Friday, May 4, 2012

Operation: Turtle

Today I took my first bike ride of the season. I discovered my bike hanging upside-down in the garage, so I hijacked my mom’s bike and pedaled into the humid highway haze before me. As I followed the road around a small lake near my house, I whizzed past what appeared to be a typical mass of mutilated road kill.

But, no! Upon closer inspection, it was not dead at all – the mass in the middle road was a turtle with no common sense. It parked itself in the line of fire, calmly waiting for the next log truck to flatten it out.

“Are you mad?” I asked the turtle, but it would not yield to reason. Unfortunately, reason was the only turtle-removing tool at my disposal. This was no ordinary turtle: this was a snapping turtle. I considered picking it up by the shell and whisking it to the other side of the road and determined that the risks of losing a finger or a portion of my face were too great. I abandoned my bike and stood awkwardly in the middle of the road, a safe distance from the immobile reptile.

Soon, a car approached. I indicated the suicidal turtle and the car slowed to a stop at the side of the road. A man and woman stepped out of the car. The woman had been a regular customer at the supermarket I used to work at, but she barely recognized me under the shadowy visor of my dorky bike helmet.

“No one on this road is going to slow down for a turtle,” she said.

The man dug an ice scraper out of the back of the car. He prodded the turtle and it leapt about a foot in the air with hits neck outstretched. The turtle curled his neck around like a little brontosaurus to take a vicious bite out of the ice scraper.

“Maybe we could find a large stick,” the woman said tentatively. After a quick scavenger hunt in the woods, the man and woman returned, each with a large prodding stick. The turtle resisted every attempt to prod it to safety. It kept trying to dodge the pokes, uncertain which stick to kill first. This snapping turtle might have been a ninja turtle.

“Maybe if you poke it a little harder it will leap across the road by itself,” I suggested.

“I’m going to get the shovel,” the woman said. She climbed into the car and drove away.

Meanwhile, I abandoned my bike and the man and I appointed ourselves as traffic guards at a wild animal crossing. We stood like traffic cones around the turtle. An SUV pulled up beside the tranquil turtle, which was content to meet its gory death. The window opened.

“Look, a turtle!” the driver said, lingering in the road. Then he sped away and another car pulled up from the other direction. It was the woman and her mighty, red snow shovel.

As she tried to scoop the protesting turtle into the deplorable groove of the shovel, another man arrived on foot. He deftly swept up the turtle and carried it, with its claws waving about frantically, to the lake.

“The snow shovel is good for this because you can just pick up the turtle and move it,” the woman said.

“The shovel is perfect for turtle transportation,” I agreed.

“That’s why we bought that shovel. You should keep one in your car,” she told her companion.

The second man lowered the shovel into the lake and set the turtle free. I’d like to say that it swam off into the glowing sunset, but the turtle didn't swim and it was still midday. It turned abruptly and looked like it was going to sprint for the open road.

“It looks like it wants to come back,” the woman observed.

“Check back in five days and if it’s back in the middle of the road, just bring back the shovel,” I suggested to the turtle removal experts.

Maybe the turtle didn't want to live after all. Perhaps it was suffering from a midlife crisis or severe existential angst and decided that death was the answer. Perhaps he had a superpower that was not so much a gift as a curse. We did all we could do, anyways.

With the turtle safe, I bid my goodbyes to people I will not likely see again and rolled away down a winding road sprinkled with the corpses of tiny orange moths.

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