Day two has bled into day three. Charlie continues to swim.
Charlie has been left in the care of my blonde and buxom mother, who, in a fit of misguided generosity, filled his tank to the rim.
Nothing in Charlie’s history has prepared him to struggle so, just to meet the next hour. Having been born to a doting turtle in Mr. Henson’s pet shop, his life has proceeded just so. Sure, there was sibling rivalry (“Mom said I won the race!”) and mediocre fare (Mr. Henson bought the cheapest brand) and adolescent heartbreak (his shell was hard, right up until it counted), but never had he felt his well-being in jeopardy.
Oddly, despite his toil, pain and exhaustion, Charlie feels serene. As the sun rose this morning, he relinquished thoughts of blame, self-pity and disdain for the blonde who’s drowning him. Legitimate or not, they weren’t advancing his cause.
Charlie’s cause, quite simply, is survival.
A modest turtle, Charlie has always believed that happiness comes from wanting what you have. Though unable to make contact, he still has his rock. Charlie tries to keep this uppermost in his mind. But at times, he drifts into fantasy.
Slow days at the pet shop, Mr. Henson used to watch “Animal Planet” and “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” on the TV behind the counter. If Charlie makes it, surely he’ll be featured on such a show. Eternally water-logged, he’ll refuse to do reenactments; they can hire another turtle for that. But all it took was one influential viewer and he could end up on “Ellen DeGeneris,” “60 Minutes” or “The View.” With that kind of exposure, who knew? The ASPCA could remove him from the Schmidts’ and place him with the President or Angelina Jolie.
“He’s fine,” Charlie hears from the hallway. It’s the blonde, talking on the phone. “He didn’t have enough water, so I filled his tank. Quite the swimmer, your Charlie is!”
A long moment of silence. Then, sheepishly, “Oh. Well.” The blonde clears her throat. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. I thought he looked kind of. . .parched.”
“I just got here. Let me go check.”
The blonde enters the room, peers into Charlie’s tank.
“Well,” she says into the phone. Then, haltingly, “He does look a little peaked.” She winces, holds the phone an arm’s length from her ear. When finally she returns it, she says “Okay. I understand. Just tell me what to do.”
The blonde leaves the room, returns with a bucket and an empty plastic jug. She plunges the jug into the water. Charlie swims hard, resisting the current. The blonde pulls the jug from the tank and dumps the water into the bucket. She repeats this several times. Charlie doesn’t like the suction, but sees his rock rising from the depths. He stretches his legs downward. If only he could. . .
One of Charlie’s toe-claws brushes lightly against his rock.
Charlie realizes that, unless the blonde fucks this up, he’ll be situated firmly within minutes. Solid ground will support him; finally, he’ll catch his breath. His over-attentive caretaker, understanding the depth of his malaise, will sit vigil, rubbing his shell, taking his temperature, offering him chicken soup.
Charlie has never sought pampering, but right now he won’t turn it down. Love, attention, ground beef: He’ll accept as much as he can get. Including unabashed glimpses of the blonde’s impressive breasts.
Of course, this is out of Charlie’s character. But after three days of swimming, he’s adopted a new perspective. Glimpses Charlie has earned; glimpses he will get.
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