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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)

TITLE: Chased By Turtles
By Jan Ackerson
05/19/08


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In a daily spasm of irony, my route to the rehabilitation hospital takes me past the site of Macy’s accident. As I approach it, I busy myself with anything so I don’t have to see that scarred tree. Sometimes I think about the woman whose fourth rum-and-coke made one second’s difference in reaction time, and who stumbled away from her crumpled SUV without noticing how Macy’s red car embraced that tree. Truth be told…I hate her.

There’s something in the road—a rock? No, it’s a turtle, practically running in desperation to reach the safety of the shoulder. With my new and acute sense of irony, I imagine the turtle sighing with relief as some predator—a raccoon, maybe—pounces. The scenario appeals to me.

Macy’s not in her room, and a note scrawled on her white board says “Mom—meet me in therapy.” She’s drawn a smiley face with a mohawk. How can she be so chipper?

I walk to the gym and stand in the doorway, unseen. Macy’s sitting on a pile of mats. An unfamiliar man is kneeling in front of her, fitting her stump with the prosthetic leg she’s been expecting.

Macy looks up and waves me over. I can’t do this. A paroxysm of fake coughing allows me to flee for a few moments. She should not be happy about this artificial leg—I certainly am not. Macy should be at college, enjoying her volleyball scholarship.

Oh Macy—what a turn your path has taken! What will you do with your life now?

While I lean against the wall summoning my strength, a physical therapist walks by wearing a tee-shirt with a green turtle on the front. When he passes, I see that the back reads “I Am The Turtle.” I should talk to Macy about this. She’s very close to God these days: maybe she can explain why He keeps putting turtles in my way.

After a few minutes with Macy and the prosthetist, I make excuses and hurry away. Macy’s smile is sad as she hugs me good-bye. “Praying for you, mom…” I don’t want to hear it.

I head for home with the radio blaring. Even though I need groceries, I decide not to go to the supermarket; one of those aisle ladies will probably try to offer me a pecan turtle. When I’m halfway home, my cell rings. Macy’s sister Tanis says “Mom, you’ll never guess,” and my heart races with unfamiliar hope: is she about to tell me that she’s finally pregnant?

“Pete and I have a new animal!” Tanis is obviously thrilled. She and her husband have a veritable menagerie of unusual pets. This is not, however, the news I wanted to hear. “Can you come see it, mom?”

Tanis and Pete’s house would only be a slight detour, and the eagerness in her voice is unmistakable. Well, anything to distract my bitter thoughts of Macy. I turn toward Tanis’s neighborhood.

It’s a turtle. Not a cute little box turtle, but an infant snapper the size of a half dollar. Pete has it in a 10-gallon tank, where it squats on a rock looking like a small stegosaurus.

“Isn’t he cute, mom? His name is Dwight…Dwighter the Biter.”

It is not cute. It’s a snapping turtle, and even though it’s a tiny one, it is undeniably fierce. Pete is feeding it live crickets with tweezers, and its vicious little beak snaps them up in milliseconds.

I sit on Tanis’s couch, and she plops beside me, rubbing the back of my neck with a soft hand. “Where’d you get the turtle, honey?”

“That’s the funny thing. Pete was getting the mail and he saw it on the sidewalk, headed toward the street. We have no idea how it got there, but he picked it up and brought it inside.”

I nod and close my eyes. Frankly, I don’t care about Dwighter the Biter. Tanis continues rubbing my neck, then says softly, “Mom?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Can I tell you something? Something about…turtles?”

Oh, good grief. “Sure, Tanis.”

“Well, here’s the deal, Mom. Some turtles make it across the road safely. Some turtles don’t make it, and they get smashed by traffic. But…some turtles? They’re like Dwighter. They’re lifted up by an unseen hand, and put on a new path. It’s not their original path, but they’re safe. And they’re on their way to a new kind of life.”

I look at Dwight, feasting on crickets—the beneficiary of an unseen hand.

***

Author’s Note: To Doug


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This article has been read 1248 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 05/22/08
Great voice - and an extremely engaging storyline. Love the lesson at the end, too.
Sheri Gordon05/23/08
Wow. Thank you. This is a message I really, really needed to hear/read--especially today. I believe God put this turtle in my path--this was written for me.
Leigh MacKelvey05/23/08
I saw a bunch of different messages in this: god make good out of trials for those who love the Lord; the unseen hand of God picks you up at the crossroad and guides you into a choice for salvation.God may take you off your path and put you on His own ... a better one. What lovely Truth! Well written with just the right touch of humor. I love this turtle symbolistic ( is there such a word?)story!
Debbie Wistrom05/23/08
What bare truth emotions you gave us.
You made me ache with the mom and then you gave me hope with your message.

Wonderful!
Betty Castleberry05/24/08
Oh, I like this. Who would have thought a turtle could be such a great teacher? This held my attention from the start. Well done.
Laury Hubrich 05/24/08
Excellent. Love the storyline and the life lessons.
Laury
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/25/08
This is a maravelously written story with a marvelous lesson.
Dee Yoder 05/25/08
Put on a different path...yes, I recognize that notion. What a message and how like God to use a turtle to bring His message to His children! Great writing. Love the ending.
Shirley McClay 05/26/08
ok.. crying here... how dare you meddle like that with NO warning!! ;-)

BTW... great writing! Like always!
Chely Roach05/26/08
An exceptionally beautiful piece, in a week of beautiful entries. I loved the analogy of the turtle(s) to our perceived tragedies; a picture of God's perfect love in a half shell. I can sense the emotion woven into this piece from your very heart. Excellent.
Yvonne Blake 05/26/08
I'll not see a turtle again without thinking of the message of this story.
Thank you for writing it.
Joy Faire Stewart05/27/08
What a beautiful message! I was caught-up in the story by the opening paragraph.

"one of those aisle ladies will probably try to offer me a pecan turtle" was perfect. I was very touched by the story.
Aaron Morrow05/28/08
Great story! I thought the first two paragraphs were particularly engaging.

I had a little trouble following the story thread (timelines and characters introduced).

The story had a great resolve and I enjoyed reading it. Your final line was the clincher, excellent work!
LauraLee Shaw05/28/08
Anointed piece. Loved it.
Sara Harricharan 05/28/08
Ah, a different pet, a turtle! I was wondering how the turtle chase would fit, it, it was pretty good! I liked the ending best though. And the name "Tanis" Great job! ^_^
LaNaye Perkins05/28/08
When I grow up as a writer.... I wanna write like you. :) This was fantastic. I especially loved how you reached in and grabbed my heart with the way you wrote this story. Wow.
Cheri Hardaway 05/28/08
Heavy indeed, but smacks with wisdom gained from living through some hard trials in life. Aren't we glad God chases us, even when He uses turtles to do it? Nice work. Blessings, Cheri
Lyn Churchyard05/28/08
Wonderful story and masterfully written. There is so much depth to this one and I think it would make a great devotional. Great job as always :-)
Lynda Schultz 05/28/08
You kept me guessing where this was going right to the end—super finish. Nicely done.
Mariane Holbrook05/28/08
Lovely story! No kidding!
Karen Wilber 05/28/08
The phrase "chased by turtles" makes me think 'slow and steady wins the race'. And there's a persistence to this story--the MC is going to hear her daughters out no matter how long it takes. Much to ponder here....

The only thing that made me go "huh?" was her comment about God "keeps putting turtles...", when she'd only seen 2 so far. Maybe I'm a little slower on the uptake than your MC. (sorry about the pun).

I do like your ironic title very much.
Peter Stone05/28/08
Brilliant. You touched on so many true-to-life issues here. How a victim often manages to cope with disaster and move on faster than their parent can, and how God uses these things to send us in a new direction
Joshua Janoski05/29/08
My favorite part of this was the lesson at the end. I also enjoyed the turtle's name - Dwighter the Biter.

It is true that sometimes our lives do take unexpected turns, but like this story explains, the important thing is that God keeps us safe through it all.
Betsy Markman05/29/08
First off, it's not fair of you to use such an irresistible title. How could anyone go off and do dishes when they're drawn by a title like that? :-)

Second, this is fabulous. So beautifully written with such a great message...and you do a good job of giving the message without being preachy. Just wonderful.
Dianne Janak05/29/08
You really hooked me with your mother's pain for your daughter... and I was with you all the way, even at the lesson and takeaway. Our dreams for our kids are so often the worst grief we bear when we have to let go of them.. the turtle had a lesson and God didn't give up. Great Jan... Bravo!
Joshua Janoski05/29/08
Congratulations on taking 11th place in your level with this piece, Jan!
Joshua Janoski05/29/08
And you placed 18th overall. Awesome!