Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Take Me To the River.

My family and I went for a walk yesterday. So now I have a turtle.

First, a word about the weather in Los Angeles. The goddess of Southern California weather is a cheerful and lazy deity who will go for months on end in a seemingly permanent cycle of seventy-two degrees and fair, when she suddenly thinks “Shit! If I don’t do some weather changes, I could get ,like, totally transferred to North Dakota”. We then get 15 inches in rain in less than two hours. The last week has been like living under a spigot. Yesterday, during a period where it was only raining and not pelting, all three humans in my house and the dog took off to look at the Los Angeles River. The LA River was designed by nature and redesigned by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1930’s, so it is aesthetically pleasing only if you are really into concrete. However, it does move water well, and very dramatically. Normally no larger or more energetic than the urine stream of an elderly man it turns into a riparian diva if it rains for longer than an hour. Yesterday, it was a churning, roiling, eddying expanse of icy cappuccino moving at least forty miles an hour. Having lived in Los Angeles my entire life, I can tell you that every year that we have a big rain some teenage boy in the full throes of testosterone poisoning decides to white-water the river in some home-made contraption. If he’s lucky, they end up dredging his body somewhere off of Long Beach. Usually, his corpse gets caught in a tree. Knowing all this, I still found myself staring at the water wonderingly, thinking “In the right raft, I bet I could do that”. Maybe that is the benefit of age and estrogen -- you can have a really bad idea, and not act on it.

Yes, Quinn, you are saying very patiently, but you were going to tell us about a turtle. Of course. We were walking home on one of the waterlogged side streets when I happened to look down into a puddle in the shoulder and saw a turtle, about six inches long. “Look,” I said astutely “a turtle”. Daughter shrieked in delight and Consort neatly scooped up the turtle before Daughter could tongue-kiss it. It was green, with a natty red stripe on its head, and an expression that could be summed up by the word “Feh”. It was the sort that I have seen in pet stores, so it wasn’t indigenous. A glance around saw no open gate to a back yard, and no small children who could have decided that Tommy the Turtle wanted to take a walk. It was just us and many cars, one of which would inevitably send it to Turtle Valhalla. Consort looked at me and said gently “I guess we have a turtle now”, which was very nice of him and shows how completely I have broken his spirit; at least twice a year, I come home with a stray animal which lives with us and creates chaos until I find it a home. Consort has gone from “Why must Quinn persist in bringing animals home?” to “Quinn brings animals home. Put turtle in pocket”. Daughter named it Dave, after a dashing and handsome musician/dad who lives across the street. I think it looks more like a Shmuel (“Feh”).

No previous stray, however, possessed a shell.I did a little research online while Dave rested in the wading pool in the backyard. Given that the rain had restarted its pelting mode, I would read for a few minutes, and then run outside and keep adding bricks so Dave had somewhere to climb to get out of the water. Mt. Ararat for an amphibian. Dave seemed to be content, although it was hard to tell, as Botox-ridden starlets have more of a range of expression. As night fell, a friend of a friend, who had owned a box turtle, called me. When she heard that the animal was outside and in the water, I was told to get it inside right now, as it could freeze outside. Also, box turtles should be hibernating. So into the dusk I went, grabbing Dave, patting Dave dry, and putting Dave in a box with towels for warmth and comfort -- never let it be said that I am a miserly host. Consort came home an hour later, and heard of the change in plans, as I pointed to the closed box and whispered, so as not to wake Dave up. Consort said “I think that’s a water turtle, not a box turtle”. Oh. Back online I went, and yes, it is a water turtle. So Dave left the box, changing habitats for the third time in five hours, little green legs waving strenuously in the air as if to say “Sweet Jesus, being run over by a car is starting to sound like the better option”, and went to spend the night in a plastic laundry basket in the bathtub.

This morning I went and got the cheapest turtle set-up that I could. Dave is currently sitting in a tank, enjoying the benefits of a heat light. This does not, however, mean that we are keeping it. This just means that I want my laundry basket back. He cannot stay, as his presence is having an unwholesome affect upon the other pets. I believe that the dog, Polly, means it no harm, and is just innocently curious about this little moving thing. But if something is forty times your size, gentle interest and murderous intent don’t look very different. Lulabelle the cat is deeply annoyed that I would bring a hard-shelled taco for cats into the house, and then perversely insist on caging it. I had to put a towel on one side of the cage so that Lu would stop leaving nose-prints. Daughter doesn’t understand that this is a fairly lousy pet for children, as they can bite, and their shells can have salmonella, so the bulk of my parenting for the last 24 hours has been “Put Dave back in the wading pool!” and “I don’t care, wash your hands again!” And yet, I cannot take him back to the street where I found him, and wish him Godspeed. Where does this leave me? Hoping to find a "Lost Turtle" sign in my neighborhood.Starting every conversation with “Do you want a turtle?”, and reminding myself that this is what happens when my family goes for a walk.


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