By Scott Cramer
Joe loved his swamp next to the airport. It had mucky mud to burrow in, tasty grubs to munch on, a few scrawny water lilies to look at, and a flat rock for sunning himself on.
One day a crumpled picture blew into Joe’s home. His heart thumped faster at the sight of so many plump pink water lilies in Paris, France. He had to see this ‘Great Swamp’.
Joe crawled across the warm airport pavement and rode the conveyor belt into the jet bound for France. Wedged between two suitcases, he dreamed about swimming in the Great Swamp.
The customs official in France stamped the bottom of Joe’s shell: New York – Handle with Care.
Joe rode round and round the luggage carousel until the pilot picked him up. “You must see the great fountain in Saint Michael’s Square,” the pilot said. “We’ll take a cab.”
The cool, bubbly water felt good. Joe swam to the bottom of the fountain and nibbled on a shiny coin. Grubs tasted much better.
“You must see the great reflecting pool in Luxembourg Gardens,” a girl told Joe. She carefully placed him in her backpack, and they headed off on her skateboard.
Joe had fun racing a toy sailboat, and that made him hungry. A woman scattered breadcrumbs on the shimmering water, but goldfish gobbled up all the crumbs before he could get there.
“You must see our great river, the Seine,” a boy said and cradled Joe under his arm. “We’ll ride the Metro together.”
The river current was strong, and Joe swam over to the river bank to rest. “You must see our great museum,” an artist said. She scooped Joe up and gently placed him in her wooden box of paints and brushes.
Joe blinked. The Great Swamp hung on the wall. It was a painting. All of a sudden, he felt homesick, and a tear rolled down his cheek. The artist snapped his picture.
Later, the museum curator raced over to show Joe the newspaper. It had a big picture of Joe with the headline: ‘Turtle Moved to Tears by Claude Monet Painting’
The curator set up an aquarium, and soon thousands of people lined up to see Joe.
Joe’s new home had clean sand on the bottom, a heat lamp, all the crispy lettuce he could eat, and, of course, an excellent view of the Great Swamp. But he missed his swamp by the airport.
One evening, as Joe was floating on his back, the janitor exclaimed, “You are from New York!” Joe rolled over and over and then paddled in circles. He made it clear that he wanted to go home.
Fitting for a VIT (Very Important Turtle), Joe was driven to the airport in a motorcade with sirens blaring and lights flashing.
Joe rode in the cockpit. The clouds looked like giant pink water lilies blooming in the blue sky.
Back home, Joe snacked on grubs until he was sleepy and then he napped on his flat, sunny rock. When he opened his eyes, he saw the greatest water lilies ever.
©Scott Cramer 2015