A reminder (or, if you’re new to these stories, a quick introduction): Eden Baylee, in Canada, and I, in Scotland, first got to know one another when we contributed separately to Richard Wood’s Word Count Podcast, which involved recording what we’d written for sound broadcasting. After a few solo efforts, we decided to co-author some and, when Richard decided to move on to other things, we just kept on with the collaborations (but without the broadcast element). We’ve never met but we’ve got to know one another quite well and we’ve been publishing our joint efforts on our separate blogs since January 2021.
This week’s prompt is: My brother did this weird thing with turtles.
Parts 1 and 3 were written by Eden and parts 2 and 4 by me.
The Reason for Turtles
My brother did this weird thing with turtles. We didn’t grow up with pets because Mom was deathly afraid of dogs, which strangely translated to cats as well. Goldfish didn’t count, and turtles definitely weren’t pets. A dozen of the snappers came through our door every couple of months. Mom brought them home from work, always on a Friday. I remember because we couldn’t bathe the next day on account of all the turtles in the tub.
On Sunday, however, Mom’s friends would collect their turtles by no later than 3pm. She was doing them a favour by getting them, so she set the rules.
“I have other things to do,” she said. “Can’t be waiting around all day.”
One time, Mrs. Duke didn’t show up for her turtles until after supper. It threw off Mom’s schedule and she crossed Mrs. Duke off the list—both as a friend and for any more turtles from her.
As for my brother, he liked playing with them, holding their shells and pushing them along the water like Hot Wheels cars. “Vroom, vroom!” he’d say.
Eventually, they all met the same fate, in a pot of boiling water, swimming with onions and carrots.
This didn’t seem to bother Benny. When it was a turtle month, he’d get all excited, select a favorite, then, pre-race, spend ages in the bathroom training it. At least, that’s what he said he was doing, although since he was the one doing the pushing, I didn’t understand what sort of training the poor little turtle needed to do. Mom didn’t mind him doing it. What she did mind was that each time he chose a favorite, he gave it a name – the same one every time, Sheldon. He just put a number after it so they were Sheldon 1, Sheldon 2, and so on. Mom didn’t like it because Sheldon Duke was Mrs Duke’s husband before they got divorced. That was what caused the argument.
One week (we were on Sheldon 17), Mom made Benny show her which one he’d chosen as favorite. She marked its shell with a little cross and, that same evening, for supper, she made what she called Snapper 17 soup. Benny jumped up from the table, ran up to the bathroom and came back almost at once. He was crying.
‘Why did you do that?’ he shouted.
‘He looked like Sheldon Duke,’ said Mom.
Up until that point, I had no reason to think Mom had any issues with Sheldon Duke. I always thought Mrs. Duke was the problem. She had a snooty air about her even though she was poor just like us, and of course there was that one time she came late to pick up her turtles. It surprised me that Mom cut her out of her life so abruptly, but she could be harsh that way. She once grounded me for leaving the front door unlocked after coming home from school. Ever since Dad died, things seemed to tick her off more easily. I could ignore her short temper, but Benny was more sensitive than me. He didn’t understand Mom’s mood swings, and every little thing made him cry. Mom couldn’t deal with it, so it was left to me to comfort him.
“Sheldon 17 was my favourite of them,” he said that night as I tucked him in bed.
“I’m sorry Ben, but you know Mom cooks all of them sooner or later.”
“Why can’t she let me keep one? That’s all I want, just one!”
I wiped the tears from his face and wondered the same thing myself.
In the end, it was Jennifer who gave us the answer. Sort of, anyway. She’s my best friend at school and when I told her about Benny and his Sheldons, she just said, ‘No, turtles are good for people, bring them together’.
She says that sort of thing all the time. Scares me a bit when she talks about the Tai Chi and stuff her Aunt Margaret does. Goes all mysterious and says it’s about spirits and peace and things. I don’t understand any of it but she’s a good friend. Anyway, when she said that about turtles, I asked her how they were good for us. She got all excited and said ‘They’ve got protein, calcium, vitamins, phosphorous, zinc – loads of stuff we need.’
It didn’t seem to me to have much to do with pushing them about in a bath but when I got home I told Benny what she’d said. It really cheered him up.
‘So it’s OK for us to eat them then?’ he said.
‘Yes, it’s what they’re for. And Jennifer’s auntie says they bring us peace of mind.’
Benny laughed. ‘Right,’ he said, ‘not a bit like Sheldon and Mrs Duke then?’
That made him happy.