Was something moving in the bushes? Conan froze, watching the place where a crunching noise had come from. No squirrel came scampering out. No bird flew away. Had he imagined the sound?
Though the bow and arrow he held were only toys, he aimed at the bushes just in case. He was seven years old, not a baby, so he needed to be brave. The bright red suction cup on the tip of the arrow wouldn’t hurt anything, but it might make a good distraction if whatever was making the noise wasn’t friendly.
Something slammed behind him. He spun around, his heart pounding. Then he grinned. It had just been the front door closing as Mom came outside to check the mail. Leaving the bushes, he waved to her as she walked along the sidewalk. After waving back, she started down the stairs that led to the road at the bottom of the hill.
A large oak root sticking out of the grass caught his eye. It was around fifteen feet away, and would make a nice target. He aimed. When he let the arrow fly, it hit the root and fell to the ground.
“Bullseye!” he shouted, raising his fist to the sky.
Wanting to try the same shot from farther away, he retrieved the arrow, then went to his new position and fired. The arrow flew over the root, under the branches of the oak tree, and arced down the hill toward the road.
He lowered the bow. “Uh-oh.”
He ran to the edge of the hill. The arrow lay in the road below. Mom, who was climbing up the stairs carrying several letters, hadn’t seen it. While the arrow was close enough to the side of the road that a car probably wouldn’t run over it, he wanted to get to it fast to make sure. It was the only one he had.
As he hurried down the hill, Mom cried, “Conan!”
Wincing at his mom’s reproving tone of voice, he stopped, realizing why he was in trouble.
“You know better than that,” Mom said softly, disappointment in her eyes.
“‘Always ask for permission before going into the road,’” he said, quoting what his parents had told him many times. He walked over to her and looked down. “I forgot because I was so worried about the arrow. I’m sorry.”
“If it happens again, you’ll have to go right inside with no more playing outside for the day.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “Your safety is more important than an arrow.”
Conan nodded. “I won’t let it happen again.”
“Good.” She patted his shoulder. “You can go get the arrow now.”
He climbed down the hill and stopped near the edge of the road. A car went by. Once the road was clear, and he glanced at his mom. She nodded. He ran into the road, grabbed his arrow, and ran back up the hill.
As Mom headed inside, he returned to the root he’d been shooting at. This time he aimed at it from another direction, so that if he missed, the arrow wouldn’t head toward the road. His first three shots hit, but his fourth shot didn’t feel right, and the arrow flew over the root, landing next to the bushes.
He went to pick it up, and while bending over, the same crunching sound he’d heard earlier came from the bushes. He snatched up the arrow and jumped back. With the toy arrow aimed at the bushes, he waited to see if anything would come out this time.
A brown shape with yellow stripes crawled out from under one of the bushes. He gasped and backed up. The creature stopped, looking up at him. It was almost as big around as a soccer ball, with a hard shell, a scaly face, short legs, and a little tail.
“Cool,” he whispered. “A turtle.”
He smiled, lowered his bow, and ran to get Mom. When she returned with him, he saw the turtle walking away from the bushes. It paused to stare at them.
“Can I catch him?” Conan asked.
“I’m not sure,” Mom replied. “Your dad will be home soon, and he’ll know whether it’s all right. Just look at it for now.”
He knelt next to the turtle. It dropped onto its belly, pulling its head and legs and tail into its shell.
Conan laughed. “Did you see that?”
“Yes.” His mom smiled. “He’s not sure if we’re friendly or not.”
“We’re quite friendly,” Conan said. “In fact, he’s like our neighbor. And his shell is his house.”
Just then, Dad’s car pulled into the driveway. Conan rushed over and grabbed his dad’s hand the instant the car door opened.
“Come see the turtle!” he cried, pulling Dad toward the bushes.
When they reached the little creature, Conan asked, “What kind of turtle is it?”
Dad knelt down next to it. “It’s a box turtle.”
“Do they bite?”
“Not usually, if you’re careful.” His dad gently picked up the turtle, which still hid in its shell. “See?”
“Can I hold him?”
Conan placed his hands side by side. The turtle’s shell felt smooth against his skin as his dad gave him the reptile.
“When you’ve finished holding him,” Dad said, “set him down very carefully.”
Conan nodded. “I will.”
His parents went inside. Hoping the turtle would come out of its shell while he held it, Conan didn’t make a sound.After it remained hidden for around a minute, he gently set it on the ground, then sat down next to it and watched it.
Another minute or two passed before the turtle peeked out. When it saw him, it popped back into its shell.
“I’m your friend and neighbor, Conan,” he said. “What’s your name?”
The turtle peeked out again.
“I think I’ll call you Mr. Turtle.” Conan moved back a bit. “I won’t hurt you, silly. You can come out.”
The turtle slowly stuck its head and legs and tail out, then stood up, keeping an eye on Conan. When he reached out to pet the little creature, it plopped down and disappeared into its shell again.
He waited patiently. After a few moments, it came out of its shell and started walking across the yard. Conan touched the shell with his finger. This time, though the turtle walked faster when it felt his touch, it didn’t hide, and he petted it several times before it walked out of reach.
Conan got to his feet and waved. “See you later, Mr. Turtle!”
He returned to playing with his bow and arrow. When he forgot to watch where he aimed, a missed shot sent the arrow toward the road. As it flew through the air, he chased after it.
He was relieved when, instead of going down to the road, the arrow stopped at the top of the hill. He reminded himself to be more careful. While bending over to pick it up, something caught his eye on the road. The turtle was walking across one of the lanes.
“Hey!” Conan shouted. “Come back here! You’ll get hurt.”
The turtle kept on walking across the road. A car headed down the lane toward it. Conan dropped his bow and arrow, covering his eyes with his hands.
Once the rumble of the car passed by, he peeked through his fingers. The turtle had made it safely to the middle of the road, but was hiding in its shell.
Right when the turtle peeked out, another car came, and the turtle popped back into its shell once more. The same thing kept happening as more cars went by. No one stopped to help his reptile friend, so Conan knew he had to rescue it.
He started running down the hill, but halfway to the bottom, he abruptly halted, remembering the incident with the arrow in the road and his promise to his mom. Turning around, he ran back up the hill and into the house, finding Dad sitting in the living room.
“The turtle’s in the road!” Conan said, panting a bit after his run. “Can I go rescue it?”
Dad set his book down and stood up. “I’ll help you.”
They hurried outside. Once they reached the edge of hill, Conan saw that the turtle was still hidden inside its shell in the middle of the road.
Conan and his dad ran down the hill. A car zoomed by, then another. During a break in traffic, Conan and his dad hurried out to the middle of the road. While Dad watched for cars, Conan picked up the turtle, and they rushed back onto the grass.
“Let’s put the turtle in the woods,” Dad said as they climbed the hill. “He’ll be safe there.”
They went around the house and through the backyard to the woods. Conan set the turtle on the leafy ground. At first, it stayed hidden in its shell, but then it came out and stood up.
Conan petted it. “If you ever need to go into the road, be sure to ask your parents first, Mr. Turtle.”
Dad chuckled. “I hope he listens to you.”
The turtle stared at them for a few moments, then walked into the woods.
Conan waved. “Bye, Mr. Turtle! Come visit us again soon!”