Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Steve the Turtle

Sean was five. He needed a pet like he needed candy. Bad. It took years for him to discover the truth about me: I'm incapable of keeping living things alive. Unless it makes noise it's doomed to a slow dry death. Crying and whining is an audible alarm system that nature has put inside children so that their parents will do anything to make them stop. Including, and not limited to, shopping, cooking, feeding, and cleaning.

Back then we lived in an apartment in a town that people made fun of. But it was affordable for me. Being a "renter" meant we were limited to the types of pets we could own. There was always a contractual ban on any animal that might be, in the slightest of ways, fun. Birds are too loud, fish tanks are to heavy, dogs are too destructive, cats pee too much.

Little Sean begged and begged to have a turtle and since this seemed like an inexpensive animal to own, he was given a little green box turtle with red marks on the side of his head. He looked pretty sporty. For a turtle. I thought it might be a hermaphrodite, or at least a-sexual. But we decided that he looked masculine. Most turtles do unless they have a bow on their head and even then, they just look like a bad present. So we named him Steve. We got a terrarium and a dish. The feeding instructions were simple: Fresh vegetables and water.

Perhaps Steve was happy in the beginning. When Sean picked him up his fat legs would wiggle up into the shell like four cold green weenies. Sean tried to teach him his name by sitting down on the carpet and slapping his thighs. "Steve! Here Stevie! Come on, Steve!" But the turtle couldn't learn anything. Quickly Sean lost interest and the turtle became sedentary, like a paperweight on Valium. Steve didn't know how to market himself. The tank became smelly and dingy. This made the turtle super unattractive to us. Sean would dutifully throw in some lettuce, shredded carrots and fill up the mayonnaise lid with water. But the turtle just sat there and stank.

One day, Bob, a friend who happened to work for Animal Control, visited. Sean was pleased to show off his pet turtle and he took Bob into his room. Quickly Bob stomped back into the living with an angry look on his face and said to me, quite rudely "Did you notice something was wrong with the turtle?" Besides being a stinky, boring, sexless, rock, no we hadn't noticed anything. "Well did you notice that it wasn't eating any of the food you keep dropping in?" Understandably one would assume that would be noticeable. "Or the smell? Didn't you notice the tank stinks like shit?!" Well of course that was quite noticeable but we were willing to accept the turtle's aroma since it didn't have other bad habits like barking or smoking.

With nothing but blank looks and shrugging shoulders in response, Bob finally got to the point "How long has that turtle been dead?!" He was disgusted with his discovery. Frankly Steve's prognosis resolved a lot of problems we had with him and he became more interesting.

That's why we don't have plants.


  1. How were you supposed to know the turtle was dead anyway. It's not like he turned over on his back and stuck his tongue out. Of course, if he did that, you might have been impressed with his trick... Glad I know never to ask you to watch my dog!

  2. This made me laugh. We had a Russian Tortoise. Some jerk threw it out on the street in front of my kids, so we became the proud owners of a tortoise. My husband built him an outside enclosure, and we'd take him out and let him waddle around the backyard. Well, one day, SOMEONE went inside to make dinner while Crush was roaming around the backyard. Turns out Crush was quite the escape artist (we hope). We never saw him again. I'm still afraid that one of my kids will find a tortoise corpse one day as they get a ball out of the rosemary patch.

  3. I love the image of the four cold green weenies retracting into the shell! Very descriptive.

    So I'm leaving on a trip...could you watch my kids for me?

  4. Friggin' hilarious! I can pictue Bob's exasperated face. You know this could make for a hilarious skit, right?

  5. Hilarious! One of my other friends (yes, you are not my ONLY friend, just the most special in a little bus kind of way -reh-tahd)...Any-hoo, this other friend had two turtles for her girls, and one day when she went to feed them, they had retracted into their shells and did not respond at all. Assuming they were dead, and sisnce it was a nasty, rainy winter day, she put them in a zip lock and put them in the garage. A day later, she told her vet about it and he asked if they might not just be hibernating. They had been at first, but when she went back to the garage to check the zip lock, they were really dead this time, suffocated in a steamy zip lock.
    I find this story hysterical - she cries when she tells it.

  6. Kathy - Dogs make noise, so they stand a chance.

    Lisa - If they find the turtle shell, just tell them that he moved to a bigger one.

    Leslie - No.

    Akilah - Oh, if only PETA could be my sponsor!

    Anonymous - I want to see the story being told. I want to see her crying while you laugh hysterically. I want to be there so bad.

  7. Is it possible the boy will ever have a pet again in his life??? So funny, in a horrible kinda hilarious way.

  8. Yeah, turtles aren't very exciting pets.

    My brother and I had a turtle growing up, and we had a similar experience, except my mom is still convinced that the turtle was dead when we bought him from the store.

  9. Oh crap, I need to go feed the fish.

  10. Wendy - You've just described the first 20 years of my life "So funny, in a horrible kinda hilarious way" Thanks for making me laugh!

    Jeff - And they're not good dead pets

    Alison - I prefer to let the fish feed me. The aquarium always makes me hungry for sushi.

  11. Hahahaha! I never had any luck with Turtles either, and they smell like death even when they are alive... but hey, the turtle shell looks good on you!

  12. Organic Meatbag - You should see me in Baby Seal!

  13. Ooooooh, baby seal...so silky and cuddly! Hahaha!


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