Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I've got the turtle blues

I have a little problem – actually, make that a big one – that I need help solving.

It all began exactly a year ago when I was walking down Podunk Road in Allenstown. About nine-tenths of Podunk Road is dirt, surrounded by thick woods.

While I was walking, I spotted a big crow standing in the middle of the road up ahead and pecking at something. When the crow caught sight of my dog and me, it took off. I thought nothing of it until I got closer to the spot where the crow had been and saw what it had been pecking at. It was a tiny snapping-turtle hatchling, not much bigger than a quarter.

I studied the stiff, unmoving turtle, which had a pretty mangled-looking hind leg, and assumed it was dead. I picked it up and was going to put it in the bushes on the side of the road, but for some reason, I popped it into my jacket pocket instead.

When I got home, I removed the turtle from my pocket and thought I saw it move just slightly. Quickly, I put some water, small stones and flat rock into a plastic container and then set the turtle down on the rock. I decided to call the poor little critter “Snippy.”

“Why do you have a dead turtle in a bowl of water?” My husband, peering into the container, asked.

“I thought I saw him move,” I said.

“Move? Rigor mortis already has set in!”

Despite my husband’s remarks, I decided to leave Snippy in the container overnight. If he still was lying in the same spot in the morning, I would give him a decent burial.

The next morning, when I approached Snippy’s container, his little head popped up and he stared at me. I didn’t know whether to be ecstatic or scared. I mean, I’d never played mother to a snapping turtle before, never mind an injured one, so I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do. I rushed to the Internet to look up information.

After I waded through all of the Web sites that listed recipes for snapping-turtle soup, a real delicacy (according to the info) in many areas, I found the information I was looking for. It said to offer such tempting treats as cooked chicken, shrimp, mealworms, beef and tiny bits of fruit and vegetables on the tip of a toothpick to the turtle.

Everything I offered Snippy, he voraciously attacked and gulped down…except the fruit and vegetables. He turned his little nose up at every piece I tried. The turtle obviously was a carnivore…and my husband’s clone.

Through the winter, Snippy thrived. His injured leg healed, but he dragged it behind him when he walked and seemed to have trouble swimming. He also grew into a very chubby turtle. I bought him a five-gallon aquarium, which he promptly outgrew. I bought him a 10-gallon aquarium, which he also outgrew. I looked up more information on the Internet. “Snappers can grow to weigh 65 lbs.” one site said. “Turtle owners should build fenced-in ponds in their back yards to provide proper housing.”

Somehow, I couldn’t picture myself, spade in hand, digging a pond in my back yard.

I hate to say it, but the more I babied Snippy, the less he acted like the vicious finger-biting turtle he was meant to be. He liked to be held. He liked to have his shell rubbed. He also liked to sit in his aquarium and watch everything that was going on around him. The minute I’d reach for his bag of shrimp, he’d instantly spot it and would do a little head-bobbing turtle dance in anticipation of mealtime.

The truth was, I was raising a wimp.

A few weeks ago, I finally decided to consult a reptile expert and ask what I should do with Snippy. “Can I let him loose in a pond, even though he’s totally domesticated now?” I asked her. “My plan all along has been to nurse him back to health, get him strong and then set him free, but I’m not sure if he can make it on his own or not.”

“Oh, he’ll adapt just fine,” she assured me. “Snappers are very hardy creatures. And now’s the time to set him free before winter sets in.”

So that next Monday, I, with a heavy heart, put Snippy into a cardboard box and hiked up to Hayes Marsh, which is about three-quarters of a mile off Podunk Road, where I’d originally found him. I figured that his family had to be in that marsh, mainly because it was the only body of water in the area.

When the marsh finally came into view, I made myself feel less depressed by envisioning Snippy happily swimming off into the sunset, free at last.

But alas, my vision turned out to be a far cry from reality. I set Snippy down on the shore and he immediately backed away from the water, terrified. I picked him up and put him into the water. Panicking, he began to thrash, his chubby legs flailing wildly. He continued to thrash, remaining in the same spot and getting nowhere, until I couldn’t bear it any longer. I yanked him out of the water and set him back on the shore. At that point, a dragonfly flew over his head and he actually cringed, trying to tuck himself into his shell (which snapping turtles, unlike other turtles, can’t do). I finally had to admit that Snippy probably wasn’t such a hot candidate for making it on his own in the wild.

I brought him back home.

And here he still remains, perfectly content in his too-small aquarium, eating like a horse…and growing bigger by the hour.

The bottom line is that Snippy needs a place where he can have lots of room, be safe and well cared for, and be accepted for the big wimp that he is. If anyone can help or offer any suggestions, please e-mail me at sillysally@att.net.

That is, unless you’re thinking about whipping up a batch of turtle soup.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Arabian Nights

Last Saturday night, my husband and I finally realized we are old. Why? Because we’d gone out to dinner at four o’clock in the afternoon and by seven o’clock, we already were in our pajamas and settled in for the evening.

“Remember when our Saturday nights used to start at eight?” I asked him. “We’d be out dancing till one in the morning.”

My husband groaned. “I could never do that now. By one o’clock, I’ll already have been in bed for three hours.” He looked thoughtful for a moment and then added, “We sure had some good times, though. Remember Al Sirat?”

I smiled. Al Sirat was an Arabian-style nightclub located in the China Dragon Restaurant in Hooksett. The first time we went there was back in the early ‘70s, when my friend Sandi invited us.

“Gorgeous Harry Moy Junior runs the place!” she excitedly told me.

For years, Sandi had drooled over Harry Moy Junior, whose dad was a friend of her dad. She never, however, referred to the guy as just plain “Harry.” The word “gorgeous” always preceded his full name. To be honest, I wasn’t as enthusiastic about going to this new Al Sirat nightclub as I was about finally catching a glimpse of Gorgeous Harry Moy Junior.

So, on a Saturday night, my husband and I, along with Sandi and her husband, headed over to Al Sirat. The moment we entered, we were awed. We instantly were transported into a world of harem girls and sheiks. The perimeter of the huge nightclub was lined with ornately draped, Arabian-style tents that had huge, tasseled velvet cushions for seating on the floor. Rich velvets, silks, gold brocade and gauze were everywhere. There also were traditional tables and chairs. The club’s lamps all looked as if genies might be lurking in them.

My husband’s eyes were riveted on the navels of the attractive harem girls who were serving drinks, while Sandi’s eyes frantically darted back and forth. I suddenly felt an elbow jab my ribs. “There he is!” Sandi whispered to me. “Gorgeous Harry Moy Junior!”

I followed the direction of her eyes and spotted the living, breathing epitome of tall, dark and handsome. Not only that, he was wearing a tuxedo. The man looked as if he’d stepped off the cover of GQ Magazine. When he smiled, his teeth were so white, I nearly needed sunglasses to ward off the glare.

“This place is unbelievable!” Sandi’s husband said to her.

“Uh huh,” she said, her eyes still riveted on her longtime crush.

“I guess we should go take a seat,” he added.

“Uh huh,” Sandi said, not moving.

“Oh, look!” her husband teased, “Here comes a completely naked woman!”

“Uh huh,” Sandi said.

“Where?! Where?!” My husband asked.

We were seated in one of the tents right near the stage. The “band” actually was just one 40-something guy with a synthesizer that, with the push of a few buttons, sounded like several different instruments, including a small orchestra.

Right after our drinks were served by a shapely harem girl, the lights dimmed and a spotlight directed our attention to the center of the dance floor.

To our amazement, a beautiful, exotic-looking, dark-haired belly dancer with a stomach so flat, she barely had any belly to dance with, magically appeared. I thought she’d popped up from a trap door in the floor, but my husband insisted she’d dropped down from the ceiling.

My husband couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as he watched the dancer gyrate. “I am really liking this place,” he said. “We’ll have to come back here…often!”

After the dancer finished her routine, the musician onstage launched into a romantic love song. We couldn’t help but notice that as he sang, he kept staring directly at us.

“I’m getting uncomfortable,” Sandi whispered to me. “He keeps staring at me!”

I’d thought he might have been staring at me, but Sandi was model-pretty, so I figured she probably was right. As the singer began his next song, “You’re Just Too Good to be True,” another man took over at the synthesizer. This allowed the singer to grab the microphone and roam. He headed straight for our tent.

“Oh, no! He’s coming to serenade me!” Sandi whispered. “I’m going to die of embarrassment!”

“But at least you’ll have Gorgeous Harry Moy Junior’s attention!” I whispered back.

The singer then proceeded to sing the entire love song…directly to my husband.

Never in my life have I had more trouble trying to keep a straight face. And never in my life have I ever seen a more panicked expression than my husband’s. To make matters worse, the singer must have extended the song by at least 30 choruses.

We did go back to Al Sirat a couple more times after that, but the place became so popular and so crowded, with hours-long waiting lines to get in, it lost a lot of the magic we’d felt on that first night.

Besides that, they hired a new singer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

In search of Room 212

My husband spent most of last week as a patient at Concord Hospital…and I spent most of it getting lost.

Concord Hospital used to be a pretty simple place to get into. You’d drive up to the visitors’ parking lot, walk up to the automatic doors near the cafeteria, enter the lobby, come face to face with the elevators and push either the “up” or “down” button. Simple.

The night that my husband was admitted to the hospital, however, I discovered that Concord Hospital, as I knew it, no longer exists. The hospital grounds look as if they were in the direct path of a giant meteor.

As I pulled into what used to be the emergency-room parking lot, all I saw was a crater the size of Rhode Island. “Drop off Patients Here,” a sign said.

“Am I supposed to dump you into that hole?” I asked my husband.

He shrugged. “Maybe it’s their way of drumming up more business for the emergency room.”

I backed out and drove to the “new” main entrance, then left my husband in the car and ran into the lobby. I was pleased to see a woman sitting at the information desk. “How do I get to Admitting from here?” I asked.

She stared at me as if I’d just asked her the final question on Jeopardy. “Um, I think it’s up in the emergency room,” she finally said.

“I was just there. The parking lot is a giant hole.”

“You have to park on the roof of the garage,” she said. “Next to the helicopter landing-pad.”

It was my turn to stare. It was bad enough that my poor husband had to be admitted to the hospital, but to be flattened by a helicopter before he even got out of the car would be, well, downright tragic.

“I know that all of this construction is an inconvenience,” the woman said, “but when it’s done, this hospital will be much bigger and better able to serve its patients.”

There was only one patient on my mind at that moment. I went back out to the car and drove up to the crater formerly known as the emergency room and parked where the woman had instructed. Then my poor husband and I walked the 12 miles to the building. Fifteen minutes later, he was settled in his room on the second floor. It took me a half-hour to find my way back to the car.

The next day, my mother and I headed up to the hospital to visit him. We followed the signs that said “Visitor Parking” and were stopped by a hospital guard. “Sorry, the lot is full,” he said.

My mother and I looked past him and spotted at least six empty parking spaces. “I’m just dropping off my mother,” I lied.

“Okay, go ahead then,” he said, stepping aside to let us pass.

I parked in one of the empty spots and my mother and I entered the lobby. An elderly man wearing a smock cheerfully greeted us. “Good afternoon! Where are you headed?”

“Room 212,” I said.

“Well,” he said, looking thoughtful, “if you walk to the end of this hallway and take elevator B up to the first floor, then take a right, switch over to elevator C, take another right, then a left and go straight down the hallway, that should get you there.”

He lost me after the word, “elevator.” I nodded, smiled, and Mom and I were off to search for room 212.

Five minutes later, we were standing in front of two doors that said, “Authorized Personnel Only.” There were no other doors around.

“I think we took a left when we should have taken a right,” my mother said.

By the time we found my husband’s room, it was time to head back home. My mother and I were hungry, thirsty and had blisters on our feet.

“How do we get back to the main lobby?” I asked one of the nurses when Mom and I were ready to leave.

“Hmmm, let me think,” she said. “I never go out that way.”

That was not a good sign.

She recited a lot of “lefts” and “rights” and then mentioned that the lobby was on the ground floor. That was the only thing I remembered when Mom and I entered the elevator. I looked at the buttons. There was a “G” and a “GR.” I pressed the “G” for ground.

The doors of the elevator opened and my mother and I stepped out into the dark depths of the hospital. The hallway looked creepy enough to be the setting for one of those horror movies like, “Dr. Hacker and the River of Blood.”

“Ohmigod!” my mother said. “I think we’re in the morgue!”

We nearly trampled each other in our haste to get back onto the elevator. That’s when I figured out that I should have pushed the “GR” button.

My husband called me from the hospital later that night and said, “Remember, the minute I get discharged, I want you to rush right over here and get me. I don’t want to be stuck in here one minute longer than necessary!”

I laughed. “Then I’d better start heading over there to pick you up as soon as I hang up, because it’ll take me a week to find you.”

“Never mind,” he said. “I’ll call a cab.”