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The Crying Turtle (Fiction)
Jan 13, 2006, 8:28p

Before the birthday of his friend the elephant, the turtle was overjoyed. He had written the elephant a set of stories about their adventures together, and he was looking forward to giving the collection to him. My, what an exciting set of stories they were. The turtle had met the elephant when he was 12 years old, and in the past 4 years, they had grown to be the closest of friends.
It all started with the elephant trampling through the turtle’s bedroom one night. Of course, the elephant didn’t realize that the weeds he had flattened could be anyone’s bedroom, but that’s a different story altogether.
The elephant had trouble sleeping and decided to go for a walk to get his mind off of things. A few hours earlier, he had been talking to his mom about where to go next. He was a stout, brisk young elephant of 13 years. He and his mom had been traveling south through the Saharan desert for the past few months, as they were looking for warmth as winter settled in. They were traveling with their large herd, but the young elephant didn’t think that they were going in the right direction.
“We should be going west,” he told his mother.
“Why? We’ve always gone south every year, and we’ve always done fine,” his mother said. “See the fine grasses around us? We didn’t have such fine food in the north.”
“The food is fine. What I’m really worried about is the weather. It just keeps getting colder and colder. And you’re not well Ma. You need to be in a warmer place.”
“We should trust the head elephant. He knows where he’s taking us.”
The young elephant never liked the head elephant. Though he was bigger than the rest, he was too bossy, always telling the other elephants what to do. He also seemed to talk to his mom a lot, which made the young elephant a bit uneasy. He just didn’t trust the head elephant.
“The head elephant thinks he’s all big and macho, but I don’t trust him”, the young elephant said. “I don’t think he knows where he’s going. I saw some wildflowers blowing from the west, so it must be warmer there. We should go there.”
“No. We’ll just stay with herd,” the mother declared, not willing to argue further with her son.
“I can’t believe you,” the young elephant said, raising his trunk. “You, you just like the head elephant.”
“What? What did you say.”
The young elephant said nothing.
“You’re grounded. Go to your room.”

That had been hours ago, but now the young elephant couldn’t sleep. He just kept having visions of his mom and the head elephant talking, even touching trunks. He imagined them spraying water at each other, and it made him sick. He knew what he would do: he would just leave and go west. That’ll teach his mom to listen to him.
As he trampled through the fine grasses, he almost didn’t notice when he heard the tiniest voice yelling behind him. “Just ...” was all heard, in the squeakiest little voice. He stopped and turned around.
“Who’s there?” he huffed.
“Just ...”. Again, he could only hear that one squeaky little word. Having never heard such a strange voice before, he took some steps toward the sound.
“I can’t hear you. You need to speak up.” He got a few yards closer.
“I said, ‘Just what do you think you’re doing!?’”
In the big toe of one of his foot prints, he saw a small, brown turtle standing on its hind legs. Bending down to get a closer look, he saw the turtle waving it’s arm in anger.
“Well, what in shattering-shells do you think you’re doing?” the turtle said.
“What do you mean?”
“You just trampled my home. Now where am I supposed to live? You see those scraps of wood in your other footprint? That was my home! Too bad you didn’t get a splinter.”
The turtle sat down as he looked back at his home and his eyes began to well up.
“Oh, now what am I going to do? Where am I going to go?” And with that, the turtle’s squeaky voice turned into a squeaky sobbing voice. His eyes were practically creating a pool in the big toe around him.
“Don’t cry little one,” the elephant said. “I’m sorry I crushed your home. But I don’t understand. Don’t you live in the shell you carry on your back.”
“Yes, snif, I live in my shell. But that’s not where my home is. That shatter of splinters over there is my home, and now it’s gone!” The turtle burst into another shower of tears.
“Well, I’m so sorry. Maybe I can make it up to you by taking you west?”
“Why would I want to go west? My home is right here.”
“I know, but I’m going west where it’s warmer. Aren’t you cold at night?”
“Yeah, I’m cold. But this is my home. I can’t just up-and-up leave. This is where I grew up. All my friends live nearby. I know all the secret spots where you can snag the best meals. And the water in the lake is so clear.”
“Well, I’m going west,” the elephant said grumpily. “I’m sorry about your house, but I’m not sure there’s much I can do to help.”
“Wait a second, you’re not getting off that easily. You can’t leave until you make me a new house. My grandfather made the one you destroyed, and you’re going to have to make one just as nice.”
“Hurgh. OK, I guess that’s fine. What do you need to make your house?”
“I’m going to need some bricks for the foundation, some young trunks for the pillars, some special mud for the walls, a plank for the door, and some tiles for the roof.”
As the elephant began to quickly collect this material (it would take a turtle more than a year, being so low to the ground), the turtle became curious.
“Why are you going west? I’ve heard from the raven that the elephants are making their way south, and to stay out of their way lest there’s an accident. Why aren’t you with the herd?”
“I don’t like the herd,” the elephant harumphed. “It’s only getting colder, and I don’t like the head elephant. He’s too nice to my mom, and he’s too bossy to me.”
“Maybe he’s just doing his best? It is a lot of responsibility, being a head elephant and all. Everyone relies on you to make the right decisions. It can be very stressful I’m sure.”
“Hmm, I’d never thought about that.”
“He’s probably just trying his best. And of course he’ll make mistakes sometimes. Maybe you should go talk to him, after you finish my home, of course.”
“That might be a good idea.”

After a couple hours placing brick, trees, and tiles, the house was built back with stunning speed.
“It really does help to have a big, strong elephant. I’m never going to build again without a trusty elephant.”
“Glad I could help, especially after the damage I caused,” said the elephant. “And I’m glad we got to talk. I’m going to go back and talk to the head elephant now.”
“Good luck,” said the turtle.

When the young elephant returned to the herd, he went to talk to the head elephant. After hearing about the wildflowers blowing from the west, the head elephant said, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner. Wildflowers only blow from where it is warm. I’m going to make you a scout, and tomorrow morning we’ll head west.”
With that, the young elephant went home, told his mom about how he was now a scout and that they were heading west. His mom was proud of him, and snuggled him with her trunk.

Every six months when the elephants migrated, the young elephant got to see his pal the turtle. And this year, the migration happened to be during the elephant’s birthday. The elephant wasn’t expecting a party, but when he trampled through the grass to see his friend the turtle, he was surprised to see his mom, the head elephant, his other elephant friends, and his turtle waiting to see him.
“Surprise!” they yelled, and the festivities began. The turtle presented the elephant with his book of stories, of which this story was the first and the next story the second.

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