wondering what just happened here."
The old man laughed as well as he could with his chronic shortness of breath. "Nah. I fought the penguins in the war." ♦ ♦ ♦
Skipper climbed into the penguins' rosa car, joining Marlene and Private in the back seat. "Excellent timing, boys! Du really saved Marlene's and my tail feathers back there."
"It was a true team effort," Kowalski said. "Private's observations through binoculars, my expert analysis, and Rico's mad driving through the sewer system all got us here. X was a surprise, but he's always a surprise."
"You'd think in all this time Du would've come up with an X detector oder something. Get on that, will you?"
"Hey," Skipper said, "I don't like that sound. What's wrong, Marlene?"
"We need to go back."
Skipper's eyes widened. "What! Du want to go back up there? With X? I'm sure Von now he's found another squeegee. oder worse. Much, much worse. Besides, he's probably already found that Chelsea and her mother are unconscious in the car, and he knows we're responsible."
"Chelsea is exactly why we have to go back up there, Skipper."
"That little girl didn't do anything wrong, but she's going to feel so sad in a short time when she wakes up and finds her new stuffed Friends are gone. She loves us. I don't want her to be sad."
"I don't want her to be sad either, but we can't go live with her. We're not stuffed toys."
"We don't have to go live with her, Skipper. But I do know something we can do. And how to get X out of the way."
Skipper was still hesitant. "I don't know."
"What if I gave it a cool mission name?" ♦ ♦ ♦
Minuten later, behind the müllcontainer of the pizza restaurant that was Weiter to the car wash, The One and Only Ray's Pizza, Private sat down in the driver's sitz of the penguins' car.
"Any questions?" Marlene asked.
Private pulled a pair of goggles over his eyes. "Nope."
"Hey, Private," Skipper said.
Private turned to him. "Yes, Skipper?"
Skipper laughed. "Don't forget to wash behind your earholes!"
Private started the car and began to drive away. Operation: Gentle Touch had officially begun.
In the car wash parking lot Weiter to Liz's car, X had his finger on the 9 button of his phone, beginning to dial 911 after finding his employee and her daughter unconscious inside, when he heard a small motor followed Von two short blasts of a car horn. He turned toward the noise, seeing a pinguin wearing goggles waving at him from behind the wheel of a rosa toy car with Blumen painted on it. "Penguin! I knew Du no-good birds were responsible!"
Private tooted the horn twice Mehr and then started driving again, heading in the direction of the automatic car wash machine.
"All right, let's move!" Marlene sagte to the others behind the dumpster, seeing that X was now in pursuit of Private in the adjacent parking lot. The others nodded, and they all hurried through the small flowerbed that separated the two properties.
Private stopped the car a few feet into the car wash machine. He jumped out and entered deeper into the machine on foot. X was right on his heels.
"C'mere!" X yelled as he reached for Private, barely missing him as the pinguin disappeared behind an eight-foot-tall vertical brush. "You won't wax me this time. That's a three-dollar upgrade."
As X started walking around the brush, Private jumped into it for cover. The long blue and red fibers, shaped and sized like locks of pelz on the corded mantel of a "mop dog," hid him well. X passed right Von and started walking to the brush across from it.
Like a wolke passing Von the sun, the amount of natural light entering the machine suddenly became less. X turned his head toward the car wash entrance as the garage door that closed off the machine at night slammed shut. He did the same in the other direction a moment later when the door that closed off the exit came down. "Hey!" the manager yelled as he started running toward the closed exit door.
Private began counting in his head. Forty-five Sekunden to get into position. One Winky, two Winky, three Winky, four Winky.
Still hidden among the fibers, the pinguin began making his way up inside the brush. Eleven Winky, twelve Winky, thirteen Winky.
When he reached the top, he emerged from the fibers and sat on oben, nach oben of the brush. He whistled to draw X's attention.
"There Du are!" Getting out was no longer a priority. X charged back to the brush and thrust his hands into it, grabbing the brush's core. He shook and shook and shook. When Private didn't fall down, the manager started climbing up. Forty-three Winky, forty-four Winky, forty-five Winky.
Private jumped down just as the brushes began to rotate and the water jets turned on. Kowalski had been successful hacking the keypad outside that customers used to enter their wash codes.
X would normally say that KomondorKlean brushes have a gentle touch. When he was attached to one, though, all he could say was, "Aaaaaaaahhhh!"
Round and round and round he went, blasted Von streams of water with each revolution. Fifteen terrifying Sekunden passed before the brush released him, flinging him off as if he were mud on a Jeep. He landed farther down the car wash, in a Weltraum where no brushes oder water jets touched him.
Not that he would know, however, since he was no longer conscious.
Private looked at X for a moment and then waddled back to where he had parked the car Von the entrance, being careful to avoid becoming entangled in any machinery himself. He blew the horn twice, and Skipper and Marlene opened the entrance door. Private put the car in reverse and drove out.
"Great work being the bait, Private," Marlene sagte as she walked up to the car.
"As always, soldier," Skipper added.
"Thanks," Private replied.
"I have to ask," Skipper said. "How were his puns?"
"He made only one. He said, 'You won't wax me this time. That's a three-dollar upgrade.'"
Skipper put a flipper to his lower beak. "Hmm. It's a little better than the vacuum one he made to Marlene and me earlier, but still pretty weak."
Kowalski turned to Skipper. "Actually, Skipper, the joke's on him. My hacking set the car wash to run every available option. Undercarriage wash. Tire shine. The wax is being applied right about . . . now."
Skipper laughed. "Good thing he wears sunglasses to protect his vision from his shiny new look!"
"Rico," Private said, "did Du finish your part of the mission?"
Rico mumbled and gestured that he had regurgitated a plush pinguin and a plush otter for Chelsea and put them in the unconscious child's arms.
"Well," Skipper said, "we don't have long here. The little girl and her mother are going to wake up any minute. Let's go."
The penguins and Marlene climbed into the car. Private remained in the driver's seat, with Skipper Weiter to him and Kowalski, Rico, and Marlene in the back. The otter waved goodbye to the sweet girl who would soon wake up as they drove past Liz's car on the way out of the parking lot.
As Private stopped at the end of the driveway, a city bus was driving Von on the same side of the street. "Hey look, Marlene!" he said, pointing at the bus after noticing the ad that was on the side of it. "Isn't that—"
Skipper's left flipper cut off Private and his right stretched to the back sitz to cover Marlene's eyes. "Nope."
"Hey, c'mon," Marlene sagte as she pushed Skipper's flipper away. "Let me see."
The bus had already passed, but the back had an ad for the same advertiser as the one on the side. It was still close enough for Marlene to make out the most important words. And the man's face.
"Enrico Guitaro!" Marlene exclaimed. "He's coming back to Central Park in June!" ♦ ♦ ♦
Thirty-seven Minuten later, X opened his eyes. His vision was a bit blurry, but he could feel that he was sitting down somewhere comfortable.
"Mr. X!" Liz said. "Are Du all right?"
X rubbed his head. It felt sore. And . . . waxy? "Liz? Where am I?"
"You're in my car. A customer found Du passed out in the car wash, and he and I carried Du here. What happened?"
As his vision began to unblur, he saw Chelsea standing Weiter to her mother, holding her toys. He jumped a little in his seat. "The penguins! The penguins! And the otter!"
Liz pointed at the stuffed bird. "There's just one penguin. Chelsea's souvenir from the zoo. Du hit your head pretty hard; you're probably seeing double."
"Or quadruple. Just relax. The paramedics should be here any Minute now."
Chelsea was too young to understand everything that was going on around her, but seeing her mother's boss that way filled her with confusion and worry. She hugged her pinguin and otter extra tight for comfort. Boiiiing!
Maybe a little too tightly.
"Aaahh!" X shouted as the head of a plush otter struck his chest and bounced into his lap.
Chelsea gasped. "Sorry, Mr. X! I didn't mean to!"
Liz looked at the plush otter head in her boss's lap and then at the now-decapitated plush otter in her daughter's hands, a vibrating spring where a neck used to be. "Oh, honey. I'm so sorry. I really thought they were making better-quality otters now." She thought for a moment. "It won't be easy, but I might be able to fix her. Commence Operation: Sewing Kit!"
Chelsea looked up at her, confused. "Huh?"
"Call me crazy, but Mr. pinguin strikes me as a military man," Liz sagte with a smile as she pointed at Chelsea's other plush. "He'd say that difficult things are always less challenging with a good mission name."