The turtle’s smashed shell and shriveled carcass stayed there for several days, a cloud of flies swarming above it and a dark circle staining the pavement underneath. Lamenting the terrapin’s slow pace and ultimate demise, Kelly stood on the shoulder of the road and stared down at the small chelonian cadaver. Why didn’t someone – the car’s driver, anyone – move it from the street?
Vance walked by her house en route to one of his sporadic fishing trips, saw her leaning slump-shouldered over the remains, and asked what was the matter. The girl looked up from her reverie, her eyes glassy in a deep well of tears. “It’s just so sad,” she replied. Perhaps her heart was too soft.
He felt bad for her, but not bad enough to touch the shards of shell and slimy mess himself, and said, “Well, why don’t you ask your father to move it out of the road?”
She was aghast. “My father? My father is the king of procrastination, and it would be forever before he did it. If he’d even do it.” Looking back down at the bloody mess, she added, “Besides, he’d have to stop watching Smokey and the Bandit for the hundredth time, and that’s not going to happen. That’s why I won’t ask him.”
Maybe his dad would heed a request like that. Her father? Forget it.
The two knew each other from school, but Vance lived on the other side of the railroad tracks from Kelly’s neighborhood and crossed that invisible socioeconomic line on his trek to the small lake where he fished. It would be several years before the pair knew what that figurative divide really meant.
In the meanwhile, they talked a few other times over the summer when he passed by her yard. He gave Kelly a Speidel Ident bracelet, sans engraving, which stoked her cheeks to blush and her brother to endlessly tease her. It was the first gift a boy ever gave Kelly.
School returned in the fall and they went their separate ways, as kids do when they get older, but without any formal dissolution of their childish girlfriend/boyfriend status. No acrimonious breakup or friendship eulogy.
Much like the poor turtle … just gone.
Circumstances pull people apart. They ran in separate crowds, had different friends. All those small town kids knew each other, but Vance went on to play sports and be voted class president, while Kelly did little else besides homework and work a part-time job. She bought her own car and school clothes. She dated lots of older boys but didn’t fall into the trap of early motherhood like so many other girls from her side of town.
Kelly went on to college well after her peers, supporting herself to make it happen. She had credentials to hang on the walls for her efforts, much like Vance and other classmates of similar privilege had accomplished long before she did. She didn’t begrudge them.
Everyone met back at home when they saw each other at class reunion time and exchanged pleasantries. Vance always said hello to Kelly but didn’t say much more. She wanted to catch up with him, ask about his kids and his great job, but she didn’t bother. He and his old buddies busied themselves with one another and each other’s wives.
Besides, she didn’t want to mess his hands with a dead animal such as that.
Instead, she’d just smile inside thinking of him carrying a fishing pole when he walked by her house. She wondered whatever happened to the little gold I.D. bracelet. Her heart softened when she thought of those things.