Can We Just Talk?

By J. Speer

No one knew what caused the green algae to spread across the pond, threatening the lives of the turtle pile.  It happened rapidly.  Some turtles suspected it was the rising temperatures.  No one really knew for sure but what they all knew for certain was that they could no longer stay in the pond as the green algae spread out like tentacles seizing nearly the whole habitat of the pond. 

The green algae were first spotted from the top of the turtle pile and orders were directed down amid the ranks of the turtles to watch that portion of the pond more carefully.  It was also ordered from the top that each turtle, one by one, must climb down from the pile and evacuate to the safety of the embankment.  At the embankment, the turtles assembled into groups based on familial connections.  Meanwhile, Yertle the Turtle at the bottom of the pile in the mud was feeling the pressure of trying to balance the turtle pile as they came down one by one.  He too was looking forward to escaping from the green algae that even he could see now from his low vantage point. 

Yertle had stayed at this low level most of his life.  He was used to the mud and over time he accepted it as his lot in life even as the other turtles shifted up and down all along the turtle pile all day every day.  Yertle really didn’t move up nor did he expect to.  His expectations had grown exceedingly low.  He was used to taking orders and he complied with little resistance. 

When the final turtles had climbed off his back and moved to the embankment, Yertle was happy to perhaps join them as well.  He felt an enormous pressure had been lifted for a time being.  He eyed his family of turtles happily as he trudged forward to the embankment. 

But the top boss stopped Yertle.  He said to Yertle that he needed to stay in the pond.  It was essential to the safety of the other turtles.  They needed food to continue feeding the turtle community and Yertle needed to bring the lilly pads from the pond one by one to the embankment for the turtles to eat. 

Yertle looked reluctantly back at the pond and the lilly pads near the spreading green algae.  He eyed the algae with concern and looked back to the top turtle. 

“Are you sure?” he asked hesitantly. 

“Yes,” said the top turtle.  “They need you to stay in the pond.”

Yertle was used to taking orders.  He looked again back to the green algae and then to his own family of turtles waiting on the embankment. 

“Ok,” he said and he slowly turned around to face the pond and wade back in. 

“You won’t be alone,” said the top turtle and he designated two other turtles from the middle of the turtle pile to also go into the pond.  It was a male and female turtle and they were designated the heroes.  They were told to find a way to stop the spread of the green algae on the pond.  The two nodded that they would do the task and then the three turtles went back into the pond together. 

The two turtles got to work right away.  They devised a smart plan to haul old and broken limbs from the nearby forest to the pond.  Using their teeth and working together as a team, they would drag the limbs across the green algae in the pond.  The green algae would then collect onto the limbs and leaves.  Carefully, they would work together to lift the green algae on the broken limbs out of the water and dispose of it far away from the pond in the forest.  They worked tediously day in and day out on slowly gathering limbs and clearing the algae and then disposing of the limbs in the forest.  The hot sun beat down of them as they worked but they never gave up.  They really were hero turtles. 

Meanwhile, Yertle was working just as diligently.  For being a turtle at the lower end of the pile, he was proving to be remarkably resilient and smart in evading the spreading green algae.  He swam about the pond all day long gathering lilly pads in his teeth to slowly take back to the turtle community.  He would get one lilly pad and drop it off at the embankment keeping his distance from the other turtles so he would not put them at risk of the green algae.  Then he would swim back into the pond and move around the green algae to get to another clean lilly pad. 

At first, he was greatly concerned about the threat of the green algae.  But as he worked and worked, he became quite tired and worn out even to the point he almost didn’t care if he got green algae on him.  But he was a smart little turtle and kept trying to be cautious and kept going. 

The three turtles would spend the nights on the embankment but away from the turtle community.  They looked often at their family during these times and their family looked back at them.  Sometimes, during the day, the three turtles would see the turtle community relaxing on the embankment and sunbathing.  They would get a slight twinge of envy but all three turtles kept going without much complaint. 

Things went smoothly until one day as the male and female turtle were dragging a limb across the green algae, the male turtle slipped and fell slightly into the pond very near to the green algae.  The female turtle called out for help as she gripped the end of the limb hard with her teeth.  The male turtle also clung on hard to the limb as best he could and kicked his little turtle legs rapidly to propel his shell away from the threatening algae.  She called again for help through her teeth but the other turtles in the community could not hear her. 

Yertle stopped collecting a little lilly pad and looked up from the pond to see the predicament.  He moved as quickly as a turtle can, which isn’t very fast at all, towards the two turtles.  Together, he and the female turtle backed up and pulled the heavy limb out of the pond. 

“Thank you,” said the little turtles and Yertle just nodded.  Then all three got back to work again. 

It took quite a long time to finally clear most of the green algae from the pond.  In the end, there was a great deal of disposed sticks deep in the forest away from harming the community.  The turtle community and top turtle applauded the three turtles for their effort.  They were all three rewarded with much praise although secretly they each would have preferred an increase in food rations for their families. 

The two hero turtles had erected a dam to hopefully contain as best they could the green algae.  It was not a permanent fix but at least the turtle pile could perhaps return to some semblance of normalcy.  The top turtles indicated to the others in the turtle community that they needed to return to the pile so the top turtles could scout the horizon for predators and other threats.  All the turtles, particularly the ones at the lower end of the pile, grumbled some but reluctantly agreed to go. 

Yertle the Turtle sighed to himself.  He was not ready to go back to the life he had before holding up the turtle pile while he sat in the mud.  It was not much fun and quite heavy and burdensome.  But, Yertle was used to that life and to taking orders so he headed out first from the turtle community to his place in the mud.

The other turtles from the community slowly one by one started to ascend the pile and Yertle could already feel the weight upon him.  He looked down dolefully into the mud. 

“Wait!  Please stop!” said the little hero female turtle and the male hero turtle beside her joined her.

“We’ve been talking an…we don’t think…..” and she looked at the other hero turtle for confirmation and he nodded.  “We think maybe we should talk and find another way to restructure the turtle pile.   And,” she continued slightly hesitantly, “Maybe we should work harder on protecting the pond.”

She looked down at that moment.  The other little turtles were in shock too.  They had always lived in the turtle pile.  They had always done things the way they had done them.  That is all they had ever known and they had never even considered a life beyond the turtle pile.  Nor did they know really what to do or how to start to protect the pond better.    

“I’m just saying, well……I don’t know for sure what to say or how to start this even.”   And she looked again at Yertle.  He nodded back from the mud. 

She cleared her throat and said finally what she was really thinking in her mind. 

“Well, can we just talk?”    

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