THE TALKING TURTLE
by Delores Oneale
(Johannesburg, South Africa)
Little Rupert woke up early and jumped out of bed. He wanted to get going and enjoy the day ahead. It was Saturday he had plans to go down to the creek and catch some fish. Rupert stuffed his pockets full of berries and headed for the creek.
While walking towards the creek, he ate a few of them. As soon as he reached the creek, he saw something that made him forget what was in his pockets. Near the top of the bank, not too far from the water, he saw a turtle, sunbathing on the warm sand.
Rupert let out a loud yell, and the turtle upon hearing the noises scrambled up and made for the water as fast as he could go. Rupert ran towards him and caught him before he disappeared into the waters.
"Hey you stupid fellow, I am much faster than you did you think you would get away?"
The turtle never said a word, he wished that he had managed to escape and wondered what this little boy would do with him. Rupert unsure of what to do walked over to a rock and sat down. Still holding onto the turtle, he looked at his mouth and imagined what a bite from this turtle would be like. It would probably be sore; he seems to have a strong jaw, thought Rupert. He decided to take the turtle home, and thought about the dogs and how they would react to the turtle.
"I am going to give you a name, from now on you will be Ronald, and I am going to take you home with me." He said.
Startled by the sounds from the turtle, Rupert dropped him on the sand.
"Wow, that was scary I am not sure what happened, but will you repeat what you just said?"
Waiting for the turtle to respond, Rupert watched the movement of his eyes. Rupert assumed the turtle just grunted out of frustration.
"Well, I was going to do some fishing, but you are a much better catch. I know my dad will be pleased. I hope you like dogs; they will want to play as well." He said and stood up.
"Don't do this to me, I will not survive." The turtle in a rumbled voice said.
"What a talking turtle!"
"Yes, I have not spoken in so many years and listening to you and your plans to make me go home scared me, I cannot go, please leave me here, this is my home."
"Wow, this is great, Ronald you and I are going to be such great friends."
"I will be your friend, but please let me stay at the creek; I will not survive with the dogs."
"Let's chat and get to know each other," Rupert said and sat down again.
Making sure he was close to the turtle he kept asking many questions and how he had been able to speak. Ronald the turtle told him, many years ago, after the other animals in the creek tried to get him to leave, wondered into the nearby woods and being extremely hungry found some strange looking acorns which he ate. He managed to get back to the creek and to his surprise saw the animals having their weekly meeting chuckling on how they succeeded in getting me out.
"So the other animals don't like you, do they know that you are back."
"Yes, they know I am back but I stay away from them and live a lonely life on the beach."
"But with me as your friend we will have such a lot of fun."
"I cannot go home with you, I must stay here, I have been here for over a hundred years and will never survive inland."
"We have a nice pond and I will ensure you always have food."
"I know you will take good care of me, but to leave the only place I know is heartbreaking. Let me stay here and you can come down often and we can have fun here."
"I don't think so, Ronald we are going home."
Rupert picked up Ronald and headed back home. All the while Ronald both frightened and angry kept kicking his tiny feet hoping Rupert would let go. But no, determined, he held onto Ronald, and continued walking home. Ronald kept telling him he was making a mistake but Rupert repeated how happy he would be. Ronald gave up he knew he was too old and slow to fight this vigorous child. He hoped he would survive the ordeal.
When they arrived home, the dogs all four of them knew Rupert had something interesting and ran up to greet him. Sniffing at the large turtle under his arm they barked and jumped with excitement. Something to eat they assumed. Ronald closed his eyes and hoped they would stop the jumping, he wriggled his legs and twisted his neck but all this was no help to him. And Rupert almost dropped him.
"Ronald stop moving around so much, the dogs only want to greet you."
"Rupert put me down and let me get this over with; I know I am going to be mauled by the dogs."
Rupert put the turtle down and immediately the dogs started pawing him, Ronald pulled his head into his shell and remained hidden while the dogs continued to maul him. Rupert laughed when he saw how afraid the turtle was and urged the dogs to continue.
"What is all this commotion?"
"Hi Dad, I found a turtle by the creek and the dogs are excited at having a new playmate."
"Rupert, the poor turtle cannot stay here, he will die and we do not want that do we?"
"No of course not, but he will be fine here, by tomorrow they will all be friends and he can stay near the pond."
"I think you should take him back to the creek."
"Please dad, let me keep him for a week and if he is still unhappy I promise I will take him back."
"Rupert, you have one week only and ensure he is looked after."
"I promise dad."
His dad left and Rupert called the dogs and told them to be kind to Ronald and stop being so naughty. The dogs obeyed and sat around to watch the turtle. Rupert bent down and rubbing Ronald's back told him all would be fine, he need not hide anymore but come out and play with him. Ronald ignored him and remained hidden. Rupert felt the pangs of hunger and ran towards the house leaving Ronald with the dogs.
The dogs still intrigued with the new visitor began to bite the hard shell, finding it difficult to grip; they barked and jumped around Ronald. The turtle realising what the dogs were trying to do thought how stupid they were trying to bite his shell, it would be the same as biting a rock. He knew he should retaliate and fight back.
Without any warning he shot out his long neck from under his shell and as fast as he could he gripped the one dog's leg with his powerful jaw and held on with no sign of letting go. The dog winced and the others realising the turtle would fight back moved away. Ronald held on and the dog cried, it was not so much the pain but the awkwardness of being trapped.
Rupert after eating a good meal came scampering out of the house and ran towards Ronald whom he saw had the dog captive.
"Ronald, let go, you should not hurt the dogs, they only want to play and they will never hurt you."
Ronald hung on and ignored Rupert. He realised if he tried to force Ronald to open his jaw he might nip him as well. Rupert realised how powerful the turtle could be. Again he commanded him to let go but Ronald would not. Rupert tried to calm the dog by rubbing his back and speaking to him. Ronald saw a few tears trickle down his cheek and realised how much he loved his dogs He was really concerned and let go of the dog's paw. The dog limped away as fast as he could.
"Ronald you old rascal, you scared my favourite dog and could have hurt him."
"Rupert, I told you I should not come here, take me back to the creek!"
"Oh come on now, you know the dogs won't bother you again not after your little trick, I reckon we could all have lots of fun."
"You are a persistent little fellow aren't you, if in one week's time, I am still unhappy, you must take me back to the creek."
"I promise, but I bet you there will be so much fun here you will want to stay forever."
"I am hungry now, take me to the pond and let me find some food."
"Yes let's catch a frog, my friend."