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A rock that was long ago pushed down the side of the Appalachians to settle in to the bank of the Catawba glares back at the indifferent August sun. Light fire and cool breezes run through the thick shade of oak, up the bark covered ladders of pine and bounces down on the willow branches, occasionally setting loose a strand of spanish moss to take flight with its dandelion brothers. Over the dragonflies and water spiders to a warm rock next to a chocolate river where a boy is squinting at a little painted turtle. The turtle, who was clearly a magnificent bird in a previous life, is trying desperately to remember how to fly. Leaning out on the weathered edge of the warm stone, ignoring the human thing examining him like ones in the big white boats examine the trees, he stretches out again. Arms and legs high to catch the drafts. Head up to guide his lift. Tail curved up to stabilize the ascent. "If a turtle can remember how to fly, maybe I can remember who I used to be too. Little turtle, keep trying. We can both do it." Arms raised to the sky on red freckled shoulders under a flop of sandy brown hair he reaches up to the sky and trys to pull down the shade like an invisibility cloak he once read about, to wrap himself up and sneak away into a remembered future. Instead of invisibility, the turtle is excited to feel the winds racing across the old Indian river buffet his precariously stationed plastron. Then; arms, legs, head and tail, a little painted turtle remembers completely what it was to be a meadow bird, bright and red, making a quick dart to the ground on warm up-drafts. A gentle curve that ends with a splash and a sputter. The little boys excitement rolls away with the waters ripples. Belly down he reaches to scoop up a memory of feathers from the river's shallow. Swimming an excited circle the painted turtle looks up at the human thing with pride. "Why are you going away? Don't quit! You will do it next time. I know you can do it!" Little turtles are, however, easily distracted by tasty water spiders, and flying is hard work that can build up an appetite. Leaning back against the wind a sandy brown mop contemplates an old river. "Maybe it's ok not to be who I used to be, but to remember who I was and just be who I am." Dragon flys play a game of tag as the sun moves through its zenith and the shadows fall straight down, exhausted. The turtle slid back into the water from a shade place on the side of the big warm rock, quite pleased that some human things seemed to be able to understand. Boy to river. Turtle to land. They take a glace before wandering away to find food. A boy who thought he saw red feathers darting between the river grass, and a turtle who could have sworn he saw a young man walking towards his future and not away from anything.

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grauwulf

July 2011

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