It was the longest of necks, it was the shortest of necks. It was the atavistic memory of 220 million years of sub-marinal migration, it was a common elastic subtropical plant, it was all the songs of the sea encoded on delicate strands of DNA. It was snappin’ gum to pop tunes on the radio. It was the eternal spring of hope, it was death flirting with the circle of life from the edge of the maelstrom, it was witness to the birth of prehistory, the new world and the next world. It had everything before it and it seemed that, one way or the other, it always would.
Like his ancestors before him, Cao-Che’s migratory wanderlust sent him ricocheting around the globe bearing witness to its seemingly never ending magic. His forebearers had seen the invention of the wheel, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the discovery of fire, the burning of the Library at Alexandria (that was a real eyebrow raiser) and the birth of Abraham, Muhammad and Jesus. In Cao-Che’s lifetime: the internal combustion engine, motor oil, the invention of radio and the end of ship to shore semaphore. All that and more changed the world, but other than the lack of occasional flag waving, Cao-Che’s world seemed pretty stable-for the most part.
For the most part - Mother Nature was never an issue a robust turtle couldn’t handle - for the most part - Cao Che was in for a surprise.
For the last two hundred years, his sojourns had been solitary, actually not an uncommon trait in a turtle. But Cao-Che was different. He was only half turtle. The other half was Caoutchouc Bush - and bushes enjoyed being planted next to other like - minded bushes.
Dramatic Pause . . .
Cao-Che attained a graceful balance through constant swimming. He ate an extraordinarily fresh and varied diet, and never thought twice about migrating thousands of miles, following currents and temperatures, depending on the kind of dinner he fancied. Swimming and dining for almost 200 years and barely looking a day over 100. An exemplary Chelonian life - except for one thing. The bush thing. Every now and then he thought about going for a walk, if for no other reason than to just hang out, dry out and stretch out.
From Nova Scotia in November to New Orleans in December. A journey of about 1,400 miles south, a gentle right turn up into the Gulf of Mexico, then due north and west to Louis's land of dreams. Being that it was not the longest of all trips and that Cao-Che had just feasted off the banks of the Northeast, the plan was to wait till N’Orleans before worrying about food.
No matter how free a man dreams he is, he is never as free as a fish.
Drifting on liquid Van Allen Belts through clouds of teeming, streaming life, his 360º vision, from eyes on opposite sides of the head rendered swimming the dream phantasmagoric, without distinction between the conscious and unconscious, everything is and everything was, except for the smell. Oh, things looked normal. But ... there was this DNA - awakening smell . . . a smell from the good old days over 66,000,000 years ago, when all there really was to worry about was being bullied back into the water by T Rex & Company.
Against his better judgment, more curious than repelled, he followed what he smelled, and suddenly found himself cloaked in what appeared to be an enormous kaleidoscopic lava lamp made of smiling chocolate jelly fish. As hungry as Cao-Che was from the trip, he knew to stay away. Stay away from the bounty-ounty. Oh no, oh boy, oh my. Oh snap. Smell imbued, Cao-Che started to do a backward Calder-esque sideways dance while eating his way through a universe of shiny, singing, gooey, smiling, parading, escaping, giant black petroleum jelly fish.
One moment stinky, next moment knocked back. Exit stage left, ass up in the alley, upside down reptile dysfunction worse than the brown acid at Woodstock. Worse than buying used cars from twin gypsy car dealers, worse than floating in total stasis suffering the indignities of full on sphilkes-ectomy.
Mobilized with every emergency vehicle available the entire southern coast was ready for the expected shoreline arrivals. Headlines Read: WASHED UP NEAR DEAD! Muscles as loose as a goose with a neck longer than a giraffe. Riding in the presidential ambulance, breathing pure oxygen (at this point dear patient reader the author would like to reiterate how thankful he is to have a President that gives a f!@k about fish).
The toxic shock wore off as delirium set in. His retinas stained with the high-contrast amorphic shapes of the oil blobs that blocked out the sun, were now ghosting the corners of the inside of the mobile emergency room. Cao-Che could hear voices, but nobody’s lips were moving. It sounded like a Clam having an impromptu interview with an authority on, of all things, turtle mythology.
In fact it was Scott “the Quahog” Simon speaking on NPR’s “All Things Quodlibetical”*, discussing the discovery of a new turtle species. NPR’s on the scene expert, Dr. Carl Safina was explaining an ancient myth from a lost tribe of India. “Well Scott, to genetically engineer an unusually long necked Chelonia, the tribe fed Caoutchouc nectar to infant turtles. They were a tribe of marine explorers who believed the iconic neck enabled them to see beyond the horizon. Finding this creature, Scott, well it’s as significant as finding Atlantis,” Safina said.
As the dust settled, Cao-Che became world famous, sought after for his intrepid stories of migration, revered for his wisdom, cherished as a symbol of species diversity and empathized with as the survivor / representative of one of the world’s greatest man-made disasters. Cao-Che quickly became the venerable star commentator on “All Things Quodlibetical”. No matter where Cao-Che showed up, the spectacle of his appearance brought waves of oceanic stewardship, widening man’s concern for life past the shoreline. Because of neck modesty, radio became Cao-Che’s medium of choice. He had a neck for radio.
Cao-Che became the symbol for responsible energy, and singlehandedly ended off-shore oil drilling. Today, in his spare time, when he’s not balancing the weight of the world, Cao-Che loves to hang out with children, loves to chew extremely sugary gum and really goes crazy when he hears The Turtles on the radio.