Saturday, May 9, 2009


Our dear Grandtortoise was a handsome fellow, with a big shiny taller-than-a-turtle shell, all squared off with lovely markings in all shades from brown to rust to tan and olive, like a beautiful enameled Japanese box. Sheldon was a tiny baby the size of a silver dollar when our daughter got him, and when they came to live here, he would cover a dinner-plate.

He lived in the utility room downstairs most of the time, settling flat on the floor with his face poked near the flame of the water heater. He’d come when I called, “C’mon, Dolling!” and would saunter out, his tall shell not quite clearing the curtain, making an entrance from the drooping folds. He’d make his way to his little flat plate and settle in to consume whatever green things I’d ground in his little processor---broccoli, grapes, apple, spinach---he ate them all. And a scoop of still-warm rice---he’d dive in with jaws open, and not come up for air til the last soft grain was gone.

Then, he’d get a drink from his bowl, and walk the LONG walk out of the kitchen, through the dining area, past the breakfast table, on past the bathroom and into our bedroom door, where he’d make his way to the far side of our waterbed, snuggling his face into the pillows on the floor, and sleep away the day.

I’d call him again sometimes, and carry him upstairs, where we’d go out for an outing in the grass. He’d make great circles and swoops, munching the fresh green, soaking up the sun. Some days if I had to come in, I’d set a big lacework laundry basket down over him, and he’d just wander around the yard, eating grass and clover and pushing that enormous blue second shell. He was too tall to get under the gate, anyway, but the basket kept him from wandering too far away.

And I DO miss Sheldon---he was a dear creature, just lovely to know. He came to recognize my voice and the call to dinner, and loved his time out on the lawn, just munching his way up one row of grass and down another. The previous owners of this house had put up a rather unfortunate set of tiles behind where I put my big Franklin stove, and Sheldon's food dish went right there at the side of the stove. I don't know if his eyesight was good or not, but occasionally, I would notice him making little neck-bobs toward that wall, and realized that he was trying to nip the little painted-on wisps of grass on the tile pattern. We'd go outside even after dark if I thought he needed his greenery.

We also went for walks down the drive and down to the end of the block. I’d set him on the warm asphalt, and away he’d go, down the sloping drive; I’d nudge him to turn the corner at the front sidewalk, and would walk between him and the grass verge of the street, keeping him on a fairly even course as we strolled. Cars would slow down, sometimes stop, sometimes back up for a better look. He’d occasionally wander to the right, up the hill of the lawn, for a little snack to tide him over, then back onto the sidewalk til we’d made our round.

He lived here for more than a year and a half, and grew considerably bigger during that time. I loved him, fed him, petted him, carried him upstairs and outside, but he was only pretty from the TOP. Any horror-movie producer in need of a good monster closeup could do away with all that computer-mation stuff and get a good shot of Sheldon walking away. From the back, he’s HORRIBLE---all warts and thorns and spurs and knobby legs, but he’s a sweetheart. For a time after they left, I would start to call him, or I’d stumble over AIR, thinking he might be walking beneath my feet as I moved about the kitchen.

I miss him. I’d take him back in a heartbeat.

1 comment:

Chronica Domus said...

Marvelously written post about a beautiful, and curious, creature. As you know, I've been the caretaker of Torty for a month and have fallen head over heels for this docile and meek little thing. It sounds like you'll be an ideal tortoise foster mother if needed.