A Turtle

May 5, 2010

My daughter asked me once again to be the surrogate caretaker of her turtle, Esmerelda. Every time I take care of the turtle I swear I won’t do it again. This time around I suggested that she think of getting rid of a pet that basically lives on life support. A pet that isn’t suited for an owner who lives the gypsy life.

A turtle in captivity must have its tank water kept within a certain temperature range. It must have an above-water platform to prevent it from getting waterlogged, and to allow it to “sun” under a bulb that gives off the right kind of light. It must be fed fresh fruits and veggies, and “turtle sticks,” and—if it is a turtle with a liver condition—a drop of cod liver oil on a dried shrimp. It must also—if I wake up in the morning and find flat white wormy things in the tank—be fed anti-parasitic pellets. It must also—if it’s tank gets gunky, no matter how many times a day I clean out the filters—have its fifty gallons of water drained out the living room window, replaced by bucket brigade, treated to remove the chlorine, and heated up to turtle happy temperature.

Because I said “yes” to my daughter, I am thinking about this turtle all the time, wondering why I can’t get her tank right, worrying about food and temperature, and calling her “Stupid Fucking Turtle” instead of her name.

So, the other night when I was feeding the turtle, she did the thing she always does, slapping the water in excitement and anticipation when I drop in the turtle sticks; and I started to laugh and talk to her as if she were a kitten. My other daughter yelled to me from the kitchen, “ARE YOU TALKING TO THAT STUPID TURTLE?”

Why yes, yes I was…

A nice thing… the reassurance that we are innately humane, a reassurance that comes from caring in spite of ourselves.

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4 Responses to “A Turtle”

  1. Emily said

    Oh, yes… stupid fucking turtle… whom I love very much. Don’t worry I’ll be back for her soon. And sometimes I too feel that she would be better off in a more stable household, but I love that stupid turtle so much!

  2. kenhoney said

    On the far-away island of Salamasond.
    Etc.

    Turtles must have their charms. But I don’t understand them. Which is why this post is perfect.

  3. innately human is one thing, innately human + empathy is quite another. A lifetime of choices allowing it to occur. You endure (and more) the turtle because you are humane. and because you love your daughter. and the stupid turtle.

  4. Laura said

    Reminds me of Justin’s stupid damn lion fish, who ate all our other fish and reigned supreme – terrifying me every time he jumped towards my fingers during feeding – until dying of old age. I still miss him, the ass!

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