The Turtle

I don’t know who to hate more, my parents or goddamn Dr. Seuss.


Mom & Dad’s unusual behavior has gone out for about six months, ever since we moved to a brand-new suburb. My brother Cameron dubbed the situation “Max and Connie’s Midlife Crisis.”

“I think only men go through that,” I told him. “Mom is just plain weird.”

“Au contraire, ma frere,” said Cameron. “I took Abnormal Psych in my first year of college. I highly recommend you take that class someday.”

“I heard psych is easy,” I said.

“You see,” Cameron lectured, “They have what is known as Folie a Deux, or a madness shared by two. They share a psychosis.”

“You think Dad is psychotic? Oh, I am so telling him you said that,” I said.

“It’s a psychotic delusion actually. In this case, they think they’re empty nesters when they’re not.”

“Thank you, Dr. Phil,” I said. “I didn’t realize it only takes two years of junior college to become a psychiatrist.”

“This from a dropout,” he replied.  “If you were more educated, you would have called me Dr. Freud.”


Cam acts like he’s had it just as hard as me, but he hasn’t. He was already out of high school when we moved, but I still had a month to go, and had to drive 45 minutes one way to get there. I transferred to a different Supercuts so I don’t spend 4 hours driving in order to work 15 hours a week. I hate this new neighborhood. It’s nothing but young families who want me to babysit, but kids get on my nerves. The only good thing is that we’re close to a park. Mom told me since Dexter is my dog, I have to walk him every day. Every day! She won’t even let him out back in the mornings. If he whines to go out, she lets him into my room, and he jumps on my bed and barks in my face until I get up.


It’s like Mom & Dad  don’t have time to be parents anymore since all they do is party with the neighbors. Margarita Mondays and Wine Tasting Wednesdays are marked on the calendar, for God’s sake. The other day I found Mom in the kitchen, lining up Dixie cups among bottles of food coloring.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Making jello shots for the Olympic Night Opening Ceremonies Party,” Mom said. “See, I’m going to make 100 colored jello shots, and arrange them like the five Olympic rings. Don’t you love it?”


I don’t think this is appropriate behavior for a 50 year old woman.  Maybe I should call her doctor and tell him I’m worried that she has a brain tumor, so he can MRI her or something?


This weekend, they’re off on a jaunt with their Miata club – yes, Dad bought a used Miata so he and Mom can go for Sunday drives and picnics. Could he be any more cliched? At least it isn’t red, but that’s probably because the only one for sale was dark blue.  Mom wears a ridiculous scarf on her head, tied under her chin, with big giant sunglasses.

“Oh, honey, it’s just part of the fun,” she told me as she applied fire engine red lipstick. ” Grace Kelly. Tippi Hedren. Jackie O.”

“You have to imagine us in black and white,” said Dad. “Debonair. Picture me in a sharp suit, like they wear on Mad Men,” he yelled as they backed out the driveway on Friday and roared off.  Debonair, my ass. I haven’t seen my Dad wear anything other than khakis and an untucked polo shirt in years.


This Sunday afternoon Cam and I were in the kitchen, rummaging around for some food. I guess I could make a peanut butter sandwich, but is that proper nutrition? Time was when Mom would have cooked casseroles and left them in the freezer with heating instructions, or at least left us pizza money. Now they just breeze out of here  and expect us to fend for ourselves. We heard the car pull into the driveway and immediately abandoned our search.

“I hope they stopped and got Chinese takeout,” I said.

“Looks like they stopped for something,” said Cam.


The Miata now towed a small U-haul trailer.


“Golf cart with their names painted on the side?” I guessed.


“I don’t think that would fit. Maybe it’s a professional outdoor bar and grill, to go by the pool they’re putting in this summer,” Cam speculated. “That’ll be sweet when I host parties.”


The next door neighbors, Rick and Sheila, were out front hanging out, and they came over to investigate.

“Is this how you take your tandem bike with you on trips?” asked Rick, inspecting the trailer.

“No, we just ride that around town,” Dad said. “San Francisco is too hilly for a tandem anyway. We rented the trailer to bring our new purchase home.” He opened the back of the trailer dramatically and said “Meet Yertle the Turtle.” Inside was a five foot tall bronze statue with turtles piled on top of each other. Whatever.

“We went to an art gallery around the corner from our hotel, and that’s where we found it,” said Mom excitedly. “It was made by Dr. Seuss himself – Theodor Geisel. A lot of his work had political undertones, and Yertle the Turtle was about egomaniacal dictators always trying to control more and more. See, Yertle is on top of the other turtles, who are getting crushed under his weight.”

“Yertle is thought to represent Hitler, or Mussolini, or Stalin,” added Dad.

“So, they were out of actual Hitler statues?”  said Cameron.

“The Nazis lost,” I pointed out. “We’re over them already.”


Mom shot us a dirty look. “The best part is, Yertle is designed to be part of a fountain, so it will be the centerpiece of our new backyard. Once we have it landscaped.”

“I thought you were going to have a pool put in,” said Rick.

“Not any more,” said Dad. “Yertle is an investment.”

“You see, art holds its value, so ten years from now we can sell it for the exact same price,” said Mom. “You can’t count on real estate to do even that anymore.”


We all thought they were joking when they said it cost “just under” $50,000, but they were serious.  Are you f**ing kidding me? That’s what they did with their furlough payback money? We were all -including the neighbors – looking forward to having a pool. Instead, we have this stupid sculpture surrounded by dirt in our unfinished backyard.


This morning I let Dexter into the backyard, and Cam and I stood on the back porch staring at the turtle. Mom & Dad told us they have no money for our car insurance, or gas, or cell phones.


“You can’t tell anybody what they spent on this,” said Cam. “It’s so embarrassing.”


“What if we tell someone and have them declared mentally incompetent?” I suggested.


”All I know is, I’m applying to a CSU by the end of the day,” said Cam, turning to go back inside.


“I’m saving up to get an apartment with a guy from work. I don’t want to stay here and have the crazy rub off on me,” I said. “Come on, Dexter. Do your thing!”


Dexter ran straight over to the turtle, sniffed it, and lifted his leg and peed.




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