Coming back from an errand in town today, this caught my eye while heading west on Saugatucket Road, on the left, just before the intersection with Route 108. A lost turtle. Good heavens. The neighborhood’s telephone poles regularly sport new posters for lost cats, especially around Upper College Road, Biscuit City Road, and South Road. The coyotes in the area–and, increasingly, the fisher cats–enjoy the local buffet. But a lost turtle?
I got home and checked the 610 area code: eastern and southeastern Pennsylvania–the old Rust Belt towns of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Reading, as well as portions of Philadelphia. Curious.
I imagine a child up here visiting her grandparents for a week in summer. She brings her beloved pet turtle. Name? Maybe Slowpoke. Or Carapace. Distracted for a brief moment by squabbling blue jays up above, she loses track of her turtle in the tall grass by the hedges. Tragedy. Tears. Her grandmother makes a blueberry pie, the child’s favorite. Her grandfather fires up the Mac and the pair designs a poster. He recommends an assertive sans serif font. She has a picture of the turtle on her facebook page. They walk hand in hand around the neighborhood and put up the posters, angled just right for passing motorists. You never know–maybe someone will find her, he says reassuringly. The reward would be a silver dollar, from her piggy-bank, one given to her on her birthday by the grandparents from whose very backyard the turtle escaped.
I called the number, left a message, and in five minutes got a call back. The female voice was rather young sounding, so I asked if she had her parents’ permission to speak with me.
“I’m thirty,” she said.
Her name is Aviva Moster. The turtle’s name is Pumpkin. She also has a Russian tortoise named Sugarlump. She moved up here from Philly, hence the area code on her cellphone.
“She’s usually inside, but I built a little pen outside for her and my tortoise,” she said. “They try to get out sometimes. But they were sitting in the pen, and then I went inside for three minutes, and she got out. This was on July 12, about 6 p.m. I think she’s gone. I put the signs up yesterday.”
Pumpkin is eight years old. Aviva adopted her in New York City through craigslist. The previous owner didn’t want her anymore. I asked about Pumpkin’s personality.
“She was mean and curmudgeonly,” she said. “She didn’t like to be around anybody else. She wasn’t nice to me or my tortoise. So I thought of her as my teenager. I wouldn’t say she liked me, but I loved her.”
Pumpkin’s favorite meals were lettuce and red grapes.
“The only time she liked me was when I fed her grapes,” Aviva said. “She would eat them out of my hand. Wood turtles live to be in their forties. I expected to grow old with her.”