Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Your Apathy Will Be Avenged...(Well Maybe. If I Ever Get Around To It. If I've Got Nothing Better To Do.)
When I was about 10 years old, I had a box turtle as a pet. This is the best picture of a box turtle I could find and it doesn't really show scale all that well. My box turtle was about a foot long and must have weighed almost 10 lbs. He was nasty and he'd snap at you and I couldn't remember his name if my life depended on it, (although I'm sure it was some name more appropriate to a dog or a fleet steed or something like that -- you know, a hopeful name).
Mom wasn't especially fond of my turtle, so he was kept in a cage Dad built in the backyard. The cage, you should know, was built within the dog run. Don't worry. The dog never tormented my turtle because the dog refused to use the dog run. Whenever the dog was placed in the run, he would tunnel his way out of it and return to tormenting the neighbors. (I loved that dog.) The dog also figured out after his third or fourth re-enactment of The Great Escape that Steve McQueen's tactics were easier -- jumping over the wire worked perfectly fine. So the dog run was a dusty, sandy pit of despair -- aside from the little turtle-Shargri-La it contained.
Let's talk, for a moment, about the joy this turtle brought to me. O.K., I can't recall any joy the turtle brought me. It's not like the damned thing would play with me. It wouldn't fetch; it wouldn't roll over (except when I tipped him over and I got yelled at for that); and it sure as hell wasn't cuddly. It was capable of bursts of speed where it could move from one end of its 8' long cage to the other in something less than 15 minutes. It also smelled funny...not funny-ha-ha, funny like Ewww, wash your feet, funny.
And since he was my pet, I had to feed him. My turtle ate Gaines Burgers. If you don't recall, Gaines Burgers were a dog food that came like little individually wrapped burgers. You'd peel open the cellophane wrapping and crumble the burger into the dog's dish...or in the case of a turtle, onto a brick he could scale to get at it. And, oh, did that turtle love his Gaines Burgers. I'd put out the food and make a mad dash out of the way in the 10 minutes I had while he made a beeline for it. (Gaines Burgers smelled nasty too, but not quite as nasty as the turtle.)
Eventually, as all pets somehow do if they're left to the care of resentful 10-year-olds, my turtle died. I was heartbroken. O.K., truth be told, I may have felt a little guilty about the lack of love I'd shown my turtle. So I decided I'd make up for it by giving him the best damned turtle funeral any turtle had ever had.
I lovingly dug his grave -- I'm tired now, that's deep enough. Then I found a shoebox coffin for him -- I had to shove him in a little due to the lack of wide-footed family members. I even carved a headstone for him to eternally mark his resting spot -- at least as eternally as a balsa-wood headstone can mark anything.
Then I invited my mother and my two older sisters to the funeral. I may have demanded their attendance, but that's beside the fact. I may also have pointed out that proper mourning clothes would be appreciated -- I'm sure the veils were my idea. And then, as I conducted the service, I noticed that my mother and sisters were giggling. Giggling, dammit!
I made them wait out there, graveside, in the hot Florida sun while I went to prepare crying handkerchiefs for them...which I helpfully filled with onion slices. You're damn tootin' they cried for my turtle.
Posted by Nathan at 10:58 AM