At a very young age, I fell off the back of our pontoon into the Mississippi River and was raised by a turtle.
She was a big Snapper. She could have eaten me, my foot, or maybe my arm. Instead she swam beneath me, keeping my head above surface to shore. Her own great beaked head swayed just above the frothy current. I called her Sarah, after my mother. At least I think that was my mother’s name, it might have been Sharon, but I liked Sarah.
We ate Catfish; small ones with sharp whiskers that flayed my cheeks when I tried to bite their heads. Sarah watched, somewhat amused, then bit the heads off for me.
At night I’d wake up frightened from a bad dream, something old, older than the river chasing me. I had to peer closely in the dark to find her, sometimes mistaking a boulder or rock. But when I found her, feeling with my hands, I gripped her craggy shell and knew she was older than the river, too. I loved her.
I grew up. I left the shore and explored, but I always came back at the end of the day.
I heard them by the river.
The boys surrounded Sarah, poking her with sticks they’d sharpened with their jackknives, flipping her over finding her soft under-shell. Their fishing poles were wedged between rocks tips arched, lines tugged in the current, forgotten. They savage-danced around her pretending they’d cornered a prehistoric and dangerous thing.
I grabbed at their bloody sticks, flung them in the water. The boys ran laughing and yelling and stumbling through the thicket.
I dabbed her wounds with moss until I heard the men coming.
I told them my name is Turtle.
About the author: Kim Teeple lives by a creek in Minnesota. Some of Kim’s stories can be found online, at Salome magazine, Temenos, Literary Mama, Smoking Poet, and Elimae. She also has a story in Duck and Herring Pocket Field Guide, and a story in the just-published anthology: Blink Again: Sudden Fiction from the Upper Midwest (Spout Press). Kim Teeple is also a 2009-2010 Loft Literary Center Mentor Series winner in fiction.
About the jurors: Kim Teeple‘s piece was selected as a 2010 mnLIT finalist by an all-star panel of flash fiction judges — Alexander Chee (The Queen of the Night, Edinburgh), Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket series, The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs), Kevin Larimer (editor of Poets & Writers), Heather McElhatton (Pretty Little Mistakes, Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single), and author Dennis Cass, who served as lead juror in mnartists.org’s 2010 miniStories competition.
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