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.