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?”
“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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