Little Marky had a large tattered book bag strapped onto his small back. Every so often, he would take it off and set it down on the sidewalk. He’d do so carefully, because he didn’t want the concrete to scrape the already tattered nylon bottom of his bag. He’d take it off and have a rest every time he was in front of the big yellow house with the cute little mule that stood guard in the front lawn. It wasn’t a large lawn, and it wasn’t a pretty house, but Marky knew that there was something good inside.

He knew this because the house belonged to Janet Shurl-something. She was always coming to school with a great big smile, and it was one of those smiles that he couldn’t help but catch on his own face whenever she was around. During recess, she always had something nice to share with someone. Most of the time, Miguel would try to bully her into giving him her snack. And most of the time, she would tell him to blow it out his earhole. Marky thought that he would probably get a big red smack across his chubby little cheek if he ever said that to anyone, so he thought that Janet was awfully brave.

He sometimes waited in front of the house for a while, secretly hoping that Mrs Shurl-something would invite him inside for a glass of milk. But most of the time, he caught his breath, twisted himself into the book bag straps, picked up his load, and continued on his way.

There was a side street—an alleyway, really—that Mark would walk past on his way home everyday. He looked carefully down the street, all the way down as mommy had taught him just a few months ago, because there might be cars or bad people doing bad things, she’d said. Most of the time, there was nothing there.

But today, something caught his eye. Off in the distance, on the other end of the street, he saw a little gray-green something. To get a better look at the strange something, he leaned forward as far as he could without tipping over, sticking his neck out.

Mark saw, after a few moments of confusion, that it was a turtle. Though he wanted to go pet it, he blinked blankly at it and wondered what a turtle was doing in the alleyway. It looked out of place, but he decided to pay it no mind.

The next day, on the way home, Mark saw the turtle again in the same spot, all the way down on the other end of the street. He thought that it might be hungry, so he thought for a moment about what to feed it. It occurred to him that turtles might like to eat leaves, and so he looked around for a leaf. Alas, there were no trees nearby. Instead, he picked some leaves off the ground by the tree near his home and tucked them away in his arithmetic notebook so that he could feed the turtle the next day.

And so when the next day came, Mark set down his heavy book bag at the mouth of the alleyway and opened up his notebook to take the three yellow leaves out. He looked down the alleyway to see if there were any bad people doing bad things. He wasn’t quite sure what bad things anyone could do in an alleyway, but it was better to be safe than sorry, so he looked intensely again, searching for bad things.

When he was fairly certain that no bad things were in the alleyway, he walked towards the other end where the turtle was sitting. Only this time, a car turned into the alleyway. Luckily for Mark, he had only taken a few steps into the alley, so he was able to step back out in no time. Since the car was crawling its way down the street, Mark packed his things and went back home, hoping that the turtle would be there the next day.

When he checked the alleyway the next day, his heart skipped a beat. His eyes searched for the turtle, but he could not find it. Had it walked away and found another home? he fretted. Frantically, he focused his eyes as best as he could on something so far away.

And then, there was relief.

His eyes found the turtle. It was hiding underneath a black plastic bag. Mark sighed with relief. After scanning the alleyway for bad things, he walked carefully down the alley to the other end of the street, skipping over the potholes, until he reached the plastic bag. Gingerly, he removed it and looked upon the turtle.

It was gray and green, a little mossy on the top, and it had a large hump in the middle. Unfortunately, it was also very much a large rock that was shaped like a turtle. Mark tried lamely to feed it the leaves he had collected anyway. And though his shoulders fell, he would go to visit Mister Turtle and pet him every day after school until the leaves fell rustled and brown.

Some comments on this short story of mine surprised me. One person said that while they enjoyed it very much, he felt that there was too much showing and not enough telling. I never thought anyone would say that. Usually, you’re drilled to show show show and never tell. Something to keep in mind, I suppose.