Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Turtles

Warren Zevon--"Ourselves To Know" (mp3)
Mary McCaslin--"Things We Said Today" (mp3)


“Okay, a different distinction, then. You know what it comes down to?”

“Tell me.”

“Have you ever seen one of those big turtles crossing the road? Not the kind you used to buy in a pet store. The ones as big as a helmet, trying to get across a highway.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen them.”

“But have you seen them after the car has run over them? When they’re still alive and that shell is cracked in several pieces and there’s blood running from them and they’re still trying to make it across the road?”

“So, not dead?”

“No. That shell protects them some, but they’re doomed to be dead, of course.”

“I haven’t seen one on the road.”

“Well, they’re dead, but they don’t know it, they’re dead but they just haven’t died yet. But, that isn’t the point.”

“So, what is the point?”

“The driver.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s all about the driver. There are only two kinds of drivers in the world. Those who will run over the turtle and those who won’t. That’s what it comes down to.”

“I knew a guy when I was a kid who used to like to run over cats.”

“That doesn’t count. Some people have issues with cats. I love cats, but I can’t use them as a benchmark.”

“So, turtles.”

“Yes, because they’re moving slowly enough, that when you hit them, it’s a choice.”

“A moral one?”

“I think so. Do you?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know the difference between morals and ethics, and I don’t think of either one when I drive.”

“So, you’d run over a big turtle?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to kill it, and I don’t want turtle juice spraying up on my car. Or, maybe, I just don’t want you judging me because of a stupid turtle.”

“Not judging you, rightly or wrongly, just making a distinction between those who do and those who don’t. That’s all. Shit, I ran over a squirrel the first time I drove my dad’s new white car, and I had to wipe squirrel blood off of his bumper.”

“But you didn’t try to take the squirrel out?”

“No, it panicked and chose the wrong way to go.”

“Which takes the blame off you.”

“Yeah, but that isn’t what I was looking for. I’m wondering about the guy, or girl, I guess, who sees that turtle in the road, recognizes it for what it is and tries to hit it square with a tire. Those people are out there.”

“Okay, obviously, they are. What does that mean for you and me? Just because some guy runs over a turtle doesn’t mean he’s going to run over people.”

“Probably true. But what’s in his mind? That whatever’s helpless and can’t fight back is fair game? That whatever he thinks is beneath him is a bug or a toy?”

“You’re overthinking this, pal. He’s just running over a turtle.”

“Would you?”

“We’ve been here already. No, I wouldn’t. But I’m not about to damn someone to hell for it, either.”

“I know. Anyway, that’s my distinction. What’s yours?”

“Those who cheat on their husband or wife and those who don’t.”

“Hmm. That’s way too messy, I think. There are all kinds of reasons, all kinds of circumstances. Maybe not right, but understandable. People who shouldn’t have been together in the first place, people who make a mistake and try to recover from it, people who fall out of love. Those who don’t have a husband or wife.”

“Those who don’t have the chance to run over turtles, doomed forever to roam turtleless highways. Those who don’t have cars.”

“Touche.”

“You know what I think?”

“What?”

“That we only make these distinctions between people who do this or that, who are or aren’t, so we can try to figure out what the right side is and get on it. Or worse, to figure out what side we’re on and to try to make that the right side.”

Gott Mit Uns.”

“Huh?”

“My uncle brought back this entire German uniform, helmet, rifle, dagger, everything, when he was in WWII. Moths got the uniform, it was made of wool, but anyway, that’s what it said on the belt buckle: ‘Gott Mit Uns.’ God is with us.”

“Nazis.”

“Turtle-killers.”

“Adulterers.”

“Let’s get another pitcher.”
Warren Zevon and Mary McCaslin's songs are available at Itunes.

4 comments:

John said...

When you and I had this conversation, I believe it was about opossum...the beer, I recall, was Olympia, and the city, Tacoma. Other than that, crisp dialogue, well remembered. Nicely done, my friend....nicely done...

Billy said...

Ohhh I get it. So when I'm not involved in the inspiration behind the story, no one gets fellated... Gee, don't I feel special.

(Can I just say I'm very jealous of this entry? Like, even a little more than usual?)

troutking said...

Lanbo, I'm disappointed you didn't relate another story about running over an animal that also involves dixie cups and curbs.

I am not however disappointed by the song Ourselves to Know. Love it. Heard it for the first time on XM last week on a certain station called E Street Radio. The guest DJ who picked the song just happened to be a guy named Bruce who just rocked the Super Bowl.

Brings up a question, though. Is Bruce a member of the E Street Band or is the band just with him?

Bob said...

You suckers! I've never even been to Tacoma, except once with a female.

What you should be mad about, Billy, is that when I'm desperate for a post I dredge up some old fiction.