Today's column is dedicated to our beloved turtle Eastman. He's a red-eared slider, and frankly, one of the great joys of our life. We've had the little guy for something like sixteen years now, and he's about as much a part of the family as any dog, cat, or grandma could be. Let me tell you just a few of my favorite Eastman moments:
* We used to keep his aquarium under the stand our stereo was on, and I had a habit of putting quarters for the washing machine (we had pay machines in our apartment complex them) on that shelf. Well, one day I went to clean out Eastman's aquarium, and I realized that under the rocks were $1.75 in quarters. I liked to imagine our little turtle nudging his aquarium against the stand until the quarters fell in, and then him hiding them in anticipation of an eventual vacation he was planning (probably to Phila-Shell-phia, the City of Turtley Love).
* Y'know, we put a couple of plastic turtles in with Eastman to keep him company, and one day I noticed him standing nose to nose with one of the faux turtles, fluttering the sides of his little clawed hands against its plastic noggin. I assumed that this was probably a warning that turtles give, a way of saying "hey, beat it, this is my territory, buddy." And then I did some reading on the subject. As it turns out, it's a mating dance. The male turtles swims backwards facing the female and flutters his little claws (turned inside out as to not scratch her face). And here was poor Eastman, working his mojo on the least receptive female he was ever going to find. I notice him doing it a lot now (sometimes he even tries to follow it up with a futile mounting gesture), and it breaks my heart. I'd kinda like to hire a turtle "escort" for him, just to ease all that tension, but he's a turtle; I'd have to rent the female for a week and a half just for one session of turtle in flagrante (which sounds delicious).
*Any time he gets a grape. We discovered a few years ago that Eastman is a grape-aholic, and he will literally LEAP out of the water to take the blessed fruit from my hand. It's really an amazing thing to see as he first revs up for it, his legs churning up a froth and spinning like the Tasmanian Devil in a Warner Bros. cartoon. And then this leap into the air that makes Michael Jordan look like Stephen Hawking. It's something to behold.
*The day Lea fed Eastman a grape, and he got her thumb instead. The sight of our little buddy hanging five inches above the water, latched onto Lea's appendage with a grip that would make Paul Reubens proud. I don't think his little mouth/beak could do Lea much damage, but man, did she let out a combination shriek/giggle. The only problem is...now that he's tasted human flesh, he looks at me funny...
Anyway, here's to you, Eastman. You are the biggest name in turtles since Gamera.