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AMERICAN STORIES - The Turtle

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The Turtle by George Vukelich
The Turtle by George Vukelich

Now the VOA Special English program, American Stories.

(MUSIC)

Shirley Griffith: Today's story is called "The Turtle." It was written by George Vukelich. Here is Shep O'Neal with the story.

(MUSIC)

Shep O'Neal: 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, "and 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 its hard cover. Old Joe looked at its foot with its 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 a 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 would 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."

"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 will 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.

(MUSIC)

Shirley Griffith: You have just heard the story "The Turtle" written by George Vukelich. It was published in the University of Kansas City Review in October, 1959. Your storyteller was Shep O'Neal. This story is copyrighted, all rights reserved. This is Shirley Griffith. Listen again next week at this time for another American story in Special English on the Voice of America.

(MUSIC)

----- The Original Story of The Turtle by George Vukelich --------

source: http://mrsdsmith.tripod.com/id114.html

They were driving up to fish the White Creek for German Browns, and the false dawn was purpling the Wisconsin countryside when they spotted the huge humpbacked object in the middle of the sand road, and Jimmy coasted the station wagon to a stop.

"Pa," he said. "Turtle. Lousy snapper."

Old Tony sat up.

"Is it dead?"

"Not yet," Jimmy said. "Not yet, he isn't." He shifted into neutral and pulled the hand brake. The snapper lay large and dark green in the headlight beams, and they got out and went around to look at it closely. The turtle moved a little and left razor-like claw marks in the wet sand, and it waited.

"Probably heading for the creek," Jimmy said. "They kill trout like crazy."

They stood staring down.

"I'd run the wagon over him," Jimmy said, "only he's too big."

He looked around and walked to the ditchway and came back with a long finger-thick pine branch. He jabbed it into the turtle's face, and the snakehead lashed out and struck like spring steel; the branch snapped like a stick of macaroni, and it all happened fast as a match flare.

"Looka that!" Tony whistled.

"You bet, Pa. I bet he goes sixty pounds. Seventy, maybe."

The turtle was darting its head around now in long, stretching movements. "I think he got some branch stuck in his craw," Jimmy said. He got out a cigarette and lighted it and flipped the match at the rock-green shell.

"I wish now I'd brought the twenty-two," he said. "The pistol."

"You going to kill him?"

"Why not?" Jimmy asked. "They kill trout, don't they?"

They stood there smoking and not talking and looking down at the unmoving shell.

"I could use the lug wrench on him," Jimmy said. "Only I don't think it's long enough. I don't want my hands near him."

Tony didn't say anything.

"You watch him," Jimmy said. "I'll go find something in the wagon."

Slowly Tony squatted down onto his haunches and smoked and stared at the turtle. Poor Old One, he thought. You have the misfortune to be caught in the middle of a sand road, and you are very vulnerable on the sand roads. Now you are going to get the holy life beaten out of you.

The turtle stopped its stretching movements and was still. Tony looked at the full webbed feet and the nail claws, and he knew the truth.

"It would be different in the water, turtle," he said. "In the water you could cut down anybody."

He thought about this snapper in the water and how it would move like a torpedo and bring down trout, and nobody would monkey with it in the water – and here it was in the middle of a sand road, vulnerable as a baby and waiting to get its brains beaten out.

He finished his cigarette and field-stripped it, got to his feet, walked to the wagon, and reached into the glove compartment for the thermos of coffee. What was he getting all worked up about a turtle for? He was an old man, and he was acting like a kid. They were going up to the White for German Browns, and he was getting worked up about a God-forsaken turtle in the middle of a God-forsaken sand road. God-forsaken. He walked back to the turtle, hunched down, sipped at the strong black coffee, and watched the old snapper watching him.

Jimmy came up to him holding the bumper jack.

"I want to play it safe," he said. "I don't think the lug wrench is long enough." He squatted beside Tony. "What do you think?"

"He waits," Tony said. "What difference what I think?"

Jimmy squinted at him.

"I can tell something's eating you. What are you thinking, Pa?"

"I think it is not a brave thing."

"What?"

"This turtle—he does not have chance."

Jimmy lit a cigarette and hefted the bumper jack. The turtle moved ever so slightly.

"You talk like an old woman, an old tired woman."

"I can understand this turtle's position."

"He doesn't have chance?"

"That's right."

"And that bothers you?"

Tony looked into Jimmy's face.

"That is right," he said. "That bothers me."

"Well, of all the dumb, stupid things," Jimmy said. ""What do you want me to do? Get down on all fours and fight with him?"

"No," Tony said. "Not on all fours." He looked at Jimmy. "In the water. Fight this turtle in the water. That would be a brave thing, my son."

Jimmy put down the bumper jack and reached for the thermos jug and didn't say anything. He drank his coffee and smoked his cigarette, and he stared at the turtle and didn't say anything.

"You're crazy," he said finally.

"It is a thought, my son. A thought. This helpless plodding old one like a little baby in this sand road, eh? But in the water, his home… Tony snapped his fingers with the suddenness of a switchblade. "In the water he could cut down anyone, anything…any man. Fight him in the water, Jimmy. Use your bumper jack in the water…"

"I think you're nuts," Jimmy said. "I think you're honest to goodness nuts."

Tony shrugged. "This does not seem fair for you, eh? To be in the water with this one." He motioned at the turtle. "This seems nuts to you. Crazy to you. Because in the water you are not a match."

"What are you trying to prove, Pa?"

"Jimmy, this turtle is putting up his life. In the road here you are putting up nothing. You have nothing to lose at all. Not a finger or a hand or your life. Nothing. You smash him with a long steel bumper jack, and he cannot get to you. He has as much chance as a ripe watermelon."

"So?"

"So, I want you to put up something also. You should have something to lose or it is not a match."

Jimmy looked at the old man and then at the turtle.

"Any fool can smash a watermelon," Tony said. "It does not take a brave man."

"Pa, it's only a turtle. You're making a federal case."

Old Tony looked at his son. "All right," he said. "Finish your coffee now and do what you are going to do. I say nothing more. Only for the next five minutes put yourself into this turtle's place. Put yourself into his shell and watch through his eyes and try to think what he is thinking when he sees a coward coming to kill him with a long, steel bumper jack."

Jimmy got to his feet and ground out his cigarette.

"All right, Pa," he said. "All right. You win."

Tony rose slowly from his crouch.

"No," he said. "Not me. You. You win."

"But, Pa, they do kill trout."

"So," Tony said. "They kill trout. Nature put them here, and they kill trout. To survive. The trout are not extinct, eh? We kill trout, also, we men. To survive? No, for sport. This old one, he takes what he needs. I do not kill him for being in nature's plan. I do not play God."

Jimmy walked to the rear of the wagon then and flung down the bumper jack and closed up the door and came back.

"Pa," he said. "Honest to goodness you got the nuttiest ideas I ever heard."

Old Tony walked around behind the snapper and gently prodded it with his boot toe, and the turtle went waddling forward across the road and toppled over the sand shoulder and disappeared in the brushy growth of the creek bank. Tony and his son climbed into the wagon and sat looking at each other. The sun was coming up strong now and the sky was crackling open like a shell and spilling reds, golds, and blues, and Jimmy started the engine.

Tony put the thermos away and got out his cigarette and stuck one in his son's mouth.

"So?" he said.

They sat smoking for a full minute watching each other, and then Jimmy released the emergency and they rolled slowly along the drying sand road and down past the huge cleansing dawn coming, and the pine forests growing tall in the rising mists, and the quickly quite waters of the eternal creek.

网友的学习评论(5条):
作者:Frank Suen
参考文本:http://www.unsv.com/forum/english/voa/special-english/2011/08/23/23073/
作者:Ricardo
As strong as a machine, as fast as a bullet in the sea, while as helpless as a baby waiting to be seen, on the dirt road. Such a fiery but weak creature. It's my first time to hear that turtles can be that cruel. Anyway, nature breeds his cruelty, his basic skills to "earn his bread", but at least he is natural and got the help from Old Joe, who advocates fairness and mother nature. Quite a intructive story.
作者:momojojo
so great
good story
Pity for animals.
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