Saturday, November 20, 2010

It had not been a hallucination, Theodore thought fiercely.

It had not been a figment of his imagination. He had seen the giant tortoise by the park. Hadn't he?

He had seen the big domed shape on the green grass that edged the marshy stream running on the border of the big city park. Out of the corner of his eye as he had run passed on one of his daily jogs.

At first he had thought it was just a clump of grass and dirt, but he could have sworn he had seen it move.

He regretted not stopping at the time and going back to check, because now the question haunted him. Did he see a giant tortoise in the middle of the city, lounging on the grassy green lawn of the park?

When he made the claim that he had to his friends and family, they just laughed and thought he was just telling one of his fancy stories.

And maybe it was.

He had gone back to the spot maybe times, sometimes armed with a camera, and sometimes just altering his jogging route to check periodically for the big turtle. But it was never there.

It was maddening.

He had almost come to believe it had been just his imagination, until one fall evening Theodore was on a quick run, not even realizing he was running passed the fabled patch of grass, when there it was.

The big tortoise. Just sitting there, almost awaiting his arrival.

Theodore stopped, almost jumping with excitement. He had to cover his mouth with his hand from laughing out loud with joy. He did not want to spook the animal away. Though how fast a giant tortoise could flee did not enter his mind; it was racing with exhilaration.

He stood and stared at the big animal for a long while, as it simply regarded him with kind old eyes; eyes that seemed to smile back at the jubilant Theodore.

Slowly he began to move toward the kindly old tortoise and as he neared, its head bobbed up and down as if it were approving of Theodore's approach.

The dimming autumn sunlight began to reverse and brighten into a spring morning as Theodore reached out his hand to the moss-patched dome of the tortoise's shell.

Its head still bobbing with approval, Theodore placed his hand on the textured surface of the shell. His smile broke into laughter as he felt a warmth pour over him as the daylight shinned on their private patch of grass.

Knowing that it was the right thing to do, Theodore sidled the massive turtle and mounted its shelled back.

Sitting atop the tortoise, Theodore threw back his head as he laughed as he had when he had been young; full of pure delight.

Slowly the tortoise plodded around the soft grass lawn as Theodore smiled and laughed, the summer sun warming his face.

For what might have been moments, or a lifetime, he rode around on the tortoise's shell, all the while laughing until tears welled in his eyes.

At last, they rode into the light that bordered their grassy field and both he and his turtle friend were enveloped by the white light.

When Theodore opened his eyes he was standing on the sidewalk beside the park. Shadows were growing within the threes and the autumn air was becoming quickly chilled as the light drained from the evening sky.

Theodore looked around for the tortoise but it was no where in sight. Had it been there?

The memory of riding around on the turtle's back began to fade like a dream as he stood panting from his jog. He shook his head and continued his run home; the question still in his mind. Had he seen the tortoise or just imagined it?

By the time he arrived back at home he had decided that he would keep the memory to himself. Not a story or hallucination.

A memory of riding the tortoise in the bright summer sun.

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