OK, this is very interesting, but I was thinking it the other day. What the hell does a turtle say? We all know that dogs say "roof" or bark, cats say "meow" or purr, cows moo... but what the fuck do turtles say? I mean they have to express their thoughts to other turtles... Well, I have finally come to a conclusion.

Turtles say "mmeh", period, end of discussion.

When I go back home to Tennessee for winter or spring break, I sleep in my parents' guest room because my little brother stole my old room and my parents converted his back to a junk room. My mother, who is an elementary school teacher, keeps her class's turtle in that same room during breaks, since otherwise he'd starve to death or be fumigated or something in the school building.

The turtle's name is Buster and he's a smallish red-eared slider. He was named by whichever little screaming hellion found him and brought him in to my mother. She keeps him in one of those enormous clear tupperware bins without the lid. Inside, he enjoys a good four square feet or so in which to run free, should he ever decide to run. The bottom is covered with wood chips and aquarium gravel, and there's usually a bowl filled with water in there too, buried so that it's about level with the rest of the ground. An old peanut butter jar lid in the corner generally holds some sort of slightly dishevelled vegetable material with turtle-sized bites taken out of it.

On meeting the thing, I was utterly fascinated by it. We have always had a lot of animals in the house. The current roster includes a rabbit, two dogs, and a cat, and has in the past included at least three other dogs, one other cat, three birds, a hamster, and two other rabbits, along with too many fish to accurately count. The turtle was different from all of them, though. His eyes are gold and sort of alien, but not vacant-looking like all those fish. He was a reptile, and seemed like a leftover from the Jurassic when I watched him move.

That's never more true than when he eats. Even though it's usually just a cherry tomato or a hunk of banana that he's eating, he gets his whole head into the act. He rears back just a little with that long neck and then he strikes with surprising speed. The beak tears into the fruit not unlike a knife going through butter, and the downward tearing motion he usually adds before retracting his neck to chew makes him seem quite a bit less innocuous.

At first, I would take him out of the bin and let him walk around on the couch or floor or wherever I was so I could watch him. I guess I had some kind of half-formed idea that a primal, unique animal like this one probably had the secrets of the universe stored in that ancient 1 cc skull. He didn't really do a whole lot but walk around and then go back into his shell when the dogs or vacuum cleaner scared him, and he was kind of weird about letting me pet him. He wouldn't put his neck out if you were around, usually, but if you actually touched his head while it was out he wasn't too squeamish about being stroked lightly. I had to stop taking him out, though, when I was distracted from him long enough for him to run off and hide somewhere indeterminate in the house for about a week. It was probably just as well, as I was beginning to conclude that Buster was probably just a neat-looking animal but rather lacking in the secrets-of-the-universe department.

He was remarkably quiet all the time, though. In fact, he only really makes two noises. We found out about the first at the same time as we found him. It was about five in the morning when the entire family was awakened by a loud clump on the stairs, which are made of linoleum and hollow. The guest room was the closest, so I got there first. I found Buster there, diving from one step to the next, each time making a loud CLUMP. I picked him up and told everyone else to go back to bed. I myself put Buster back in his tupperware thing and went back to bed.

Four hours later, at approximately 5:13 A.M., I woke up. Since I'm kind of a fitful sleeper, this wasn't all that surprising, so I just closed my eyes and tried to think sleepy. I hadn't gotten too far into that before a loud, long scratch came from someplace in the room.

It only took about half a second for me to turn on the lights and bolt upright in bed. I looked around for some kind of boogeyman or death sasquatch or a scratch demon or some damn thing, but I didn't see any of those. Buster had apparently not had enough of freedom, you see, and so he was frantically trying to claw his was sideways through his clear plastic prison. He would kind of lift himself up using the claws on one side. Then when he'd had enough of sliding back down while scratching, he'd relax his claws and land on the side of the container with a slightly softer version of the clump we'd heard earlier. I couldn't think of any satisfactory way to stop him, especially not without getting out of bed, so I just wrapped my head in the blanket and went back to sleep.

Anyhow, the point of all this is that I never heard my turtle say "mmeh," as fitting as that noise might hypothetically be. All it said was clump and scratch, and it only said those very late at night.

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