Fahrenheit 52

Will and the Turtle

The driveway was once filled with stones. Will remembered. Now it was blacktop. Better for chalk and playing basketball. Easier to shovel in the winter. Hot and sticky in the summer, with gooey tar patches that smelled like the seats in Will's school bus. Cracks created rivulets that caught the suds from Will's dad's Sunday morning car washes, turning the driveway into a river delta.

Best of all, Will liked the depression by the front window that caused a perennial puddle after every rainshower. Will's mom had a little garden right there. Last year, she let Will buy a fern from the farmer's market and plant it there. Will named the fern Ziggy. It just looked liked a Ziggy to him, swaying its fronds along the ever-puddle. At the right scale, Ziggy was a redwood next to an ocean.

Will's mom grew up with a creek in her backyard. She and her sisters and brothers caught frogs and turtles and dug for fossils and made dams like beavers. Will loved listening to her stories. All he ever wished for was his own backyard creek, and he made sure to make a lot of wishes.

Tradition mattered to Will. Superstition is another way to put it. For example, Will's The Empire Strikes Back routine:

First, grab a cup of Chocolate Teddy Grahams and a tall sippy cup of milk (even though he was too old for one, it was easier than dealing with an inevitable spill). Then, stack up all the brown flannel couch cusions onto one tower. Next, rewind the taped-from-TV VHS of Empire, while trying not to rewind all the way into the last ten minutes of The Sound of Music which annoyingly always happened. Finally, press play and then climb the cushion tower and proceed to eat the bears in this specific order:

During commercials, Will would either climb down and fast forward or stare out the window and wait for his turtle.

Will didn't have a turtle. But he knew one was coming.

His turtle would crawl down the driveway, following the rivulets of rainwater, and discover Ziggy's puddle. Will would be waiting by the window. His turtle would lift its front leg and splash it into the water, inviting Will to come outside and play.

Will and his turtle would go for walks together. Will had already made a little pouch from an old t-shirt pocket and some twine, so that Will could carry his turtle when it got tired of walking or when they'd ride Will's bike together. Will would feed his turtle lettuce and bananas and probably some other vegetables, too, depending on what the librarian suggested.

Will also knew that, at some point, he and his turtle would have to part ways.

Will wouldn't be painting his initials on his turtle's shell back with nail polish, the way his mom and her siblings used to, even though he desperately wanted to try that. Because Will knew that it was wrong to do that to his turtle. Will didn't worry, though. He knew his turtle would come back. The next time there was a rainstorm, Will would be waiting for his turtle on his cushion throne, eating chocolate bears, traveling through hyperspace.