Yesterday I visited a friend's cottage. The city air has been so charged with humidity lately that the offer of heading toward some cleaner country heat was a welcome one.
Once there, it was bathing suits and jumping into the river from the dock to wash the city away. After the intermediate splashing and swimming, I planned to sit on the dock and let the sun get to first base with me.
When it was time to get out, I swam until I hit waist high water. I started to wade back the rest of the way when I saw something moving to the right of me. There are often fish that will come to say hello when you're in the shallow water but this was something else.
I stopped and it came toward me and surfaced. A turtle. It was about 5 inches long. One quick look at me and it dove back under. The first thing I thought of was Jerri Blank's turtle Shelly. The next thing I thought of was the turtle I once had as a pet years earlier.
Shortly after my parents had traded me for a red paper clip at the age of 5, they realized their folly and bartered for my return. It had come to them that they could probably get all sorts of office supplies for me if they just held out. Once I had rejoined the family already in progress, they decided they'd have to work fast because I wouldn't be little and cute forever.
To buy my silence, I was given a pet turtle. It was a wee little thing at maybe 2 or 3 inches long and I loved to watch it swim and make it's way around the little plastic bowl.
The clear bowl was a perfect habitat complete with molded steps for climbing and a palm tree for lazing under. With my little can of turtle food, I felt very adult and responsible for the welfare of another living being. Until I forgot about it. I was 5. Don't judge me.
One day, I realized that I hadn't seen the little fella in a few days and asked mom what had happened to it.
Your sister took him to school to show and tell last week.
Show and tell? What's that?
Never mind. You'll get it back later.
I anxiously waited for sis to come home that afternoon. The moment she got in, I asked where my turtle was.
Oh, well, um, you see, he kind of won't be back since there was a bit of a problem at school.
What? What do you mean? What kind of problem?
Well, I left him there over the weekend and forgot to feed him so he kinda died. And then we dissected him in biology class.
Died? What's that? What do you mean bispected him? What's that?
Never mind. You'll get him back when you're older but only if you're really good and don't mention him again.
I never said a word. I never mentioned him again. I said my prayers every night and dreamed of the day we'd be reunited.
Eventually I was traded to a circus family who forced me to do odd jobs like trimming the bearded lady's toenails and making sure the ashtrays didn't overflow. I never said a word but those were some nasty toenails.
One day, I was surprised to learn that the bearded lady had a cottage. She invited a bunch of us to come over for a swim and while there, I spied a turtle in the water. I could tell by the way it poked it's head out of the water that it was the same turtle I'd been missing all these years. He was all grown up and letting me know that he was okay.
I smiled and realized that all those years of waiting and being good had been worth it.
That night I had the best soup I'd ever eaten.