(written as a joke between friends, at my grandfather’s house, because I was bored)

John Royal

The seven met in a bar this time. It wasn’t a popular, cool, or otherwise “hip” bar; more of one of those trashy drink joints with yellow cigarette-stained walls that would have in a better case been a gray sky color. It’s the kind of place where you can’t expect special or fancy drink mixes; most of its regular patrons are just as fine with whiskey from the bottle. This bar was the type to be uncomfortable during organized bar crawls or loud customers. The seven were, besides the usual two or three dirty men at the bar and the dirtiest man behind it, the only people in this small dark building.

The seven looked out of place in the almost lightless room. But they were used to it.

The group all walked into the entrance at about the same time; none were late and none were early. They greeted at the door and then proceeded to crowd around one table, taking chairs from the other two tables and squeezing in uncomfortably close to each other. They then ordered their drinks; some out of thirst, some out of obligation, and two because they just wanted to drink: Friday and Saturday lived to indulge. And indulge they did.

The group, besides the salutations and greetings, was exceptionally quiet. This was odd for their meetings in general, but not odd at all considering whom this meeting was led by; this was because most of the other six all had respect or fear for their biggest brother. None of them dared speak, except for Wednesday, who was fed up with the silence mostly because she had finished off her beer and was waiting for another, and she said this: “Well, come on, Monday. It’s your turn; we’ve met on your day. Now tell us your story.”

Friday, encouraged by his sister’s request, or, demand, continued. “Yeah, go ahead, brother. We’ve got all night.” He flashed a toothy smile and downed another shot of whiskey.

Monday nodded with his round hairless head and grinned beneath his thick grey beard. “Very well,” he said, rubbing his chin hairs. “I suppose I do have a certain story…” And with this he fell silent.

“Guh-guh-guh-go on, the-then.” Said Tuesday.

And Monday told his story.

———

Far away from here, he began, is a small town. In this small town lives a short, bald, old but practicing dentist whose home and office lie on a lakeside property. This dentist keeps a small turtle for small children to watch while they’re waiting, although this is never too long. This turtle’s name is Herschell, with two “l”s, because, without the second “l,” the pun would not be complete. And humor is never entirely lost to dentists.

Herschell lives in a rectangular glass box with no ceiling. In this glass box are dried leaves and soil and a very small pond that Herschell enjoys swimming in and calls his small water. Herschell has lived there his entire life, ever since he was a hatchling. This glass box is placed pushed against a window, which allows Herschell to witness two totally different worlds: on one side of his box he can see into the dentist’s lobby area: two bright couches, a table in the middle of the room strewn with magazines. On the other side of his box he can see through into a world much like his own but on such a grander scale. He can see sharp green grass and a large brown oak tree with large living green leaves that cast a darker green shade onto the grass below. Farther Herschell can make out a grimey part of the world that meets a shimmering murky thing that Herschell believes to be like his small water, but bigger. Big Water.

Herschell, for the most part, lives a content turtle life. He eats whatever food is dropped in by the dentist anytime he wants, if he likes it, which he usually does. And sometimes he would even get fed twice, if the dentist wasn’t sure he had fed him earlier or just wanted to generous to the turtle. Herschell could do anything he wanted to in that glass prism. Anything. He could jog turtle laps around his land or take a dive into his small water or nap the entire day or chew and eat his dry leaves, and he enjoyed to do this, because it forced the dentist to put more leaves in it, much to the dentist’s obvious annoyance. Yes, Herschell could do anything he liked in his glass box. And his favorite thing to do was to spy out into the green world.

Herschell could and often would literally spend hours looking out into the bright green world. He would watch as the wind pushed the grass left and right, back and forth. His favorite days where rainy days; he’d never been in the rain. He would watch and listen as the rain drops hit the ceiling and window and the Big Water far out in front of him, creating tiny circles when the rain drops hit the water. It was beautiful, and gave a Herschell a sort of bliss he would never feel doing anything else. Herschell, despite being content in his turtle life, wanted nothing else but to one day visit the green world.

Herschell would sell his shell to swim just once in the Big Water.

One day, right after Herschell had woken up from his unplanned midday nap, his turtle eyes caught sight of something crawling out of the Big Water. Five or six something’s. Birds. Ducks.

Herschell patient eye’s filled with excitement. He had been watching the Big Water his entire life, ever since he could see so far, at least, and this is the first time that he had seen something come out of it. It was the first time he had ever seen a duck, let alone an entire family of them. Oh, the questions he had the questions they could answer! He began to think of questions, how he would phrase them, how he would ask the ducks when they finally got down to him. He narrowed his eyes at the family of ducks, watching as they waddled out of the water and walked seemingly without a care or worry down the shore of the Big Water in perfect single file, arranged almost naturally from tallest in front to shortest in back. They were walking towards Herschell, and the turtle, excited, began to move slowly back and forth against the wall of the glass box, watching and waiting, wanting to scream for their answers.

He saw, then, as the big duck, the one in front and facing Herschell, turned. He observed silently as the family turned back into the Big Water, swimming away with their secrets, swimming away with Herschell’s hope of knowing what it was like to be out of the glass box and in the green world. Swimming away with Herschell’s knowledge.

Herschell was saddened by this event, but he had been turned much more determined. He would ask his questions, he would get his answers, and he would be satisfied. It was only a matter of waiting.

And so, on the first day after this event, Herschell stood at the edge of his glass box and stared forward, toward the Big Water, expecting the ducks to come back. They would, he knew it. But they didn’t. Herschell did the same thing the second day after the even, and even the third, but, even though turtles are perhaps some of the most patient creatures you will meet on this earth, one can only wait for so long. By the fourth day Herschell watched some, but nowhere near enough. And on the fifth, he didn’t watch at all. By the one week anniversary of the event, he had forgotten all about it.

Then, a month passed.

Herschell was chewing on his dry leaves when he finally saw them again. The duck family. And as soon as he did, as soon as he saw the first big duck crawl out of the water, he ran as fast as any small turtle can hope to run to the edge of the window and began to yell turtle yells out, out into green world.

I don’t know if any of you have ever heard a turtle bark, Monday said, but it’s a truly ghastly sound.

When he saw that all the ducks were out of the Big Water, Herschell barked louder, his small hot breath made the edge of the glass box wet. The family of ducks continued their stroll down the shore, and, just as last time, the big duck turned and went back into the Big Water. The other ducks quickly followed suit. Herschell barked louder, and with a fiercer desperation.

The big duck was swimming away. Then the second biggest. Then the third and the fourth. And the last, the smallest of the ducks.

Herschell let out on more bark.

This, apparently, was enough to get the attention of the duck. It turned around and began a short walk to the origin of the sad sound.

The duck, while nowhere near as big as the leader duck, was still frightfully large for the tiny Herschell. The duck waddled to the window and looked up at the previously screeching turtle. And Herschell asked his questions.

Herschell wasted no time with them. He pushed as many questions as he could out of his tiny turtle lips. He composed the questions swiftly and without errs, and he asked the duck about its life. Herschell asked, What are you? and Where do you come from? He said, louder, in his miniscule turtle tongue, What else is out there? What is the green world, exactly? He screamed, dreadfully, urgently, What must it be like swimming in the Big Water?

What is it to be free?

The duck looked up at Herschell, and the two stared at each other, the turtle with his eyes slanted with despair, and the duck, the turn of his head showed he was perplexed. They stared for what felt like hours, even to the patient Herschell. Then, the duck blinked twice and began to speak, he began to tell Herschell what it was like to be free, what the green world was like, and how cool and refreshing the Big Water would feel on your shell. The duck moved his bill to give Herschell the answers he had been hoping for, in the best way he could.

“Quack,” the duck said, hoarsely.

And with that, the duck turned back around and went to Herschell’s Big Water, to catch up with his family.

And Herschell went back to eating his dry leaf.

———

Saturday sipped the rest of her pink drink she forced the barman to make her and yawned.

“Is that it?” She said, bored. She was leaning foreword onto the table, her elbows resting on the surface and her hands holding up her head. Her sunglasses almost fell off.

“That’s it.” Monday replied.

Friday got up and put on his leather jacket. “Well, I got to say, brother, you do know how to waste half an hour. I’m off to club.” And he was. The door slammed shut. Saturday followed him after finishing off her fruity beverage.

Sunday thanked Monday for the story, and, pushing his glasses up, wished him and the others a fair night. He walked home.

Tuesday said, stuttering, that he enjoyed the story, and that he was scared for the next meeting, because he had to tell one, and he was utterly embarrassed because of his “puh-puh-problem.” Wednesday comforted him, or tried to. The smell of beer on her breath didn’t help out much. Tuesday helped her sister home.

When it was only Thursday and Monday left at the table, Thursday disapeared into the male bathroom and never came out, only after walking behind Monday, and, without looking, he patted Monday on the back, and said “Not too shabby, Monny.”

And when Monday was alone, he paid the tab they had run up – well, that Friday and Saturday had run up – and straightened out the seating arrangement into what it had been when they came in. He wished the barman a good night and exited through front door. Monday wandered the streets for a while, but he was completely gone by midnight.

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