Or the travails of Josephine Baker Bauman
JULY 2, 2020
It is seventy-something degrees, the sun rises to the top of our gigantic oak out back. Today’s high will be ninety, but for now it is comfortable. Our backyard is soup, or stew actually, as we have had several days of rain. Combined with the muddy plane that is our terra firma, the thick air makes my Louisiana soul happy. It feels like the bayou. The smell is fetid and decaying, one of my favorite scents. Eau de death of microscopic critters. My hair also raises its familiar flag of humidity, growing horizontally and vertically.
Someone else’s soul is happy too. Josephine, our eleven-year-old red-eared slider, about the size of a small planet now, has almost outgrown her tank. Banging up against the aquarium’s glass walls and tearing out the caulking in its corners, she also pushes all the rocks into small oceanic mountains. Isn’t this the way we humans react when we feel violated or trapped? We bang on our social media walls, build mountains out of molehills to further our points.
But I will save the philosophical implications of this lesson for another day.
To soothe her large reptilian soul, I now drop her shelled being outside to meander around our fenced-in backyard. Pachysandra covers the edges of the yard, so it’s fun for her (or so I gather) to push through it on her quest to find a turtle holy grail. The other day, however, I put her out, then got distracted with nonsense inside. About ½ hour later, I remember and all the blood leaves my short frame. This is because Josie is a gifted turtle and will find a way out of our enlarged terrarium. She has done so several times, venturing to the greener grass next door, and to the next street. She is so adventurous, that girl
Three hours and several Facebook posts later on the Neighbors and Friends page, a dog in the yard catty-cornered behind us barks enthusiastically. It is, alas, a secondary measure to track her. Josie, it seems, has tucked in all four (really cute) limbs and is holed out beneath the pooch’s family’s outdoor table. Steve runs over and rescues—um, captures—Josephine from her farthest point hitherto.
Fast-forward to today. Upon Josie’s back I masking-tape a small blue ball on her shell. Attractive, it is not, but no matter. It is to act as a fin, making her easier to spot as she sails into the hinterland of the neighborhood. A few days back I blocked one certifiable escape hatch in the north-eastern corner successfully, and now watch with glee how Josie meanders all the way to the back, zig-zagging behind the garage but not leaving. I know that there is a bunny escape in the Southeast corner, but I continue to observe her—the subject—closely.
Low and behold, my laptop’s battery is low and I enter the house to recharge, staying close to the open back door. I get a little too comfortable in my surroundings, flip on MSNBC and watch how the world is pretty much swirling down the universe’s toilet. I know Josephine is scrubbing below the shrubs and pachysandra and having a ball. I can relax.
Nonetheless, it’s always good to grab her, bring her back up to the back step and let her begin the long sojourn to her personal Shangri-la. I go out, bare footed except for Crocs. Josie is nowhere to be found. I still myself and await the movement of shrubbery (shout out to Monty Python) but it is not there. Just to be safe, I will go to the Southeast corner and look over the viney and poison-ivy-sprinkled fence. I spot the masking tape, the blue ball, now dangling. She has made her jail-break, has dug beneath the prison walls, and is on the other side. Good for her, I think, sprint inside on compromised knees, and throw on more
presentable clothes. I high-tail it to the back fence, kick off my Crocs and scale the fence—poison ivy and knees be damned. I apprehend the suspect and walk barefooted around the rest of the block with Josephine in hand, lecturing her along the way.
It may be time for that much hyped-up driving jaunt to New Orleans to give Josephine Baker Bauman exactly what she wants. I will drop her among her many brethren in the Shangi-la that is Audubon Park lagoon.