Nickel Novelette: Turtle Time

In a suburban neighborhood built in the ‘50s, down the hill, on the edge of the pond, a snapping turtle stood on a rock. You would only notice him if you were looking, which the area kids knew to do. He stood, unmoving. He didn’t have fur that shifted in the breeze, or ears that would turn at a sound, or wings that needed stretching out lest they get stiff. He stood, still.

Sometimes, kids would bring heels from a loaf of bread, and tear pieces off to throw in the water. Usually, the fish got to the bread first. Some days, other turtles already swimming would show up to partake. On those days, the frogs could be found on the opposite side of the pond. But today, despite the kids’ best efforts, even so far as throwing bread at the rock, the turtle ignored the bait, remaining impassive.

Through the turtle’s eyes, there was no hurry. He wasn’t hungry. If he became hungry later, and the fish had eaten all the bread in the water, there were still likely some bits on land that the children dropped. They’d be there later. And if a chipmunk or a bird came by and ate the bits, there was always every other food he ate in bounty around the pond. There was no rush.

The turtle sat, his back to the nearby shore, eyes on the no-so-distant bank across the pond. He watched the trees sway in the wind, a few leaves falling, some on the ground, some in the water. He heard geese fly overhead, but didn’t need to look and verify; whether he was right or not had no baring on the day. He felt the warm sun on his shell, then the cool of a cloud passing through, then back to the sun. The turtle could have watched the reflection in the water to try to guess how long he would have the sunshine, or how long he would have to wait through shade until the sun returned, but knowing this never changed the outcome. He much preferred watching the trees across the pond.

When the turtle blinked, he blinked slowly, enjoying the moment of darkness and solitude before returning to the light and world. When the turtle moved, he moved slowly, carefully choosing how he wanted to position himself, accomplishing his goal with efficiency. When the turtle turned to look, he turned slowly, moving his neck and head only so far as needed, free of the desire to be noticed for doing nothing worth noticing.

As it were, a small fly made its way over to where the turtle rested. The fly moved very quickly. The fly tried to perceive a hundred things at once and make decisions after processing only the first twelve. The fly moved constantly, even if it meant in circles, doubling back to where it had just been moments before, again and again. The fly zipped around the turtle, the rock, the algae, the bread crumbs, the leaves, the algae, the rock, the turtle, the grass, the water, the turtle, the rock. The fly landed on the crumbs, the leaves, the crumbs, the turtle’s shell, the turtle’s nose.

The turtle did not appreciate the fly. He did not appreciate the distraction from looking across the tranquil pond. He did not appreciate the buzzing noise where there once was peace and quiet. And he certainly did not appreciate the fly landing on his nose, not only making it itch, but also casting shade where sunlight once touched. The turtle could not control the clouds, but he could —

-SNAP-

In one very swift, very precise movement, the turtle twitched and snapped, and the fly that was once on his nose was now in his mouth. A pause, an adjustment with the jaw, another pause, and the fly was heading down the his throat. He waited, felt the breeze, smelled the water, felt the sun. Then, slowly, he lowered his head back down to where it had been before the interruption. Slowly, he blinked, and returned to watching the leaves fall from the trees.

The turtle didn’t have to be slow. It was his choice.

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