About the only way to have fun with a pet turtle is to put something in front of him and watch him crawl over it. That’s what Pokey and I did every day.
Pokey was about the size of my fist. He had a green top shell, a lighter green bottom shell, and green legs and head with blue and white stripes. I named him Pokey because that was the name of a turtle in a story Mrs. Rice, my beautiful, redhaired kindergarten teacher, read to us. The Pokey in the story talked. My Pokey just crawled.
When I’d got home from kindergarten, I’d take Pokey from his pan behind the kitchen door and carry him into the living room. I’d put a couple of pencils in front of him, and he’d start crawling over them. Once I tried a couple of my Lincoln Logs, but they were too big for him. Pencils were just right.
It was interesting. Pokey could be sitting in his pan with his head and legs all pulled in, but put him on the floor and he always crawled. I wondered if he was maybe trying to get back to his pan. It was designed just for him with a dry place and a wet place. It had a Lincoln Log under one end raising it so that there could be a little lake for him at the other end.
Pokey didn’t usually crawl in the direction of his pan, but I didn’t think that meant anything. He was little and could easily have been confused by the great distances between the kitchen door and the living room. And, to tell the truth, Pokey didn’t seem too smart anyway.
What he was was determined. He just kept crawling, pencil after pencil. Sometimes he would crawl so far across the living room that he was poised to go under the sofa. I couldn’t let him do that, of course, because my father would have had to move the furniture to get him out. So I’d pick up Pokey and bring him back to the center of the room. It didn’t faze him. He just started crawling again.
I told Mrs. Rice about Pokey and his pan. She said that was wonderful, but I should raise my hand before telling. Mrs. Rice was beautiful and the nicest person in the whole world. When I grew up, I was going to marry her until I found out what "Mrs." meant.
Kindergarten was only in the morning. In the afternoon, I usually played with Pokey, but one day, my mother told me to wait. My father was coming home for a late lunch. Because of his work schedule, my father almost never came home for lunch, so this was a great occasion. I decided I should do something special.
I told my mother my plan, and she said it was okay. When I heard my father on the kitchen porch, I hurried and hid behind the door. When he walked in, I jumped out and hollered "Boo!"
"Oh, my goodness," he said. "You sure scared me." We both laughed.
"Uh-oh," my mother said. She was looking at Pokey’s pan, and she wasn’t laughing.
Pokey was in the pan, his little legs moving like he was crawling, but he wasn’t going anywhere. All around where his top shell met the bottom shell was what looked like mashed potatoes. I knew what had happened immediately. While hiding behind the kitchen door, I had unknowingly stepped on Pokey. My father reached down, picked him up, and popped him into one of the brown bags he sometimes took to lunch.
I was already crying. "Will he die?" I asked.
"No," my father explained. "But he has to heal. To get well, he has to go swim in natural water, not city water like in his pan. I’ll take him out to Piedmont Lake." My father told my mother he’d have to skip lunch. Piedmont Lake was a long drive.
"Will that make him b-better?" I begged.
He smiled as he headed out the door. "You’ll probably see him next summer when we go fishing."
I decided not to tell Mrs. Rice what happened to Pokey. I didn’t want her to think I was careless.
As years went by, my life got in the way, and I pretty much forgot about Pokey. When I finally thought about him, the truth about that "healing in Piedmont Lake" stuff came through to me. I’d believed it at the time because I wanted to believe it – which is why most people believe things.