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By VOA SPECIAL ENGLISH
Now the VOA Special English program "American stories". Today's story is called "the Turtle". It was written by George Buklage. Here is Shep O'Neal with the story.
Old Joe and his son Tony were on their way to White River to catch some fish. They started on the trip long before the sun came up. Old Joe drove the car. Tony slept in the back seat. Joe enjoyed looking at the empty city streets in the early morning. The cool wind blew pieces of paper across the dark road. These days he often felt as empty as the streets. As he grew older, loneliness became a close friend who was always with him. Outside the city, Joe drove slowly down the river road. The dark sky began to grow lighter. He looked down at his hands and took a deep breath. Not long ago he had worked hard with those hands, but now they did not do much, just drive the car and hold a fishing stick.
Farther on he saw something in the middle of the road, he stopped the car. Tony sat up in the back seat.
"What's wrong?" he asked in a sleepy voice.
"What're we stopping for?"
Old Joe pushed his head forward to see what blocked the road. He turned on the brightest car lights.
"It's one of those fish-killing turtles." He said, "It's a big one too."
Tony opened his eyes wide and looked at the strange thing. It was the biggest turtle he had ever seen.Is it dead yet? The two men got out of the car and stood looking down at the turtle. It looked like a large green rock. Suddenly it moved a little and left sharp marks in the dirt. Then it stopped.
"Probably going to the river." Tony said. "These turtles kill fish especially trout. "They watched it.
"I could crush him under the wheels of the car." Tony said, "But he's too big." He looked around and walked to the side of the road. He came back with a long stick. He pushed it in the turtle's face. With one quick movement that turtle bit the stick and broke it into little pieces.
"Look at that!" Tony said softly, "As strong as a machine."
"He sure is." Old Joe said and moved back, "He must weight a hundred pounds, maybe more."
The turtle pushed his ugly head toward the men.
"He thinks there is going to be a fight." Tony said, "I wish I had brought my gun."
"You are not going to kill him, are you?" Old Joe asked.
"Why not?" Tony said, "Turtles kill our fish, don't they? The more trout they eat, the less we can catch."
They both lit cigarettes and stood there smoking and looking at the turtle. It had pulled his head inside under the hard cover on his back.
"There is a heavy tool in the car. I can hit him with it." Tony said, "But it is too short. I do not want to put my hand near him, he might try to bite it off."
Old Joe said nothing.
"You watch him," Tony said, "I'll go find something heavy and strong in the back of the car."
Slowly, Joe got closer to the turtle. He smoked and looked at it.
"Poor thing," he said, "It is sad to be caught,now you will be killed."
The turtle pushed a foot out of his hard cover. Old Joe looked at his foot with his sharp cutting claws.
"It would be different in the water, wouldn't it, turtle?" He said. "In the water, you could cut down your enemies with those short claws. " He thought about the turtle in the water. It would probably move as fast as a bullet from a gun. Nothing would try to fight it in the water. Yet here it was in the middle of a dirt road as helpless as a baby.
Old Joe dropped his cigarette. Now why was he getting so excited about the turtle? He was an old man and he was acting like a child. They were going to White River to catch fish and he was worrying about a turtle.
His son Tony came back from the car holding a heavy tool.
"I think this is long enough," he said, "What do you think?"
"Do you care what I think?" Old Joe said.
Tony answered, "You are worrying about something. What's wrong, Dad?"
"This is not right." Old Joe said slowly and carefully.
The young man was surprised.
"Well, what do you mean?"
"The turtle does not have a chance." Old Joe said, "I do not feel good about killing it."
"You talk like an old woman," Tony said, "a tired old woman."
Old Joe did not look at his son but said, "I can understand how the turtle feels, must be terrible to have no hope."
"You think he does not have a chance?" Tony asked.
"How could he?" answered the old man quietly, "While you have such a heavy weapon."
Tony shook his father's arm. "And that worries you?" he asked. Old Joe looked deep into Tony's eyes.
"That is right." he said, "it worries me."
"Whereof all the foolish things?" Tony answered, "What do you want / me to do , get down on my hands and knees and fighting?"
"No," said his father, "not on your hands and knees. In the water, fight this turtle in the water, where he is at home.
That will be a brave thing, my son."
Tony put the weapon down. He looked at the turtle for a long time. At last, he said, "I think you are sick, Dad." Old Joe smiled.
"It is a thought, my son, just a thought. This old one is weak here on the dirt road, but in the water, he could cut down anyone, anything, even a man. Fight him in the water, Tony, use your weapon in the water."
"The years have changed you." Tony said. Old Joe shook his head.
"This does not seem fair to you, en? To be in the water with this one?" he pointed to the turtle. "This seems foolish to you because in the water he could hit you, perhaps even kill you, because in the water you are not as strong as he is."
Tony looked at his father. "What are you trying to prove, Dad?"
"Tony," his father said, "You could kill the turtle here and you will lose nothing, not a finger or a hand or your life, nothing. You can crush him with that weapon and he can not hit you."
"So?" asked Tony.
Old Joe put an arm around the son's broad shoulders.
"So." he answered, "I want you to fight honestly. You should have something to lose too."
Tony looked at his father and then backed to the turtle.
"Any fool can kill a turtle here." Old Joe said. "It is easy."
"That would be easy. Dad," Tony said, " It's only a turtle, you are making it a big thing."
Joe dropped his hands to his sides.
"All right." he said, "Do what you like, I'll say nothing more."
Tony threw the tool into the car, it made a loud crashing sound.
"All right," he shouted angrily, "all right you win." "
No," his father said, "I do not win. You, you win."
"But, Dad," Tony argued, "They do kill fish."
"Yes," agreed Old Joe, "They kill fish, nature lets them do it. The turtle kills fish to eat and live. We kill fish too, we men. Do we kill them so we can live? No, we do it for fun. This old turtle takes what he needs. I do not kill him, I do not act like God."
Tony got into the driver seat and laughed. "Dad, you have strange ideas."
Old Joe walked around behind the turtle and gently pushed it with his shoe. The turtle went forward across the road and into the tall grass. He was going toward the river. Joe watched until he could not see that turtle any longer. Then he got into the car beside his son. The two men sat and looked at each other.
The sun was coming up strong now, and the sky was bright. Tony started the engine. Old Joe brought out his cigarettes. They sat and smoked and looked at each other. Then they started to smile. The car moved slowly along the dirt road toward the morning sun. They did not stop until they reached the quiet waters of White River.