Stay present. Don’t run, don’t let yourself be distracted. This is real. This is happening.
The utility company did a number on the boulevard again this year,
Left saplings broken off at the waist, buzzsaw shredded kneecaps.
The heavy tires, unable to tiptoe over the earth wet from days of rain, left their double footprints through the grass.
Pass the field where they’re growing a cash crop of thistles, past the next field where the wheat’s coming in nice.
Frozen in the heat of day.
Don’t run. This is happening. Don’t be distracted. Pay attention.
Mowers whir in the distance, the breeze in the top of the pines mimics the sound of tires.
It’s a painted turtle; the inside edge of its shell is bright red, it’s neck adorned with yellow stripe, mimicking the road.
I speak to it, as though it can understand me, like my plants in the yard. I tap it with my toe, hold the dog back and balance device, water bottle and headphones, watching the road each way, ready for a car to make the decision for us.
Slowly I scoot it forward, against its will.
It doesn’t want to go. It wants to stay in the middle of the road.
Stay present. Pay attention. This is real.
I gently shove it across the whole street and into the scrap that used to be grass along the side of the road. I continue my walk with the panting dog.
This is real. Don’t run. Stay present. What just happened?
I don’t want to put you into the earth. I want to pretend you’ll come back. You’re on a long trip. You’re phone’s acting wonky but I’ll see you at the family thing next …insert thing here. You’re on vacation and there’s no service, but we’ll hear from you soon.
We won’t hear from you soon.
I continue my walk to the halfway point and turn around.
When I get back to the spot, the turtle’s gone.
I check the grass, I check the ditch, I check the other side; it’s gone. It’s home.
Pay attention. This is real.
I don’t want to, but I must. The turtle is gone. It is safe. You are gone. You are safe.
I must keep walking.
This is real.