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Authors: Kealan Patrick Burke

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The Turtle Boy

BOOK: The Turtle Boy
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The Turtle Boy

Kealan Patrick Burke


Smashwords Edition


Copyright 2010 by Kealan Patrick


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"All the world's a stage,
Timmy Quinn, but it's not the only one…"



FRIDAY, JUNE 9th 1979


"Timmy, Pete's here!" his
mother called and Timmy scattered a wave of comics to the floor
with his legs as he prepared himself for another day of summer. The
bedsprings emitted a half-hearted squeak of protest as he
sidestepped the comics with their colorful covers.

School had ended three days
ago, the gates closing with a thunderous finality the children knew
was the lowest form of deception. Even as they cast one last glance
over their shoulders at the low, hulking building – the antithesis
of summer's glow – the school had seemed smug and patient, knowing
the children's leashes were not as long as they thought. But for
now, there were endless months of mischief to be perpetrated, made
all the more appealing by the lack of premeditation, the absence of
design. The world was there to be investigated, shadowy corners and

Timmy hopped down the stairs, whistling
a tune of his own making and beamed at his mother as she stepped
aside, allowing the morning sunshine to barge into the hallway and
set fire to the rusted head of his best friend.

"Hey Pete," he said as a
matter of supervised ritual. Had his mother not been present, he
would more likely have greeted his friend with a punch on the

"Hey," the other boy
replied, looking as if he had made a breakthrough in his struggle
to fold in on himself. Pete Marshall was painfully thin and stark
white with a spattering of freckles – the result of an unusual
cocktail his parents had stirred of Maine and German blood – and
terribly shy around anyone but Timmy. Though he'd always been an
introverted kid, he became even more so when his mother passed away
two summers ago. Now when Timmy spoke to him, he sometimes had to
repeat himself until Pete realized he could not get away without
answering. The boy was all angles, his head larger than any other
part of his body, his elbows and knees like pegs you could hang
your coat from.

In contrast to Pete's shock
of unruly red hair, Timmy was blond and tanned, even in winter when
the bronze faded to a shadow of itself. The two of them were polar
opposites but the best of friends, united by their unflagging
interest in the unknown and the undiscovered.

According to Timmy's mother,
it was going to get into the high nineties today but the boys
shrugged off her attempt to sell the idea of sun block and insect
repellent. She clucked her tongue and closed the door on the sun,
leaving them to wander across the yard toward the bleached white
strip of gravel-studded road and the fields of ocean green

"So what do you want to do
today?" Timmy asked, kicking a stone he knew was big enough to hurt
his toes if he got it at the wrong angle.

Pete shrugged and studied a curl of
dried skin on his forefinger.

Timmy persisted. "Maybe we
can finish digging that hole we started?"

Convinced there was a mass
of undiscovered treasure lying somewhere beneath Mr. Patterson's
old overgrown green bean field, the two boys had borrowed some
shovels from Pete's garage and dug a hole until the earth changed
color from dark brown to a Martian red. Then a storm had come and
filled the hole with brackish water, quashing any notions they had
about trying to find the rest of what had undoubtedly been the
remnants of a meteor.

"Nah," Peter said quietly.
"It was a stupid hole anyway."

"Why was it stupid?" The
last word felt odd as it slipped from Timmy's mouth. In his house,
"stupid" ranked right up there with "ass" as words guaranteed to
get you in trouble if uttered aloud.

"It just was."

"I thought it was pretty
neat. Especially the chunks of meteor. I bet there was a whole
lotta space rock under that field. Probably the bones of old aliens

"My dad said it was just

Timmy looked at him, his
enthusiasm readying itself atop the downward slope to
disappointment. "What was clay?"

Pete shrugged again, as if
all this was something Timmy should have known. "The red stuff. It
was just old dirt. My dad said it gets like that when it's far
enough down."

"Oh. Well it
have been space

A mild breeze swirled the dust around
their feet as they left the cool grass and stepped on to the
gravel. Although this path had been there for as long as they could
remember, it had only recently become a conveyor belt for the
trucks and bulldozers which had set up shop off beyond the tree
line where new houses were swallowing up the old corn field. It
saddened Timmy to see it. Though young, he could still remember his
father carrying him on his shoulders through endless fields of
gold, now replaced by the skeletons of houses awaiting

"How 'bout we go watch the
trains then?"

Pete looked at him,
irritated. "You know I'm not allowed."

"I don't mean on the tracks.
Just near them, where we can see the trains."

"No, if my dad found out,
he'd kill me."

"How would he

"He just would. He always

Timmy sighed and kicked the rock back
into the grass, where it vanished. He immediately began searching
for another one. As they passed beneath the shade of a mulberry
tree, purple stains in the dirt all that remained of the first
fallen fruit, he shook his head, face grim.

"I wish that kid hadn't been
killed up there."

Pete's eyes widened and he
looked from Timmy to where the dirt road curved away from them
along Myers Pond until it changed into the overgrown path to the

The summer before,
thirteen-year-old Lena Richards and her younger brother Daniel had
been riding their dirt bikes in the cornfield on the other side of
the rails. When a freight train came rumbling through, Danny had
thought it a great idea to ride along beside it in the high grass
next to the tracks and despite Lena's protests, had done that very
thing. Lena, thinking her brother would be safer if she followed,
raced up behind him. Blasted by the displaced air of the train,
Danny lost control of his bike and fell. Lena, following too close
behind and going much faster than she realized to keep the pace,
couldn't brake in time. The vacuum wrenched them off their bikes.
Danny was sucked under the roaring train. Lena survived, but
without her legs.

Or so the story went, but they believed
it. The older kids said it was true.

As a result, Timmy and Pete and all the
neighborhood kids were now forbidden to venture anywhere near the
tracks. Even if they decided to ignore their parents, a funny
looking car with no tires rode the rails these days, yellow beacon
flashing in silent warning to the adventurous.

"They were stupid to ride
that close to the train anyway," Pete said glumly, obviously still
pining for their days of rail walking.

"Naw. It sounds cool to do
something like that. Apart from, you know…the
part an' all."

"Yeah well, we can't get
close enough to watch the trains, so forget it."

"Well then you come up with
something to do, Einstein."

Pete slumped, the burden of choice
settling heavily on his shoulders. Beads of sweat glistened on his
pale forehead as he squinted up at the sun. To their left,
blank-faced white houses stood facing each other, their windows
glaring eyes issuing silent challenges they would never have the
animation to pursue. To the right, hedges reared high, the tangles
of weeds and switch grass occasionally gathering at the base of
gnarled trees upon whose palsied arms leaves hung as an apparent
afterthought. In the field beyond, high grass flowed beneath the
gentle caress of the slightest of breezes. The land was framed by
dying walnut trees, rotten arms severed by lightning long gone,
poking up into the sky as if vying for the attention of a deity who
could save them. A killdeer fluttered its wings in feigned distress
and hopped across the gravel path in front of the two boys, hoping
to lead them away from a nest it had concealed somewhere

"Think we should follow it?"
Timmy asked in a tone that suggested he found the idea about as
interesting as trying to run up a tree.

"All I can think of is the
pond," Pete muttered. "We could go fishing."

"My pole's broken. So's
yours, remember?"

Pete nodded. "Oh yeah. The


"No you didn't."

"I sure did. I snapped yours

"No way," said Pete, more
alive than Timmy had seen him in days. "They both snapped at the
same time!"



They walked in silence for a
moment, the brief surge of animosity already fading in the heat. A
hornet buzzed Pete's ear and he yelped as he flapped a hand at it.
Timmy laughed and once the threat had passed, Pete did too. The
echoes of their mirth hung in the muggy air.

They came to a bend in the path where
the ground was softer and rarely dry even in summer. The passage of
the construction crew had made ridges in the earth here, an
obstacle the boys tackled with relish. This in turn led to a crude
wooden bridge which consisted of two planks nailed together and
flung haphazardly across an overgrown gully. Beneath the bridge, a
thin stream of dirty water trickled sluggishly over the rocks and
cracked concrete blocks the builders had tossed in to lighten their

Myers Pond – named after the
doctor and his sons who'd built it one summer long before Timmy was
born – had managed to remain unspoiled and unpolluted thus far. It
was a welcome sight as the boys fought their way through grass that
had grown tall in their absence.

The boy already sitting
there, however, wasn't.

Pete paused and scratched furiously at
his shoulder, waiting for Timmy to say what they were both
thinking. They were standing where a wide swath of grass had been
trampled flat, the slope of the bank mere feet away. A dragonfly
hovered before the frail-looking boy on the bank as if curious to
see what this new intruder had in mind, then zipped away over the
shimmering surface of the pond.

Timmy looked at Pete and
whispered: "Do you know that kid?"

Pete shook his head. "Do


The pond was shared by many
of the neighborhood kids, a virtual oasis in the summer if you were
brave enough to stalk forth amongst the legion of ticks and
chiggers, but few people swam there. The story went that when
Doctor Myers built the pond all those years ago he'd filled it with
baby turtles, and that now those babies had grown to the size of
Buicks, hiding down where the water was darkest, waiting for
unsuspecting toes to come wiggling.

Had it been another boy from
the neighborhood, Timmy wouldn't have cared. But this wasn't any
kid he had ever seen before, and while it was common for other
children to visit their friends around here, they seldom came this
far from the safety of the houses.

And this kid was odd looking, even
odder looking than Pete.

He sat so close to the water
they could almost hear gravity groaning from the strain of keeping
him from falling in. He didn't wear shorts as the burgeoning heat
demanded but rather a pair of long gray trousers with a crease in
the middle, rolled up so that a bony ankle showed, the rest of his
foot submerged in the slimy green fringe of the water, bobbing up
and down like a lure.

BOOK: The Turtle Boy
8.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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