LS: Bruce Cameron Column November 02, 2008

The great turtle escape

My next-door neighbor Tom called me the other day, frantically asking me to come over because his turtle ran away.

“Wait, your turtle ran away? How is that even possible?” I demanded.

“I must have left the door open to her cage,” Tom explained.

I thought of a different question. “Since when do you have a turtle?”

“That’s the point: I don’t. She ran away.”

A few minutes later, I was standing with Tom in his backyard, looking at a large wire enclosure with an open door. Tom was upset.

“We have to find her before she wanders into the street. She’s used to living in the country and doesn’t know anything about cars.”

“Tom, is there some sort of medication you’re supposed to be taking?”

He cupped his hands to his mouth. “Abigail!” he yelled. “Here, girl!”

We listened, but didn’t hear the running footsteps that would indicate Abigail had heard his call.

“How do you know it’s a girl?” I asked him.

“Oh.” He grinned sheepishly. “I checked, and it doesn’t have a, you know.”

“Does it have, you know ...” I cupped my hands on my chest.

“Um ... no.” He looked confused. “Wouldn’t they be inside the shell, though?”

“Tom, I’m just messing with you, turtles don’t nurse their young.”

“Oh, right, right, because they’re amphibious.”

“That’s it,” I agreed.

“Do you think I should put up posters? I have a picture of her,” he asked worriedly.

“Tom, it’s a turtle. People know you’re missing a turtle and they find one in their yard, they’re going to figure it’s probably yours. How big are we talking, here?”

“It’s a standard-sized turtle.”

“That means absolutely nothing to me.”

Tom indicated with his hands that Abigail was slightly smaller than a pie plate. “She’s going to kill me.”

I blinked. “The turtle’s going to kill you?”

“No, not the turtle. Abigail likes me, she would never do anything to hurt me. No, I’m talking about my sister, you know, the one who burns stuff? Abigail is hers. She went to that motorcycle rally again and left Abigail with me to turtle-sit because our other sister has a baby. Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I’m just ... OK, what does it mean, your sister burns stuff? She burns stuff?”

“You know, those little things that smell bad.”

I tried to think of little things that smelled bad. “Tiny dead fish? Rotten quail eggs? Small teenage boys?”

“No idea what you’re saying to me right now.”

“I’m trying to figure out what it is that your sister is burning. And wait, she had a turtle on the back of a motorcycle?”

“No,” Tom said scornfully. “You can’t put a turtle on the back of a motorcycle. That would be crazy. She has a side car.”

“And what’s convenient is Abigail already has her own helmet.”
Tom nodded reflectively.

“Incense?” I guessed.

“Huh?”

“That your sister is burning.”

“No, I’m used to it now.”

I decided not to pursue it further. “So, why don’t we look for the turtle,” I suggested, gesturing around the yard.

“She’s probably miles away already,” Tom lamented.

“Somehow I doubt it.”

We started walking in careful search grids, looking in the foliage. “If I were a turtle, where would I go?” Tom mused.

I shrugged. “Motorcycle festival?”

Tom frowned at me, disappointed at my attitude. “My sister’s had Abigail since she was a little kid. She wanted a kitten, but my parents thought a turtle would teach her patience. At first, it was a pretty boring pet, because Abigail sort of just hid in her cage, but then ...”

“Let me guess: She came out of her shell?”

Tom gave me a disgusted look. “I’m trying to say that Abigail is like a member of our family. Only, you know, she’s a turtle.”

I realized I had been insensitive and was about to apologize when I noticed that one of the rocks in Tom’s garden was moving. I walked over to look at it, and Abigail glared at me from her shell. It had been three hours since she’d bolted for freedom — she was 9 feet from her cage.

“Nice try, Abigail,” I said to her.


To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Website at http://www.wbrucecameron.com.


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