This is not the turtle in question, but a different turtle from a couple of years ago.
I've been off work this week, and now that Boscoe no longer appears to be dying, it's been very nice. Lovely golden September days, a little breeze, warm enough to sit outside and read in the yard in the daytime, just a hint of chill at night. Doug and I have been walking Riley around the lake after dinner. One night a man approached us on the path and warned us of two big raccoons just ahead, but, sadly, they had vanished by the time we rounded the curve. Another night we saw a heron standing in the weeds, in the dark, just a silhouette against the moonlit lake.
Yesterday I drove over to my mother's apartment so that we could go for a walk. It was a glorious, glorious day, sun-drenched and warm, one of the last, I think, of the 80-degrees days this season.
As I started to make the turn into her parking lot, I saw a big dark shape in the middle of the driveway. At first I thought someone had dropped a package, but then I realized: It was a turtle. A big snapper, sunning himself right where he could easily get driven over and squished.
I drove around him, parked, and then walked back to see what I could do. He was huge--as big as a salad plate, with prehistoric wrinkly legs and a small head with beady eyes and, I knew, powerful jaws.
Tentatively, I started to pick him up, keeping my hands well away from his mouth, but the turtle jolted violently and suddenly, jerking his head and arms and legs, and I lost my nerve and let go. He had almost certainly come from the little drainage pond opposite my mother's building. The pond has steep sides overgrown in weeds and rushes, and I poked around trying to find a stout stick. If I could get the turtle to clamp his jaws over a stick, I could carry him back to the water. That was my plan, anyway. But there were no big sticks (and no big trees, just bushes and scrub) and the stick I ended up with was skinny and not very strong. The turtle did grab it, when poked, but let it go almost immediately. He wants flesh, I thought. He's holding out for my fingers.
And so I was still poking at him kind of aimlessly when a dark blue minivan pulled into the parking lot. The driver was a smallish older man, with thinning white hair and a pair of glasses that were strapped to his head with a leather band.
He pulled over, hopped out and walked over to us. "Isn't this turtle gorgeous?" I said. "But I'm afraid he's going to get killed here."
The man neither looked at me, nor spoke. He bent down and grabbed the turtle's shell with his short stubby fingers. "Are you going to pick him up?" I said. "I tried that, but --" Here the turtle gave his violent jolt again, and the man dropped him. "Yeah, he did that for me, too," I said. The man neither looked at me, nor spoke. He reached down again and got a firmer grasp on the heavy shell and picked him a few inches off the ground. This time, when the turtle jerked, the man held on.
He lugged him a few feet to the side of the driveway and dropped him, and the turtle landed on his back. I could see his yellow underside, his fat wrinkly legs, like the legs of an ancient scaly baby, thrashing. Together, but silently, the man and I flipped him over.
Now the turtle was facing the wrong way--back toward the parking lot, and doom. "We'll have to turn him around," I said. The man neither looked at me, nor spoke. He started shoving the turtle with his foot, roughly, pushing him around and heading him toward the weeds. When the turtle was sufficiently buried in foliage, the man turned around and hobbled back toward his van. He climbed in, started up the engine, and disappeared into the garage under my mother's building.
He had neither looked at me nor spoken the entire time. I looked at the turtle with worry. The man had not been gentle, and I worried that he was injured. I poked him again with my stick. The turtle moved a step deeper into the weeds. Satisfied, I turned away and walked back up the driveway. My mother was waiting, and now I had a story to tell.