Boris and Myrtle

Boris & Myrtle
Boris & Myrtle | Source

Niccolò Machiavelli was right. Way back in the 15th Century "Notorious Nick", an Italian historian, philosopher, politician, and part-time garage attendant, advocated choosing an animal to study, mimic, and imitate in order to reap monetary fruit.

Choosing a clever and cunning animal as a model is not such a bad idea. Many animals live a relatively nice existence. We've been taught, and quite accurately, that animals fear the scent of man, and even leopards avoid us like lepers. And while some innate fear compels us to avoid reptiles, this fear seems to work the other way around sometimes. Allegedly, our smell instills a fear that causes them to run away. Science, however, has not determined if it is a fear, per se, or an extremely obnoxious odor noticed by their abundantly superior senses of smell that drives their actions. Without the benefit of opposing thumbs, these creatures are incapable of holding their noses and this leaves them little choice but to flee.

Apparently, the scent of a human motivates a rapacious appetite in the alligator, which cleverly hides on golf courses patiently waiting for some unsuspecting soul to knock a ball off the green where he'll ignorantly pursue it, only to become a delectable lunch. Alligators live nice long lives without the fear of terrorism or escalating gas prices. The successful ones have luggage made out of people.

Businessmen and entrepreneurs around the world have fashioned themselves after cunning mammals and cold-blooded reptiles in their quest to climb ladders and annihilate the competition. Selfishness equating to self-preservation might toss teamwork out the window but which is more gratifying to the self-serving capitalist? Why allow others to slow you down? If the competition is drowning and yells "help!" throw him an anchor. There may be no "i" in team but there certainly is in "win".

Me, I'd choose the turtle or tortoise as my model. Plodding along through the ages, these Chelonians and Testudines have lengthy life spans too. And with virtually no enemies. They're never in a hurry. They enjoy the sun, and when it rains, going indoors is easier than working a zipper. Further, their clumsy appearance and good-natured demeanor often elicits a humorous response from others as these harmless shelled animals lumber about taking in the sights and chuckling their cares away.

I'm an animal-guy. I need some sort of pet to make my place seem like home. When I lived in an apartment that wouldn't allow dogs, I decided to buy a Red-eared Slider like I had when I was a kid, but I was totally devastated when I learned they had been removed from the market due to their ability to carry disease. I had raised dozens of these things and can't recall one instance of any of them sneezing, coughing, wheezing, blowing their nose, or even being constipated. One of my favorites little guys did have fallen arches and a touch of lumbago, but he was an anomaly. The others never had so much as conjunctivitis. This is a robust animal.

Nonetheless, I finally managed to procure my turtle in the seedy part of town hawked by a shifty-eyed vendor beside an open attaché case on a tray with the scissor-legs beneath it that fold up quickly should official-looking sedans pull up. The cost was high, but what price companionship?

I chose one with long front nails indicating it was a "he". Scientists contend the over-sized nails enable the male to mount the female during the reproduction phase, but every observer in the field knows this is false. The long fingernails are an important device in the romantic foreplay that can last for months as throats are gently messaged, shells tickled, and nether regions explored. But this guy looked like a fighter, so I named him Boris.

Unfortunately, due to exorbitant black market costs, I could not afford an appropriate female for Boris so he lived a life of celibacy in his early years, watching the television from his aquarium and wondering what he was missing. I felt bad for him, but I knew his time would come, so to speak.

Years passed, civilizations rose and fell, wars came and went, taxes increased, babies cried, politicians lied, and finally Myrtle came into our lives. Female turtles have long eyelashes and a seductive leathery mystique about them that always keeps their counterparts guessing. Boris, needless to say, was swept up by her graceful curves and totally agog at her fragrant swamp-like scent. His mind would often go blank and he'd find himself whistling mindless tunes as he basked under the 30-watt.

I expected fireworks any day, but surprisingly, nothing happened. Months passed but the two would-be lovers only looked at each other in awkward silence. They seemed edgy and gulped a lot. Nothing was going right for them. Would Boris and Myrtle ever have a little turtle? Could there be a reptile dysfunction?

Fortunately, Boris and Myrtle's situation took a turn for the better all on its own. On Valentine's Day Boris presented the love of his life with a bouquet of lettuce and dried moths. Once night fell and they were alone, their romantic interlude began and continued until the wee hours.

Some time around 3 a.m. I awoke from a deep sleep (thanks to a nice shot of adrenaline) and wondered if someone had broken into the house. I sat bolt upright, staring into the dark, feeling a strange vibration in the room. Was I supposed to put out the trash last night? It was the sound of shells rubbing together in a slow rhythm, and what sounded like the mellow voice of Bill Withers singing Just The Two Of Us in the background. Suddenly, the moment came alive as Boris's intrepid little voice broke the silent darkness... "Who's your turtle...? Who's your turtle...? Who's your turtle!?"

In the morning I took a look and noticed that Myrtle had a bright little flower tucked neatly behind one ear and was wearing Boris's oversized shell, and a shell-shocked Boris was flat on his back on the bottom of the tank, fast asleep. A few tiny cigarette butts floated on the surface of the water.

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