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Monday, September 3, 2012

I Had a Little Turtle, His Name was Tiny Tim


When The Boy and I were young, we were quite poor. There was a time, when I was 26 and he was four that we could no longer afford meat. We grew our own vegetables that summer, and we ate a lot of oatmeal. The Boy became very good at picking green beans, tomatoes and onions; and I often had my oatmeal without milk so that he could have mine.

It was at this time that I grew to understand the origin of the term “salad days”.

I had finished school and picked him up from daycare one summer day when I saw something very large in the road. It was a four-lane paved road in Wisconsin – two lanes in each direction – and I was shocked to see the largest snapping turtle I’d ever seen – to this day! – in the middle of it. That turtle's shell must’ve been two and-a-half, maybe three feet across.

I pull over and turn to Dylan, who is belted in next to me.

“You stay here. That turtle’s got three lanes to cross and I’m going to help him.”

I slam the driver's door.

I run out to the turtle. There is a lull in the rural traffic, and I stand next to him.

“Hey, Turtle. What’s up?”

The turtle turns, his oddly bird-like face looks up at me. It is then that I remember that a good-sized turtle like this can take a finger off.

“You stay here.”

I run off to the side of the road. I’ll find a large stick, push it toward him, he’ll chomp down, and I’ll pull him off the road with it. Voila! Turtle is moved off the road safely, Boy learns how it’s done, I can safely dream of migrating turtles.

That is the plan.

I find a good thick stick, a perfect turtle-baiting stick. I turn to see cars coming.

Four cars.

The first one goes by. The second one sees the turtle and swerves – unnecessarily. The third car, freaked out by the second one’s swerving, swerves, too; and the fourth car?

The fourth car strikes the turtle.

There is a loud, exploding CRACK followed by loud, explosive screaming.

The crack was the turtle’s shell.

The screaming is me.

I run into the road, tears running down my face.

“Oh, God. Oh, Turtle. Bite this. Bite this!!!” I push the stick at the turtle, who snaps once, weakly, at it – and lays his head on the tarmac.

Another cry escapes me as I throw the stick in the ditch, grab the turtle by its shell and drag him off the road and into the cool grass of the ditch. He must’ve weighed 30, maybe 35 pounds…

He doesn't open his eyes.

When I straighten up, I can see that Dylan has removed his seat belt and is standing on the front seat, watching me. I stand across the road from him, waiting for the traffic to go by, sobbing. I see his lips move: Mommy.

“I’m a coward,” I weep, climbing into the car. Dylan puts his arms around me, pushes his little face into my neck, and I cry  harder. “I went out to save him and I didn’t do it fast enough and now he’s dead.”

Dylan rubs my back and makes “shhh shhh shhh” noises in my ear. I have stopped crying and am hiccupping softly by the time I put his seat belt back on him and we pull the car back onto the road.

It is quiet.

“Mommy?”

“Yes?”

“You sure he’s dead?”

“Yes.”

He is quiet, and I can see him weighing his words.

"Maybe we can go back later," he says.

I turn to look at him.

“Maybe we can eat him, huh?  Can you eat turtle?”



The thought of cracking open that enormous shell was too much for me, but to this day, I admire The Boy’s practicality.

44 comments:

joeh said...

Wonderful story...sad. You tried your best, and I loved the boy's reaction.

Today they would want a councelor to help him over the tramatic incident.

We underestimate children's resiliency (sp).

Teresa Evangeline said...

I can relate. It's so sad, isn't it?

Sioux said...

The same boy who liked meat, right? Wonderful story, Pearl.

Shell said...

Peg, this one made me cry....

Paula Wooters said...

Oh, my god! I love turtles... even snappers. I've had one for years. However, what strikes me most about this story is how the ending is so similar it is to a story I wrote a couple of years ago about my own Boy....

http://howtobecomeacatladywithoutthecats.blogspot.com/2009/08/meanwhile-back-at-ranch.html

Still brings tears to my eyes!

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Oh, this one gives me chills. I save the turtles off the rd all the time, but it breaks my heart when I am too late. *hugs*

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Oh, this one gives me chills. I save the turtles off the rd all the time, but it breaks my heart when I am too late. *hugs*

Joanne Noragon said...

It takes so many experiences to grow up a kid. To his buddies this probably is "when some idiot ran over the turtle Mom tried to save."

Hooray for everyone who would move a turtle across the road.

Shelly said...

Big 'ol lump in my throat. I can see where the boy gets his heart and his common sense from~

TexWisGirl said...

awww

vanilla said...

Heart-rending story, yet I think Dylan had the right idea.

Geo. said...

Strange how we get these circumstantial focal points from time to time, dangerous potentials piled together. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes a damn car runs over it. Either way, they stay with us. You did your best. You did good.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a heartbreak -- I had imagined that you'd be takin Tiny Tim home. On the other hand, loved Dylan's reaction! What a practical boy in lean times.

Indigo Roth said...

Remind me not to doze off near Dylan, especially if he's hungry.

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

Boy's mind runs on the same rails as mine. I was thinking about how to cook a large roadkill turtle before he mentioned his idea.

Maybe plenty of chili?

Sparkle Farkle said...

There's a good chance I am that turtle reincarnated. Thanks for trying to save me that one time. Would you be up to having another "go" at it? I'm just saying. No pressure.

jenny_o said...

oh, Pearl. I remember a time when a bird flew into my front grille and was lying stunned next to the centre line. A large truck came barreling along and left nothing but a damp spot on the road. It just seemed so horribly violent - the bird was there one moment and completely gone the next.

Which was probably much easier than having to deal with the poor deceased turtle.

Dylan seems to have had a good balance of empathy and acceptance of what could not be changed. Hey, if there's an apocalypse, hopefully he can be counted on for protein-procurement :)

Mitchell is Moving said...

Oh, how I love stories like this. I wish we could always remember how to simply think like and just BE a kid!

It's the end of the world and we know it and I feel fine.

Mitchell is Moving said...

Well.. that was supposed to be "as we know it"

A kid wouldn't have cared!

bill lisleman said...

Great story. I bet you scared him when he heard you scream.
"The Boy" is always thinking.

Robbie Grey said...

How sad. I once accidentally hit a turtle when I lived in North Carolina, there was no time for me to react. To this day, I feel bad about it.

The Jules said...

Just made a note of the recipe.

1 turtle (large)
1 automobile (standard)

Mix.

Serve with double scream.

Ms Sparrow said...

There is something so extra harsh about a turtle's shell being broken. It was very courageous of you to try to save it under such difficult circumstances.

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

What a story, especially the dead pan ending! I actually dragged a snapper backwards off the road once and then called the humane society to go save him. He wasn't nearly as big as your Tiny Tim, but still, he was big and nasty enough for me. He hissed at me and tried to bite. He also had a HUGE leech hanging off his neck--totally gross.
Rosemary

Leenie said...

...and he died last night with a bubble in his throat.

<8(

River said...

I thought you were standing next to the turtle as the cars swerved around it and was relieved to read you were off on the side of the road.
So you didn't take it home and make turtle soup? Served in the shell? How badly was the shell cracked? Tiny Tim could have been just stunned. hopefully he wandered off somewhere and healed.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Pearl, you TRIED. That's what counts. Should have taken him home and had turtle soup, that would have been eminently practical and a good economic choice. *sigh..that's life.

NotesFromAbroad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NotesFromAbroad said...

I hate stories where the animal/turtle dies.
Like Lassie ... Old Yeller and Tiny Tim .. ( sobbing )

Gigi said...

It amazes me how little guys will do their darnedest to comfort their moms when they are in distress; unconsciously imitating their mother's same comfort patterns.

Poor turtle.

Lolamouse said...

This made me tear up reading it. I'm one of those people who jump out of their car to save turtles too. Luckily, the ones around here are box turtles, so I don't have to worry about them biting off my finger, but I have gotten peed upon (that's gratitude!) I, too, have sobbed in my car when I'm too late or too timid to jump out into traffic to save one. One day I swear I will be hit by a car while trying to save a turtle!

Lin said...

Aw, gees. I couldn't eat it either. No way. Like you, my heart would have been broken as well. :(

Juli said...

What an incredible story. And to be honest, it could have been worse. Sometimes the shell cracks and the guts explode.

You did the right thing... sometimes it's just out of our hands.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

You must've felt awful, but you tried, which is more than the other people did. And you learned one very important thing: your son is NOT a vegetarian. Oh, and by the way, the word "vegetarian" comes from an old Indian word meaning, "lousy hunter."

Eva Gallant said...

I love the boy's reaction...typical male, thinking of his stomach!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

People may react to this story in different ways, but to me it's just full of sweetness, both Mom and Boy.

Rose L said...

*Sniff*Sniff* You made me cry. I have always been a softy and even seeing dead animals at the side of or in roads will cause my eyes to water up and my heat to twinge. I stop for everything and will not even hit already dead animals.
Your sons maturity on seeing that something good can come from a death is touching.

That gentleman's lady said...

Oh no :( Poor Turtle.

I've never eaten turtle. Wonder if it would be good.

That gentleman's lady said...

Oh no :( Poor Turtle.

I've never eaten turtle. Wonder if it would be good.

esbboston said...

Why did the chicken cross the road? He learned his lesson from watching the turtle episode.

Tempo said...

Loved this post Pearl

The Elephant's Child said...

Drat you Pearl. I so admire your boy's practicality and have tears in my wussy eyes just the same.

Pat said...

I have to admit my first reaction was -'O good! They'll have soup for dinner.'

NellieVaughn said...

The feelings were strong with this one. I've watched two or three cats die. That was enough.