This is a story for my new tortoise friend, Joey.
Activity buzzes, crackles, and chirps in every direction. The soundtrack to this warm, March, Los Angeles day… the first dry day after several unseasonably wet ones.
A soft and low thud in the grass occurs among the plethora of high-pitched energetic noises.
The sparrows continue to chirp, the hummingbirds buzz, the twittering of other birds in which Sam has yet to identify continue. And another soft and low thud in the grass.
“There goes Joey.” Sam says to his new tortoise friend as she ambles through the yard.
She sniffs some grass, loses interest, and continues to stroll through the yard. The soft thuds and slow crunching of grass under the feet of this 20-pound desert tortoise are calm and casual amongst the almost-frantic chorus being sung by the surrounding birds.
Joey approaches some thicker blades of grass, sniffs them, and then begins to eat them.
“Oh, you only like the thicker blades of grass huh?” Sam says, ripping some of the blades of grass out of the ground and feeding them to Joey.
“They taste better.” Joey says in a gravelly voice.
“Ah!” Escapes Sam’s mouth as he teeters back and almost falls.
He scans his surroundings. No neighbors around. Just the birds and a curious squirrel.
“Joey, did you just talk?” Sam asks in a hushed tone.
The birds in the surrounding area hush.
“Well, I didn’t fart.” Joey remarks.
“You talk?” Sam is astonished. “And… make jokes? Since when do you talk?”
“I’ve always talked.” Joey responds. “I just never had anyone worth talking to.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“Believe it. The last guy didn’t even give me a name. Didn’t even bother to find out if I was male or female. Thank you for looking into it. And thank you for choosing Joey. I do feel it suits me.”
“Does anyone else know you can talk?”
“No. And no one will. When you bring me to the sanctuary next week, I won’t talk to anyone. I don’t wish to become a spectacle. A talking tortoise? No thank you.”
“So, you have been listening!” Sam is so taken aback at this realization.
“Yes, thank you for taking me in. Even if just temporarily. I know you do not have the proper space for me to live, as you have explained. I know the sanctuary will have plenty of room for me, as you have explained. Without you, who knows what would’ve happened to me.” Joey stops talking and eats more thick blades of grass.
“Where were you before you lived with that guy?” Sam asks curiously.
“I’ve seen many places.” Joey says, grass falling out of her mouth. “I lived in a desert. I lived in a field. I have many years of traveling under my shell… It’s a tortoise expression.”
“I wish I could keep you, Joey. It’s been so great having you. It’s just, my apartment…”
“No need to explain again, Sam.” Joey seems to almost smile. “I understand. This sanctuary you’ve described sounds like it will be the best home I’ve ever had. And though I will have only lived with you temporarily, I’ll remember you and your kindness permanently.”
“The sanctuary is far, but I’ll come visit whenever I can.” Sam says.
“And I’ll write to you as often as I can.” Joey responds.
“You can write too?!”
A gravelly laugh croaks out of Joey’s throat.
“No, Sam. That would be absurd.”
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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme