The Turtle [Language Warning]

by earthquakeinthepoorhouse


The Mother of Tortoises

Twenty-two centuries before the Christian era, the good emperor Yü the Great travelled and measured with his steps the Nine Mountains, the Nine Rivers, and the Nine Marshes and divided the land into Nine Provinces fit for virtue and agriculture. … Historians tell that the manner in which he divided his territory was revealed to him by a supernatural or sacred tortoise that arose from the bed of a river.

– Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings

Come a day Jack left me & so I up & went off fishin’. Just took meself off fishin’ & a packed lunch too & a coupla beers – not near enough to do the old chippy justice but too many still to go in swimmin’ after drinkin ’em all. So with me smoko & me beers & me rod & me reel & me eyes abrim & recollecting as I couldn’t but the granite fresh-carved of an inscription misquotin’ perfect W.H. Auden (always were a funny bastard, Jack):

           Empty the ocean,

            Sweep up the wood;

           Dad always told me

            I’d come to no good.

& the chiseled grooves of this not yet gilded – the cost of gilding is ever the limit of grief (dollar terms, at least) – with all this in mind I set to fishin’ in the ponded pools & greenish deeps of the river by the bridge – downstream of the fuckin’ noisy kids that were all there swimmin’ & startlin’ even the yabbies (the yabbies that fear nothin’ & who’ll gladly tear one another limb-from-fuckin’-algae-cankered-limb just to get at a putrid fuckin’ chicken neck) – away from the fuckin’ kids but still near enough to the bridge – beyond which the surfacewater was shaded & so invitin’ for the rainbows, brooks & browns (trout are fussy bastards & fuckin’ hate the sun & warm) – there in the river by the bridge & away from the fuckin’ kids I set a line & set meself down on the bank & watched the line & drank me cans & thought of things to say some years back ’til I caught sight of a dirty shifty-winding swathe of olive-green glo-mesh bastardry slitherin’ down the bank out the corner of me eye & seein’ this I jumped up & stamped a jig & bellowed:

‘Fuck off, you – ya shitty fat tiger snake c—!’

& sensin’ this (me stampin’ & me shoutin’ or me shoutin’ or me stampin’ or else just simple fact of me bein’ stood there cuttin’ up the hot-dry air with me gut & me grief) says he:

‘Fuck off yerself, ya sad, drunk, mis’rable c—. Less yer fishin’ fer frogs we’ll ’ave no trouble ’ere, you & me.’

‘Cheeky c—!’ said I. ‘Havn’t ya got a fuckin’ bramble ter prowl or a bluetongue ter gob?’

‘You can talk about gobbin’, dickhead,’ says the snake.

Never were a fighter, me, but I weren’t havin’ that. Fuckin’ snakes all over the shop & they’re all the fuckin’ same & there’s only so much an ordinary brokedown battler like me can stand to take offa the c—s. So I come at the prick barefisted & corse he ducks me & then rears up on his c—y belly & whippin’ a tongue the colour of dogshit at me says:

‘I’ll fuckin’ bite ya, c—. Ye’ll know ye’ve bin bit, too. Sick as a dog, ye’ll be. Sick as the fuckin’ dog you are.’

& hearin’ this I went dead-set fuckin’ troppo & bent & groped about me on the ground ’til I found a dirty great big fuckin’ rock & this I hefted & threw it at him & sure enough it landed square on his slimy back & pressed a good foot or more of his length into the spongy riverbank soil so that he hissed winded, gasped & started bawlin’.

‘Oh, fuck – sorry mate,’ said I. & I really was. Had a crook back meself, time to time, so I knew it then that old mate tiger snake’d be off work a good long spell.

‘Fuck off, c—!’ spits he in partin’.

& fair enough, too, I spose. C— threw a rock at me I’d be spewin’ meself. He deserved it, though. C— snake. Ha! Mad as a c— snake!

With the snake gone off into the long grass to sulk I cracked another tinnie & reeled in me bait & reset me hook & cast back out into the river & then sat & watched the shadow-fingers of the trees gropin’ out into the water ’til I spied a raft of rank green shit floatin’ on down the river toward me at a fair clip. & this was somethin’ new – somethin’ a bit fuckin’ different – ’cause the river never flowed at such a rate that time of year & almost never on that stretch in any season (if the current were a racehorse, you’d shoot the lazy bastard). So I sat & drank & watched the shitty green thing bobbin’ on down the way ’til somethin’ else – somethin’ slick with algae & black moss – somethin’ broke the surface of the water a coupla foot out in front of that great green mass & in the reedy light of late afternoon I caught the glintin’ of a fuckin’ eye the size of a bread’n’butter plate at one side of it, before this disappeared once again into the sluggish current & brown water.

& seein’ this I looked again at the bulk of the thing that floated on atop the water & lookin’ at it closer it seemed to me it were somethin’ near as old as the fuckin’ hills & so I looked a third time & looked closer still & I had the queerest sense then that it were a fair mite fuckin’ older even than the ageless hills (like fuckin’ Methuselah’s beard all planted up with fuckin’ pumpkins & alfalfa) & I’d sure as shit never laid eyes on anythin’ like it before & so – I’d nothin’ to call me away back home; no one that needed me to cook his fuckin’ tea for him any more & the chooks were free to roam & forage in the yard – so I beat me reel & retrieved me line & stowed me hook & retrieved me esky from the earth & set out followin’ the big green bug-eyed freak of riverine faunal fuckery on along down the river.

& soon enough the river give out & come too narrow & too choked with willows, weeds & other shit for bodies of the creature’s mighty size to navigate, so that I saw him to clamber up the bank & waddle off into a paddock & it was then I saw it was a fuckin’ turtle – the long-necked, splay-footed kind that’re always crossin’ the fuckin’ road like punchlines in the same shitty fuckin’ joke. But fuck me sideways, this was a fuckin’ turtle if ever I seen one! Bigger’n any fuckin’ bull I ever seen & the claws on him as long as fuckin’ butcher’s knives. But the queerest thing about the c— was the fuckin’ shell on his back.

Shell be fucked! There was nothin’ of the lacquered finish & native ornamentation & refinement of form & substance that the word implies in this monstrosity. In truth, it was more like a fuckin’ veggie patch that’s been left to rot & putrefy over an uncommonly wet winter ’til the plants still living are all withered, stunted & paling & all about them hang webs of sticky mould & pustules of a violent orange hue & bracket fungus & putrid toadstools & mycelium of all kinds & the gaps between these all filled in with couches of moss – these being the most verdant constituent part of the whole affair – & in the moss there wriggled & writhed a vast tribe of frogs all different colours (though some of ’em were lurid yellow or else neon green & painted in swatches of black all over as if partway tarred in pitch). In sum, the assemblage was of a kind defying description in terms other than a garden of ages, experience & decay.

& after crawlin’ out the river, the turtle waddled on across the paddocks at a fair fuckin’ clip – rememberin’, corse, that this was a fuckin’ colossal river turtle bein’ covered all over in a forest of rottin’ greenery – so that I could hardly keep up with the weird old waddlin’ c—. Pretty soon I’d drank all me beers & so discarded the esky in a creekbed & went on followin’ the turtle northward into the night.

As to me reason for settin’ out followin’ the bastard, I couldn’t’ve explained it to ya even then – recallin’ it now, corse, it has the stamp of a proper fuckin’ batshit scheme about it (drinkin’ tinnies in the sun’ll send anyone round the fuckin’ bend, I spose) – ’cept to say that I couldn’t stomach bein’ alone another night in Jack’s vacant & dim-lighted cottage. The fuckin’ recycle bin was still near full up to the top with his yeasty old empties & I dreaded puttin’ it out on the kerb for collection & hearin’ ’em all clinkin’ & rattlin’ around inside of it. So off I went with me rod & me reel & followin’ an elephantine relic of the turtles’ Pliocene ascendency into the quiet dark of midnight on the plain.

Some days later, the rollin’ hills give way to pockets of flyblown scrub havin’ plenty of that unmistakably Canberran sparseness, stunting and retardation about ’em & I shuddered to find that I’d followed old mate turtle into the fuckin’ festerin’ shit-heap of a frostbitten sheep paddock that is the A.C.T. ’til he struck the Molongolo and plunged on in without a backward glance. The c— give out a fuckin’ mighty stream of bubbles as he went under, too – like he were sighin’ with fuckin’ relief at findin’ himself back beneath the water.

So on down the Molongolo I followed him & across Burley Griffin, too, ’til he emerged from the water on the farthest side & all the frogs at his back come out to play. Saw plenty of people along the foreshore there, but none of ’em even stopped to say g’day. They’re a fuckin’ hardbitten lot, Canberrans. I was dead-set fuckin’ relieved when the turtle figured he was done with the National Crapital & set out eastward tward the coast.

’Cept that he hit the Pacific at fuckin’ Jervis Bay, of all the fuckin’ sorry & forgotten places in creation. & I met with no one there (corse, it’s a place to which no one ever fuckin’ goes – I’m still not fuckin’ convinced you’re even sposed to be pokin’ about down in the Territory there). Come pretty close to leavin’ the fuckin’ slimy bastard to his travels & headin’ on home at that point, ’til I recalled the cold grate & chalky ashes of old Jack’s long-sufferin’ & rust-ulcerated stove just stood there at the fuckin’ dead centre of the house & creakin’ with the downdrafts in the chimneypipe & so thought better of it. Luckily, but, the big green prick wasn’t real keen on stickin’ round in Jervis, so off we went & up north tward QLD (via the Northern Rivers, corse, where the turtle & his accompanyin’ band of frogs had a fuckin’ field day if ever I seen one).

At Gladstone I come upon a salty old c— tyin’ up his charter boat at the dock.

‘How’s business on the reef?’ asked I – out of fuckin’ politeness, mind.

‘What fuckin’ reef?’ says he, deadpan.

Feelin’ meself a bit peckish thereafter I took meself off down the beach to throw a line into the chop. Caught a good-size crab, too, which I boiled up for me tea – ’gainst his protests, corse.

One mornin’ – a long time ago  – one grey mornin’ back in the day, me & Jack got onto a coupla indecent sandcrabs down Eden way, fishin’ from the sand with bacon or somethin’ stupid like that. They were a fuckin’ bastard pair, too, them c—s.

‘You dirty pricks!’ squeals one of ’em from danglin’ in mid-air above the frothy shallows & all tangled in the line. ‘Weren’t doin’ no fuckin’ harm, me, just scuttlin’ round in the surf.’

& hearin’ this, Jack grins at me & says:

‘Charmin’ little c—, this one. He’ll make a salty breakfast!’

So into the bucket went the foul-mouthed crab & soon enough I pulled another, bigger bastard outta the foam & that one were a proper coldblooded c— – said nothin’, didn’t fight – just scurried about in the bottom of the bucket ’til it come time for us to head back home, at which point Jack calls out to me & says:

‘This c—’s gone & got a hold of me bait knife! Watch yerself when you go to ice him down!’

Fuck we laughed.

Recallin’ this & stiflin’ a chuckle, I munched the crab fresh outta the pot up there in the caravan park at Gladstone & then slung me hook & kept on fuckin’ walkin’ ’til me & the turtle come to the wild rivers of North QLD.

& from there on westward ’long the Flinders & into the Territory, skirtin’ drought along the course & plenty of the fuckin’ abject misery – both human and hooved – that comes of it – all writ in bones & dusty rotten fleece & dead trees & fuckin’ deepish riverbanks holdin’ nothin’ more’n a few rank ponds standin’ green & salty in the sun. I’d’ve thrown in the fuckin’ towel then & there & gone home, ’cept that I’d always heard the fishin’ was good in Arnhem & upon reflection I realised it that followin’ the turtle – wherever the fuck he were headed – was the only fuckin’ pot I had on the boil in all the world.

In the N.T. I saw only a handful of people at first & these just watched me pass by at some distance from the rivers & creeks through which the turtle pressed his way at a fuckin’ robust turtle’s pace (by then I’d settled in me walkin’ into a rough pattern of sorts & this urged me break one footfall in five into a skipping half-trot so’s to keep up with the c—). & as I marched I trawled the waterways with me lures & jagged the odd barra for me tea – just often enough to eat ’em raw on the hoof & to keep goin’. ’Til we come one day to Daly River & I sat down there with a bunch of blokes that were sat ringed & yarnin’ under a tree. None of ’em had anythin’ to say ’bout old mate turtle – just turned their heads away when I mentioned the mossy green c—. & the river bein’ in flood, the picnic party was obliged to shift every now & then to higher, drier ground, ’til eventually the locals were forced to up stumps & clear out.

Me fuckin’ boots were wet & muddy as a fuckin’ month of bastard Sundays by the time I left Daly behind me, which made walkin’ in ’em a proper fuckin’ misery.

‘A man’s only as good as his boots,’ Jack always used to say – ’specially when the young fella that worked for us left his good Blundstones out in the rain. Judgin’ by the sorry pair of scored & waterlogged steelcaps at me feet as we crossed into W.A, I were a fuck-buggered wreck if ever there was one & to complete the squalid picture me fuckin’ face was all sequined up with the scales of fish. I’ll own it I was about fuckin’ fed up with the whole enterprise as we passed through the wasteland of busted breezeblock rubble that once was Oombulgurri. There’s a certain kind of desolation only Cats & ’dozers can produce & it give me the fuckin’ chills to walk among the spooks & ruination of the razed community.

Still, havin’ come that far, there was fuck all else for me to do but to carry on followin’ the turtle tward wherever he was headed – & tward whatever it was I reckoned I might find there.

By the time we made Broome me boots’d give out on me altogether & I’d took ’em off & slung ’em into the scrub & picked up a dustin’ of red sand extendin’ halfway up both me legs.

‘Got yerself a pair of fuckin’ Pilbara dress-boots have ya, fuckhead?’ hooted a c—y-banded sea snake from the deep-sea jetty there.

‘Don’t fuckin’ start on me, c—!’ said I.

& hearin’ this he slithered off across the surface of the water ’til he was out of range of any rocks I might contrive to lob at him.

Roundin’ the southwestern corner of W.A, I seen the turtle at sea to get into a mighty blue with a cruisin’ great white shark the size of a fuckin’ caravan. & fuck me sideways there were a fair cloud of blood & gore there bloomin’ in the water after that & only the turtle managed to swim out of it in one piece & then on he goes back east tward South Australia, a-heavin’ & a-haulin’ away like a proper bastard blackbirder.

Some places havin’ water have the feel of fuckin’ cesspools about ’em despite the reeds & songbirds, while some others bein’ more bleak & desolate at first glance fairly knock the fuckin’ wind out of ya for natural beauty – like they’ve been waitin’ there for ya to pay ’em a visit since first they were scooped outta the bare, dry sand surroundin’. Saw plenty of lakes in S.A. – some of ’em dyin’ on their arses, mind – that felt like that, felt like welcome landings – or at least offered some respite from the miseries of the road. Lousy with fuckin’ pelicans, they were, too.

What a greedy fuckin’ big-mouthed bastard of a bird is the pelican…’ Jack woulda said, misquotin’ perfect D.L. Merritt every fuckin’ time he seen one on the wing – whether it had a fuckin’ fish in its bill or not. Always said that about pelicans, Jack.

At Southend I come across a lobster-fisher patchin’ up his traps on the beach.

‘How’s the crays these days?’ asked I.

‘The big ’uns’re gettin’ harder ter persuade inter the fuckin’ pot ev’ry season,’ says he, dour, through a mouthful of rollie stained with yellow tar.

& from there on eastward into Melbourne where I stopped for a coffee while the turtle fucked about in the Yarra before I boarded the good ship Spirit of Tasmania for the trip to Hobart. & fuck me dead if the turtle didn’t coast along just off the bow, half surfin’ on the surge of water this dug outta the choppy Strait & this were the first sign I’d had the c—’d even marked that I was followin’ him.

Plenty of fuckin’ rivers in Tasmania, there are – more’n you’d ever want to fuckin’ see – & the turtle (contrary bastard, the turtle) seemed intent on savourin’ the unique charms of each in turn, so that we were in & on the Apple Isle a spell of several months. I come across a loggin’ crew more’n once in that time, but I couldn’t make meself heard over the sound of saws tearin’ up the stillness & damp of the surroundin’ air, so that I felt meself properly alone once again & I recollected then the big Husqvarna tree-saw Jack had stowed away in the garage back home & I figured then the chain was prolly in bad need of sharpenin’ & oil. I’ll admit it I was fuckin’ glad at last to board the mainland ferry & to plough back through a night of sheeting rain bound for the far shore.

Victoria was a fuckin’ picture to walk through it – a sight for eyes not sore though yet ample sick of seein’ nothin’ but unending sand & swampland – & even the turtle seemed impressed by the scenery all about him, ’cause he swam the Murray with his head above the water more’n not ’til we made the climb into the highlands & then up into the range & this was a fuckin’ misery unending for a sorry barefoot busted-arse c— such as I & I shivered through a string of nights in the slab huts above the snowline.

Until he lead me out into that montane meadow of impossible green at centre of the Pilot Wilderness & in which the Murray rises from a spring – & beside it the twisted shell of fuselage that was once the Southern Cloud – & only then & only there did that giant fuckin’ shufflin’ mass of turtle & corruption turn to look at me.

‘Well, fuck me – ye’ve led me on a merry way!’ said I.

‘Bin nowhere I havn’t bin meself already – & a hundred times before,’ said he & angled the point of his chin up at me as he spoke.

‘Took yer fuckin’ time about it’s all I’m sayin’.’

‘Time’s as nothin’ to a fuckin’ turtle, ya silly prick,’ said he.

‘Are you the bunyip?’ asked I.

‘As you see.’

‘Ye’ve got the fuckin’ claws alright, but no fuckin’ teeth – which is not as I’d expect.’

‘You describin’ me, c—? Or a fuckin’ Royal Commission?’ the turtle barked & sayin’ this he brayed like a heifer that’s just took the cold, rough hand of a country vet up to the elbow (& this without a preparatory greasin’ of Vaseline) & laughed & laughed. Wasn’t even fuckin’ funny.

‘I mean, a beak’ll do the job jus’ the same, I spose…’ offered I in time. But the turtle only grumbled so that the mossy pile atop his shell shook like a bowl of trifle thick with custard.

‘You ever been robbed, dickhead?’ asked he.

‘Once, yeah.’

‘Was the c— armed?’

‘He had a box-cutter, yeah.’

‘Did ya say to him, oi, mate, ye’ve got the fuckin’ box-cutter alright, but no fuckin’ sawn-off – which is not as I’d expect?”

‘Nah. I give him me wallet,’ said I.

‘Ya give him yer fuckin’ wallet,’ the turtle redounded. ‘Fuckwit.’

‘Are ya gonna rob me?’ asked I. That tickled the c—. Fuck me dead he laughed.

‘Yer a big c—, I’ll admit,’ said I.

‘I oughta be,’ said he. ‘I was swimmin’ these rivers ’fore the Corsican dwarf was even a glint of gunmetal in his old man’s eye.’

‘Whaddaya know about it?’ asked I.

‘Fuckin’ sit long enough by a river in Aust. & you’ll learn all there is to know of history & philosophy – human, natural & metaphysical,’ said he, sharpish.

‘Orrite,’ said I.

‘That all ye’ve got ter say?’ asks he & glares at me with his big baby-shitbrown eyes. ‘From what I seen along the way, ye’ve had fuck all conversation these past years.’

But before I’d had time to regather me wits, I saw a fattish frog emerge from the garden at the turtle’s back & begin to scramble down his neck & then to huddle behind a crease of flesh & skin above a mighty turtle eye. & turnin’ the eye up tward the squirmin’ little c— the turtle jerked his head so’s to dislodge the frog & the frog went flailin’ up into the air & from the air the turtle snatched it in his beak & swallowed it at a gulp.

‘Cave or no, man alone has no need of language to contain his dreams,’ said the turtle as a lick of blood dribbled down what passed for his chin.

‘I thought you c— were vegetarians,’ said I.

‘You ever had that fuckin’ Brazilian barbeque – whaddaya call it? Fuckin’ chiaroscuro or somethin’?’ asked he.

‘What? Churrasco. You mean churrasco.’

‘Right, fuckin’ churrasco. Point is: while it might seem like fuckin’ Christmas when someone offers ya a fuckin’ bottomless plateful o’ meat all diff’rent kinds, ye’ll never get more’n halfway through the meal before ya need to order some rice & beans & salad or somethin’ to go with it.’

‘The frogs’re a side dish?’ asked I.

‘Variety. The frogs’re variety,’ said he.

‘You gonna take a snap at me?’

‘I might. Whaddaya want, anyway?’

‘Dunno,’ said I, in truth.

‘C— don’t just go off fuckin’ bush-bashin’ ’round the entire fuckin’ continent in pursuit of a giant talkin’ turtle without havin’ some idea why they fuckin’ set out walkin’,’ says he.

‘I didn’t know ya could talk.’

‘So knowin’ now that I can fuckin’ talk, whaddaya wanna know, Bush Tucker Dickhead?’


‘I’ve no intrest in recallin’ a ghost,’ interrupted the turtle. ‘Two-hundred-sixty years I bin swimmin’ these rivers hereabouts & I never seen so many restive spirits as I have in these past fifty.’

‘Ghosts?’ asked I, frownin’.

‘You mean to tell me – me, a giant fuckin’ talkin’ turtle – that you don’t believe in ghosts?’ asked he.

‘Always wanted to believe,’ said I. ‘But never havin’ met one, I spose I just feared the worst.’

‘Understand,’ began the turtle, regal, ‘that He had to dream the heavens & the earth before either firmament or face of bare waters could ever come to be…’

‘Yeah, I know, stranger things & all that,’ said I, interruptin’.

‘Talk over me like that again & I’ll snap yer fuckin’ cock off, c—,’ says the turtle. & fair enough, too, I spose.

‘Sorry, mate,’ said I.

‘He had to dream creation,’ the turtle continued. ‘So that, for a time – whether it were fuckin’ aeons or but a moment infinitesimally small – for a time there was nothin’ of creation but the dream of it. The realisation of this is not a threat to Him – to the father-creator perfect in his every aspect – since dreaming is itself creation, of a kind. It is perhaps creation of a kind more perfect even than the clothing of the earth in mantles green & enrichment of the seas with fish. & He being perfect, there weren’t nothin’ man might dream – man bein’, ye’ll recall, a thing fashioned of the clay into the very spit & image of Him – weren’t nothin’ man might dream that He himself did not dream in the time of His dreaming.’

‘God dreamed a fuckin’ giant talkin’ turtle?’ asked I & winced.

‘Fuckin’ oath, c—! Fuckin’ oath. Just like he dreamed fuckin’ ghosts & wattles & Stone’s Green Ginger fuckin’ Wine.’

‘Penguins?’ asked I. Ya shoulda seen the look on the c—’s face (it was fuckin’ funny at the time).

‘Yer a fuckin’ queer c—, aren’t ya?’ sneered the turtle. ‘Fuckin’ awkward as the day you were born.’

& then feelin’ for the first time ridiculous in me talkin’ to the turtle, I saw it that there weren’t nothin’ for it but to press me point – & this with a lick of spittle & a bit of aggro corrective of the balance in the dialogue. Said I, therefore:

‘I mean, you reckon He just up & said one day: & lo, now you are a penguin – waddle on outta here, ya pigeon-toed little c—?’

‘They’re fuckin’ cute, them fairy penguins,’ beamed the turtle, softening. ‘I’ve been down to Phillip Island & seen the gammy little fuckers shufflin’ on down to the sea. Point is, though, that He didn’t just fuckin’ dream an adorable little fish-eatin’ flightless bird with its dinky flippers & irresistible face. He dreamed a penguin in essence & thereafter He saw to it that the earth & the sky & the waters & plants & the lesser creatures & the grace of all the spirits & angels custodian of these moulded & shaped that essence over time – being time immemorial to any but He – so that the penguin remained a penguin throughout every stop & station in its history & progress until the first people fortunate enough to sight it in the charming aspect it now enjoys said, look at that fuckin’ funny little fella hoppin’ about on the rocks!’

‘& us?’

‘Same time He dreamed the penguin, He dreamed you & me, sure,’ said the turtle sagely. ‘& in that moment He also dreamed a garden for us both, you & me, & in the garden he sunk plentya wells & rivers, lakes & streams.’

At this the turtle paused & pondered a moment ’fore continuing.

‘Difference ’tween me & you, though,’ says he, ‘is that, in the turtle, He dreamed a creature being a stranger to all sin & suffering.’

‘In the same moment he dreamed Adam, He dreamed a fuckin’ colossal, immaculate talkin’ turtle?’ pressed I.

‘He breathed the residue of His dreaming into man – man being a creature decided always against deference & submission. Which was, corse, man’s undoing. Man was expelled from Eden – man fuckin’ lost the Garden because he dreamed too fuckin’ big, too fuckin’ grandiose by far. So, from then on it’s fuckin’ Cain the cropper & Abel the stockman & Jesus’ own troupe of fearful fishermen come home to shore & on & on until we arrive at distilliers peddlin’ their fuckin’ green ginger fuckin’ wine. But some found their way back.’

‘Jack always said…’ started I again, but the turtle interjected ’fore I’d had a chance to speak – & this with ample venom ’gainst his want of fangs.

‘Fuck Jack. I’ll not be party to summoning a ghost. Ye’ll profit fuck all from dwellin’ on the c— – there’s nothin’ new to be learned from talkin’ ’bout him. Why don’t you c—s ever look to fuckin’ sensible examples to steer your way forward? Fuckin’ go home, go to bed, & when ya wake up tomorrow, try to be just a little bit more like Bradman.’

‘That’s yer philosophy?’ asked I, incredulous. ‘Be more like Bradman?’

‘The thing about The Don,’ the turtle said, ‘is that he always played a straight bat.’

‘I don’t think that’s right, mate.’

‘I can see it to fuckin’ look at ya, c—: everythin’ you fuckin’ believe in amounts to nothin’ more’n a bottletop full of spit.’

‘So what’s yer advice, then, ya fuckin’ useless mealy-mouthed turtle c—?’ spat I.

‘There’s a lesson for ya here: if yer lookin’ for a plenary philosophy to comfort ya, don’t go lookin’ to a turtle for the precepts.’

‘Ye’ve age & wisdom, alright,’ said I, ‘but nothin’ of compassion – which is not as I’d expect.’

‘What is life if not constant, needless aggravation?’ asked the turtle.

‘And grief?’ pressed I.

‘And grief – ’ says he. ‘– for you, if not for me.’

& at that I took me fishin’ line & looped it round the turtle’s hateful neck & pullin’ the line taught & tight garroted that fuckin’ smartarse reptilian c— so that the blood fairly oozed out of him (& this more brown than crimson) & so shut him up forever.