Huffin the Puffin (A children’s story)—D. McShea, 2012
The City and the Summer
Huffin the puffin sat on a fence overlooking the sea. Seagull fluttered down next to him.
“I have a question,” said Huffin.
“Hi,” said Seagull. “How’ve you been?”
“Fine,” said Huffin. “Except I have a question.”
“Weather’s not looking great,” said Seagull. And it really wasn’t. The sky was cloudy, and a cold wind gusted from time to time. Behind, it looked a bit like rain. In front, the waves crashed on the rocky shore, far below them.
“Yes, crummy weather,” said Huffin, indifferently. “But still I have this question.”
“I’ll try to help,” Seagull said, helpfully. Seagull straightened himself on the fence, in readiness to hear an Important Question.
“Are you good at answering questions? Do you know a lot?” Puffin asked.
“I know a few things,” said Seagull confidently. He prided himself on his wide knowledge.
“Good,” said Huffin. “Then you’ll probably be able to help me. Tell me: is it hotter in the city than it is in the summer?”
Seagull paused. Then, “Oh.” And then, “What?” And finally, “Huh?”
“I just want to know whether it’s hotter in the city than it is in the summer. Or is it the other way around? Is the summer hotter than the city? Because I’ve heard that the city is hotter. But you know that could just be wrong. It could be hotter in the summer. Which is it, do you think?”
Seagull cleared his throat, “Well, I don’t know … “
“Have you been to the city?” Huffin asked.
“Well, yes,” said Seagull, “I went to Halifax once.”
“Was it hot in Halifax?”
“Sorta. I mean it was hot. But not too hot. But still hot. Halifax isn’t all that hot, as cities go.”
“How did the weather there compare to the summer?” Huffin asked.
“It was nice. I like Halifax,” Seagull replied.
“Yes, lovely” said Huffin. “But what we need know is whether it was hotter there than in the summer?”
A cold gust blew over them, ruffling their feathers. Huffin readjusted his, for warmth. Seagull didn’t seem to notice, his quills now lying all askew. He shifted from foot to foot, a little uncomfortable. He cleared his throat, as if to speak. Then paused. Then spoke, “It was summer when I was there.”
“Oh, said Huffin. “I guess that makes it hard to say whether it was hotter when you were there than in the summer,” said Huffin. “Well, never mind the time you were there. How about in general? Do you think it’s hotter in the city than it is in the summer usually, most of the time, on average?”
Seagull was silent.
“It’s okay if you don’t know,” said Huffin flatly. “Just thought you might. Not a big deal if you don’t.”
“Well, I think it’s hotter in the city.”
“Hotter than what?” Huffin challenged.
“Hotter than it is in the winter.” Seagull spoke confidently now. He was on safe ground here, he thought.
“Oh,” said Huffin. “That helps, I think.” He paused. Then, “Yes that helps. What you mean is that it’s hotter in the city in the summer than it is in the city in the winter. That isn’t quite the question I asked. But it will help us get there.”
“Good,” said Seagull, “Glad I could help.”
“Would you say the same is true of the country?”
“The country?” Seagull didn’t follow.
“Do you think it’s hotter in the country in the summer than it is in the country in the winter?”
“Yes, of course,” said Seagull.
“I thought so,” said Huffin. “So would you also say it’s hotter in the city in the summer than it is in the country in the winter?” He eyed Seagull cheerfully.
“Hotter … than the country … in the winter …” Seagull stumbled over his words, then with a flash of understanding, “Yes! It’s hotter in the city in the summer than it is in the country in the winter.”
“Yes, that makes sense to me too,” said Huffin. “And so I am also guessing that it’s hotter in the city than it is when it’s cooler in the city.”
“Yes!” said Seagull.
“And,” continued Huffin. “So it’s probably also true that it’s hotter in the city in the winter than when it’s cooler in the city in the winter?”
“Yes,” said Seagull, thinking he was really getting it now. “It’s not usually hot in the winter. But yes, even in winter it’s usually hotter than when it’s cooler whenever it’s hotter than when it’s cooler. In the city, I mean.”
“Usually?” Huffin looked over at Seagull, his face showing deep concern but with a hint of playfulness. “Isn’t it always hotter than when it’s cooler whenever it’s hotter than when it’s cooler. I mean, that sorta HAS to be, no?
“Yeah, ok,” said Seagull unhappily, starting to lose the thread.
“So,” Huffin went on, “let’s see where we are.”
“That would help,” Seagull exhaled.
“As you said, it’s hotter in the city in the summer than it is in the city in the winter, right?” Huffin was picking up the pace now.
“Yes,” Seagull answered.
“And it’s hotter in the city in the summer than it is in the country in the winter?”
“Yup.” Seagull tried to sound sure of himself.
“And then finally, as you said, it’s hotter in the city than when it’s cooler in the city.”
“Uh-huh,” said Seagull. He had to agree, because all of those sounded familiar. They sounded like things he himself had just said.
“That’s three cases in which it’s hotter in the city,” Huffin summed up calmly. “We talked about three kinds of situation, and in all of them the city was hotter. Seems like it’s usually hotter in the city, yeah?”
“Yeah …” said Seagull, unhappy with where this was going.
“So,” said Huffin, “I’m going to just guess that it’s usually hotter in the city.” He paused, giving Seagull a sidelong grin. “And if that’s right, well then it’s a fair bet that it’s hotter in the city than it is in the summer. Most of the time, I mean. Not every day, of course. I mean, it varies, of course.”
“Ooo-kay “ Seagull murmured, completely miserable now.
“So some days it’s not going to be hotter in the city than it is in the summer. But most days it will, I would think.” Huffin looked out to sea, a satisfied look on his face. “That’s settled.”
The waves crashed below, and the shivery wind blew from behind them. They sat quietly together on the fence now, both looking not at each other but out over the sea. At one point, Huffin glanced over his shoulder at the sky behind them, now darkening.
“I’m thinking,” said Seagull, breaking the silence abruptly.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” said Huffin, his voice twisting cheerfully.
“I’m thinking that you can’t compare summers and cities.”
“You’re right,” Huffin nodded. “I prefer summers. Much better than cities. Not even close. No comparison.”
“No, no, no. What I mean is that it’s like apples and oranges. You can’t compare them.”
“Those are both fruit. I like apples better.” Huffin said unhelpfully. “And I think it’s going to rain,” he said, looking again over his shoulder again at the advancing weather.
“Then it’s like cats and dogs,” said Seagull.
“It’s going to rain cats and dogs?” said Huffin with pretend alarm, then gesturing with his wing at the storm clouds advancing behind them. He puffed his feathers for warmth.
“No, not cats and dogs,” said Seagull. “Cities and summers. They’re completely different kinds of thing. You can’t compare them. They’re like – oh, I don’t know – rain and T-rexes.”
“You mean it’s going to rain T-rexes!?!?” Huffin said, with real-sounding concern.
“Because if it is, I really think we should find some cover.”
“Maybe a hole in the ground.”
“That’s not what I meant!” Seagull was yelling now.
“A deep hole.”
“Stop!” barked Seagull in frustration.
“We should get out of here,” Huffin changed the subject. “T-rexes aside, it’s getting cold.” Huffin adjusted his feathers, getting ready to take off.
“Wait! What about your question?”
“We answered it,” said Huffin, crouching as he readied himself to fly.
“Where are you going?” said Seagull.
“Away,” said Huffin. “Away from this cold,” said Huffin. “To the city,” said Huffin.
“But …, said Seagull.
“It’s warmer there!” yelled Huffin over his shoulder, as he flew off.