A friend of mine told me a story today that I can’t help but pass on to you here, especially since it ultimately begs a question that I honestly never expected to encounter in my lifetime. To wit: How do you kill a turtle?
Let’s call my friend…Bob. Early in Bob’s first marriage, he and his wife had a happy little household with a couple of kids and a small menagerie – dogs, cats, perhaps a bird or two….and a turtle. One day while the family was out, one of the dogs took an interest in the turtle – or maybe it would be fairer to say the dog became convinced that he and the turtle were mortal enemies. The family returned home to find Bowser with the turtle pinned securely in his jaws; he’d clearly done some damage, but he was still working out just how to deliver the coup de grâce with that pesky shell in the way. Bob quickly rescued the turtle from the dog, but without getting into needless unpleasant specifics, it was immediately and sadly obvious that his injuries were not survivable. At the same time, he was not yet dead. (Monty Python fans, just shush yourselves.)
The family was unanimous that the right and humane thing to do at this point was to end the animal’s suffering, but of course this was when our title question arose. They lived in a rural setting where a quick trip to the vet was not an option, so they had to come up with a homespun remedy, as it were. While he was a small turtle, he was too big to flush down the toilet as one might do with a fish – besides which it just didn’t seem right, not to mention the risk of enraged monster turtles emerging from the sewers at some later date. Every alternate suggestion seemed to run up against the same obstacle that had flummoxed the dog – namely, the shell.
Finally, Bob had a stroke of [questionable] inspiration. He got a plastic grocery produce bag and a sturdy rubber band from the kitchen. [You already know where this is going, don’t you?] He went outside and placed the turtle in the plastic bag. [You’re cringing now, aren’t you?!] He went around the back of his car [YES! You saw it coming!] and placed the opening of the plastic bag around the end of the tailpipe, then secured it with the rubber band, wrapping it several times. [Pick your jaw up off the floor. It’s a true story.] Bob’s thinking was that a good strong dose of carbon monoxide would humanely put the poor, injured animal to sleep and he would know no more after that. Give Bob a break, please. He was a young man at the time; anything was possible.
Well, I expect you’ve already done the math on this one. Something about the volume of exhaust exiting the pipe, the tensile strength of the plastic bag, the abject terror of the turtle…
The turtle was thrown about 100 feet.
And survived the trip.
Bob can’t remember just what they did in the end to dispatch the Unluckiest Turtle In The World. Admittedly, in one way that renders this story kind of anticlimactic. In another way, I’m sure it’s just as well.