Clyde sees what he thinks will be the last turtle of autumn wandering around his backyard from his porch where he is bundled up against this cold raining day to drink his coffee. He finds himself thinking about his nephew, Henry, who is in his sixties now, but still seems to Clyde like the little boy who liked to find turtles. Clyde will be gone soon enough, probably too soon exiting the stage, and Henry will be the oldest adult in the family. There was a day more than sixty years ago when Clyde took care of his nephew all day long, held him and swaddled him. That’s the Henry that stays in Clyde’s mind and that’s the Clyde who is there too. He decides that he’s not afraid of death, but he doesn’t especially want to go. He wants to stay here and hold and protect children. Clyde lost his arm in Pearl Harbor. No one alive today knows him as a two armed man. He has lost so much, but what he’s thinking about is what he still has. Now, he has this turtle wandering across the grass, and the best he can do for the awkward little creature is just to leave it be. So he does so, watching the little guy moving toward a pond or lake, where he will dive deep and sleep through the winter. He will miss all the drama of winter, and then he’ll come back in spring, brought back to life like an ancient god of the druids now forgotten to people. Clyde hopes he’ll be around to see the miracle show of spring. He hopes to be the oldest adult of the family for just a little more time.
John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines, Writers Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016 and 2022. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He is the founder and general editor of The Journal of Radical Wonder. He lives in Jamestown, NY.