Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Almost Tragic Consequences of Carelessness

I'll be the first to say it. It was a bad idea. To leave Toto unsupervised in the drain while I took the dogs for a walk. But for weeks he had obligingly walked up and down the drain, not able to crawl out and not even attempting to escape. Of course, during all these times, I'd been there with Titi in my lap, keeping my gimlet eye fixed on him. Which he knew. So he lulled me into a false sense of security. I thought I could leave him in the drain and come back to find him there again.

When Maggotty had been walked and tied up again, I spotted Titi, still in the same place I left her, doing her best impression of a statue. She hadn't even covered a few inches of ground. I glanced at the drain.

No Toto!

Uh oh. I peered under the cement drain covers.

Still no Toto!

"The turtle has escaped!" I told Mum, by the bye as I made my way out to look at the drain and beyond, beyond our garden. Mum clicked her tongue in a non-committal manner which would have fooled anyone not acquainted with the Big M, into thinking that she didn't care.

Thing is, the turtle has been hers for coming on 14 years. That is, if it's not 16. She went out to check the drains outside. Her presence drew the attention of the inhabitants of next door who stuck there heads out of one window each and asked what she was about. When she explained that she was looking for her turtle, one of them came out to join in the search. Soon the grounds were crawling with turtle searchers. Head down, bum up, a choir of "Toto, Toto!".

To no avail.

I, being made of less stern stuff, gave up the search and went upstairs to read some more Wodehouse. Mum, armed with a stick to root around behind the pots, kept searching. She doesn't give up easily.

Finally the calm before the storm air was rent with cries of: "Jenny! Jenny!"

I thought she was calling me for tea.

No. She had spotted a dark green shell behind two large pots. "There he is. Take him. And I bent over and scooped up the truant turtle. What Toto normally does when you discover him after he has made a bid for freedom is bite and scratch.

Tis true, he opened his mouth and extended his claws, but seeing Mum there, he stifled his naturally savage instincts and allowed himself to be placed in his tank without much of a struggle.

"Wah, St. Jude ah, very fast. St. Anthony didn't do anything." Mum said.

Yeah. I nodded. Nor did St. Francis of Assisi, whom you would have would be the natural port of call for lost turtles.

No matter. Toto was home.

Mum hollered over the fence to tell the other searcher that the turtle had been recovered.

Peace descended once again, on Jalan Gertak Merah.

And then it began to rain.

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