Arthur Bradford, author of Turtleface and Beyond, introduces us to some new friends and tricky personalities not included in his book.
Do you believe in reincarnation? I for one have always thought it was nonsense. The common criticism holds that most people who subscribe to this belief claim they were someone famous in their past life. We can’t all have had glamorous past lives. But this turtle here, who most knew as Sheila, makes a more convincing case. She claimed to be Deborah Harry in her past life. “I wrote most of Blondie’s well known songs,” she told me.
“But Debbie Harry it still alive,” I pointed out.
“That’s not how reincarnation works,” said Sheila, shaking her tiny head.
• • •
This is Ida’s brother, Paul. He was the smallest of the batch. He was nearly eaten by a grouper at a young age. He and Ida had a parting of ways and he swam off to Borneo where he found things much easier. Not long after this photo was taken some villagers captured Paul and made him into a soup. Ida was sad to hear this, but took it in stride.
“That’s what you get for running off to Borneo,” she said.
• • •
Allow me to tell you a little bit about this turtle here, Clara. Some would call her a tortoise. Shortly after her mother laid the batch of eggs from which Clara hatched, a trio of snakes came upon them and ate them all. All expect Clara’s. Her egg rolled down an embankment while the snakes were having their feast and the lazy reptiles didn’t bother to locate it. So Clara was hatched on her own, and survived an exceedingly difficult childhood marred by floods, droughts, and fire. Finally she reached adulthood and began to enjoy her life in the wild. That’s when some douchebag from the Pittsburgh Zoo found her in a meadow and took her on an airplane to live in the World of Reptiles. Now she gets fed flowers twice a day and has learned to tolerate the greasy pawing hands of hundreds of schoolchildren each year. Does she miss the perils of nature? “Yes,” she says thoughtfully, “there are times that I do.”
• • •
“Fuck man, I can’t handle this, like, at all,” he says.
A young girl found Hector and took him home as a pet. Most turtles would have found this objectionable but not Hector. He gets fed regularly and the girl talks to him in Spanish, a language he does not understand, but finds soothing.
• • •
“That’s really bad karma, man,” he kept saying.
Later in the day he hooked a pelican so things didn’t get any better.
“Let’s get out of this boat and get drunk,” suggested Mickey.
That sea turtle he hooked was fine, by the way, just a small cut on its fin where the hook had gone in. I’m sure it was an unpleasant experience for the turtle, but Mickey did get incredibly drunk that afternoon to make up for it.
For more stories from Arthur Bradford’s turtle friends, go here.
Arthur Bradford is an O. Henry Award–winning writer and Emmy-nominated filmmaker. He is the author of Turtleface and Beyond, Dogwalker, and his writing has appeared in Esquire, McSweeney’s, VICE, and Men’s Journal. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and serves as the co-director of Camp Jabberwocky, the nation’s longest-running residential summer camp for people with disabilities.
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