An Unforgettable Lesson

October 6, 2008
By Chris Park, Portland, OR

When I got home, I slammed the car door and raced up towards the living room, eager to see Mikey, my friend I could never forget. When I was 5 years old, I had named my new pet turtle Mikey because a new Ninja Turtles® game that my dad had given me had Michelangelo as a carefree, energetic, and fiery ninja turtle. Not only was Michelangelo my favorite ninja turtle, but also my favorite artist, and he was a very artistic inspiration to me. I think that Mikey did have the characteristics of being adventurous, yet a contemplating mind.
The most nerve-racking time I had spending with Mikey was the first experience of cleaning his tank. This was my first reptilian pet to have and I considered the option of just placing him on the ground beside me when I had to clean his tank because I thought that he would barely be able to travel ten yards when I was finished. That was a mistake. I remember that the day that I first cleaned Mikey’s tank was on a bright Saturday morning, and I had no plans for that particular day. We were both huddled around Mikey; my brother and me, looking focused on the moment. As I removed the cover of Mikey’s tank, I felt the intense heat beat against my cheeks and very breath.

I remember my dad telling me that reptiles, like Mikey, like it being really hot where they lived. I’d ask him why and he’d say that it was because they were born cold-blooded. I had heard about kinds of animals being warm-blooded and other animals being cold-blooded from a special guest in my Kindergarten class. He brought a really small alligator, probably about the length of a hammer. My class, along with myself, stared in awe as he skillfully handled the baby alligator while explaining various unique physical characteristics without disturbing the very nature of the creature. I remember his funny cowboy hat and muffled words while he attempted to speak through his broad tangerine beard, which deeply humored me.
So, knowing that Mikey liked being in a very hot habitat like the dessert, I was curious of what he would think of being in a different condition of temperature. Would he like having his coarse skin that had similar features of hardened clay exposed by too much of human hands yearning for perfection against the smooth tiles of the pale floor? Will he hide in his shell, afraid to see the very morning daylight of a new day? I was not terribly worried, but a bit apprehensive of his reaction. I leaned forward and tenderly picked up Mikey. Mikey flinched and recoiled in shock, shock that this had been one of the first times he had been picked up. He retracted his limbs into his intricately designed caramel-colored shell with occasional scars of recent history here and there. When I placed him onto the floor, he slowly revealed his head and peered out into the open to assure his surroundings to be safe and secure. After seeing Mikey adjust to the new setting, I turned back and began cleaning out Mikey’s tank.

About twenty minutes after Mikey’s temporary release I gazed around to spot Mikey, but I couldn’t sense any trace of his existence anywhere in the premises. I began to worry and when I looked down to my brother’s face, we seemed to be capable of communicating the same message to each other: “We’re dead…” But then I could see his face adjusting and then saying, “What do you mean me? You’re the one who let him go.” I had to agree with him, but the first thing we both reacted to was searching the entire ground floor. Obviously, we were both aware that turtles were completely incapable of climbing the stairs of our house because they were ascending at a rapid rate. And also, my brother could barely climb them himself. He slovenly dashed by my side towards the main hall.
We automatically dispersed once we crossed faces with the intersection of the hallway. I could see he was heading towards the restroom. I had decided to search in the game room. Unfortunately, whenever my mom told my brother and me to clean up the game room, we chose to procrastinate. Now, I had wished I had been more responsive to my mom’s logical favor. We’d looked for almost an entire hour until I noticed a piece of thick cloth under my desk in my room resembling an igloo-like dome. My response was instantaneous as I darted to the cloth with high hopes. I abruptly pulled up the cloth so quickly that I had whipped the air with such force; it had caused me to shudder. And under the cloth was…Mikey! I yelped to my brother I had found him, and as I looked down to Mikey’s face, I could see that he was extremely frightened from my colossal voice. But I’m sure he was just as content as I was that we had found each other.

From that day, all three of us, me, my brother, and Mikey, knew to always put Mikey in a tub or cage every time we cleaned his tank. There is one very important moral from this memory I hold close to keep. It is to always keep in charge for your responsibilities because if you do otherwise, it will cost you.

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