The Turtle

I sat by the pond, on an old gray dock that jutted out into the dark still water. The sky was gray and white, heavy overcast ceiling. The hidden birds were talkative, their tone conversational. My only companion was a wood duck, a drake by the shiny black green of his head, drifting complacently on unseen currents. I was reading a book of essays by Annie Dillard, which should always be read outside. A chainsaw occasionally roared in the distance, another machine, perhaps a lawn mower, even further off. A rain began to fall. It did not touch me yet and only announced its presence by concentric rings in the dark water, radiating outward.

I began to close my book, intending to head in to finish the chapter. I slid the crow feather I used as a bookmark back onto the page, the same color as the letters, and raised my eyes from the page. Something, some movement in the corner of my eye drew my gaze to a patch of water at the edge of the dock. There I was confronted by a snapping turtle, brown and knobby, his strong round limbs pushing him ponderously to the surface. He saw me, his eyes, ruddy brown gold, and mine made contact.

We stared at each other as he continued his ascent. His beak nose with its two little holes broke the surface. The stare was like a spell, holding us captive. He treaded water, watching as one blind hand scrabbled in a purse, looking for a camera that was actually in a jacket pocket.

I broke eye contact to look for it, and broke the spell with it. He waited until the camera was in my hand before pushing himself calmly down, quickly disappearing in to the black water until all that remained of his presence was a break in the greasy film that covered the pond. I looked at the picture I had taken. By the edge of the dock was a brown stain on the water, unrecognizable as a turtle. I laughed as I thought about excitedly showing this picture to my friends. I felt honored, though begrudgingly, as if a magician had stolen my watch.


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