Lucky me: there are turtles swimming in the fountain in the lobby of my office building. So far I've seen two, although there may be more; they tend to hide out behind the miniature waterfall that rings the trench at the fountain's perimeter. Whatever space lies behind the falling water serves as the turtles' home. The trench is there for our mutual entertainment - at least, I'm hoping that the turtles find us entertaining when they emerge from the waterfall to pull their bodies up on the decorative rocks and stretch their necks out to stare back at us. Are we not equally as strange and ugly to them as they are to us? When my eye meets the dark eye of the turtle, I imagine that its stare communicates the following message - You are amusing to gaze on, Unshelled Thing, and one day you will be my food.
The turtles in the lobby are probably the closest this city gets to a zoo. I believe there are koi ponds in select backyards, and every Easter the ritziest hotel in the city installs a wooden pen full of chicks and bunnies in its lobby. And there's a neurotic parrot at the pet store on North Albert Street. If you close your eyes and imagine all those creatures together in a field, then you've got a really lame zoo. But it's free.
Across the road from my high school you could cut through the woods and come to a river about twenty yards in. It was shallow, fast-flowing, the colour of weak tea. Trout flashed brightly and snapping turtles sat on granite rocks near the bank. Once my girlfriend waded out and picked one the turtles up. She cooed at it while the creature swung its head around on its neck and tried hard to bite at her forearms with its weird curved beak. Once it realized that it couldn't get at her, it pulled its head as far under its shell as it could manage. Snapping turtles aren't generally very good at retracting their body parts under their shells, so it mostly just lowered its head and affected a really pissed-off look. You could tell, as my girlfriend rocked it back and forth, that the turtle had given up on fear and simply decided to wait until it could bite off a thumb.
Ever since then I've admired turtles.
This post, by the way, is my first foray into using Writely, Der Web's spanky free full-feachah word processing app. lication. It's not bad, but in the bottom left hand corner a little strip of text claims that "No one else is editing this document". This phrase, quiet and unassuming, has been taken up by my brain and turned into a deadpan voice muttering into my left ear. This is my personal Voice of Paranoia and Sleep Deprivation, and is usually the first sign that my neurotransmitters are all a' flooey, jumping synapses and pulling out normally dormant regions of my consciousness to the fore. Consequently, I don't feel informed; I feel as if someone at any moment could start editing this document. Someone living in a cave in the heart of a mountain, sitting there with a year's worth of rations and a dial-up connection. Weird bastard.