A Turtle or a Cactus?…One Man’s Epic, Painstaking Decision

 turtlecactus

They say the bottom of a Pringles can is often a very lonely place.

Well, at least Lenny said that, when he reached the bottom of the ranch-flavored can he had eaten for dinner. But the revelation was not shared with anyone else because Lenny was all by himself.

It was at that point that he decided he needed a companion. Someone he could share an intimate bond with, a partner in crime, if you will, but one that requires little to no responsibility or effort on his part.                                        

A girlfriend was ruled out for four major reasons: 

1.)  She would require a certain commitment of time.

2.)  She would require a certain commitment of money.

3.)  There would be a high possibility of conflicts or fights.

4.)  The last time he asked a girl out on a date she responded, “In your dreams.” He has since been having a fantasy relationship with her every night after he falls asleep. Starting anything new with someone during the daylight would feel like cheating. Apparently Tina can get pretty jealous.

A best friend was ruled out because Lenny already has a best friend: Barry. And Barry is the type of guy that always wears flip-flops and puts his feet up on your glove compartment every time that you drive him around. Having two Barry’s would be hell. 

A cat was ruled out because of insecurity issues. Cats are not only very judgmental, but they see everything. Lenny has a few skeletons in his closet. He once played Twister by himself and fell down after one spin. Even if the cat took that secret to its grave it would be one too many souls who knew about it as far as Lenny was concerned.

A dog was certainly tempting, but was ruled out for one specific and extremely unlikely scenario.

Dogs poop. They often have very little disregard for whose front yard they are pooping in. They’ll poop anywhere, including the front yard of the man that lives three houses down from Lenny and reminds him of Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lenny had read To Kill a Mockingbird and often cited it as proof that we should never judge each other by skin color or appearance. Even so, the neighbor that looked like Boo Radley still terrified Lenny. Radley killed a guy with his bare hands. He was not likely to respond well to dog poop. 

One shot of that pale face staring at him though the window while his golden retriever did that awkward about-to-poop squat would surely cause Lenny to drop the leash and take off in the other direction, likely running into the fire hydrant on Mr. Radley’s lawn and breaking his hip in the process. Then he would have to call Barry to take him to the hospital, which meant it would be his turn to drive next time they went out, which, of course, meant filthy flip-flop feet on his glove compartment. God, Barry’s the worst.

No, a dog would never work. 

This process of elimination went on for quite some time.

After much deliberation, Lenny narrowed the newest addition to his household down to the only two options that fit his strict criteria: a turtle or a cactus, two perfect representations of Lenny’s personality.

It would be a difficult decision with serious commitments attached. Some turtles are known to live up to 120 years and some cactus can thrive for over 200 years.

Understanding the gravity of the decision he was faced with, Lenny decided to make a pros and cons list.

First, the turtle:

Pros:

Turtles are independent creatures. They simply require basic essentials like food, water, and perhaps running it the occasional bath. The turtle would be able to roam around Lenny’s place at its own leisure. Maybe it would watch TV with Lenny in the living room from time to time. Or maybe you could find it in the bedroom gazing out the window like an old wise man contemplating the meaning of his turtle existence or calculating the best way to beat a rabbit in a race.

-A turtle can be accidently stepped on with little repercussions. If the turtle develops a father-like affection for Lenny (and it very likely will) then there’s a strong chance that it chooses to sleep at the foot of his bed every night, keeping a watchful eye for intruders.

That could serve for a few minor blunders. Let’s say Tina brings up the issue of moving in together. That could lead to a pretty nasty fight if he doesn’t handle it with the right amount of delicacy. When he wakes up and gets out of the bed to go to the bathroom after a traumatic fight with his old lady he’s not going to be thinking about turtles lying around. He could easily step on it. But of course, that’s what that handy shell is for. Lenny stubs his toe a little bit, the turtle shakes it off and they both laugh until they fall back to sleep.

If this were an un-caged gerbil that would be one thing. But a turtle? No blood, no squish, no drama. 

The addictive nature of watching a turtle eat a raspberry. Lenny had seen a video on the Internet of a very small turtle eating a raspberry. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why, but it was both mesmerizing and relaxing at the same time. The little guy was relentless and after about two minutes he had eaten the majority of the raspberry. Feeding his turtle a small fruit sounds like the perfect way for Lenny to unwind after a long day.

Attaching a small iPod speaker to the turtle’s shell would give it a practical purpose. As long as the right safety precautions are taken (light weight speakers that the turtle could support, tape attached only to shell, not skin, etc.) this is a terrific idea. He would be a hit at parties and events. There could be different playlists for different settings and the turtle could roam around the place bringing music to different rooms. Lenny could name him DJ Shellz. Whichever room DJ Shellz decides to set up shop, that’s exactly where the party’s at.

Inspirational messages on the turtle’s shell could provide for pick-me-ups throughout the week. Lenny loves inspiring quotes. They give us all a sense of perspective and help us think through our problems. If he could print out a new quote and tape a different one to the turtle shell every day then he could receive random reminders to keep his head up and fight through the day-to-day grind. Or better yet, he could print out seven at the start of every week and DJ Shellz could serve as something of a daily calendar with inspiring tidbits.

One moment he’s just a turtle, the next he’s Theodor Roosevelt telling Lenny that, “Courage is not having the strength to go on; it’s going on when you don’t have the strength.”

Disciplining a turtle is as easy as turning it upside down. Disciplining a dog can be difficult and usually makes the owner feel like a monster. Grabbing a dog by a collar or rolling up a newspaper is considered cruelty in some states. Trying to teach a cat a lesson? Good luck. Felines are vindictive creatures, discipline Whiskers and he will discipline you right back…when you least expect it.

But if Lenny’s pet turtle chews up one of his favorite t-shirts then the solution is simple. All he has to do is turn the little guy upside down. Capsized turtles are completely defenseless and void of the ability to move anywhere. Once upside down, DJ Shellz can be spun so that he is facing the shirt that he chewed up, as to make him acknowledge what he did wrong. Those hourglass sand timers that Lenny uses to know how long to brush his teeth can be implemented to know how long the punishment should last. Three minutes upside down should be plenty of time to teach a turtle a lesson.  

Cons:

-Where, when and how often do turtles go to the bathroom? Turtles may be independent creatures, but they also independently go to the bathroom. Do you know what turtle poop looks like? That’s a trick question. No one does. As far as Lenny can tell, turtles are secretive poopers. 

It would be one thing if his new pet were leaving random land mines everywhere with an untraceable pattern, but what if it managed to continue to keep its feces hidden a secret for months, even years? The uncertainty and anticipation of that first found turtle turd would leave Lenny in panicked anxiety. 

“Will the first one be sticky or dry?

”Are they all hidden in the same place? What happens when I find the mother load?”

-How many times can a turtle be stepped on before it becomes an issue? How strong are turtle shells? Lenny could assume that any turtle shell can manage to be stepped on once by an average sized person without any injury to the turtle inside. But what if he and Tina really do move in together? You can bet that Lenny will be happy to wake up to a reality where he can pee and leave the toilet seat up. In fact, he’ll probably high tail it to that bathroom with little regard for the turtle calmly sleeping below him.

Getting stepped on once is no big deal. But a nightly occurance? The vibrations alone would surely cause some sort of turtle trauma.

-Are raspberries good for turtles? Seeing a turtle eat a raspberry on the Internet is one thing, but Lenny doing it himself on a semi-daily basis is a whole different story. He’s not even sure whether or not raspberries could cause negative consequences to a turtle’s digestive system. He tried to look it up on the Internet, but this only lead to more videos of turtles eating raspberries, sending him down another two-hour rabbit hole. Besides, those videos only show the animal eating the fruit. They don’t show the after effects.

“For all I know, the turtles could have died just minutes later.”

And health is one factor, but addiction is whole other beast of its own. Addiction is a two way street. Sure, it might start with Lenny feeding DJ Shellz a single raspberry after work to let off a little steam, but next thing you know, he’s driving home every lunch break to witness a feeding of a small handful of raspberries. He usually makes it back to work late while the turtle slowly devours his prey. He gets fired from his job. He spends all day dangling raspberries in a state of depression, too preoccupied to shower, do laundry or exercise.  Eventually the turtle becomes too big for his shell and meets his fruitful demise. The blood is on Lenny’s hands, but of course, that’s not why they are red…

Perhaps even more daunting than the possibility of Lenny’s addiction is the potential of DJ Shellz becoming addicted. To Lenny it might start small, similar to a dog owner giving his pet a treat. But perhaps in time what started as a pleasant surprise to DJ Shellz becomes a craving. The little guy needs the sugar in his blood and he longs for the little hairy prickles on his tongue.

In time, his desire for raspberries overwhelms the bond he had previously developed with Lenny. He begins to understand that it was only when Lenny was in a bad mood that he would feed DJ Shellz the fruit, as a way to cheer himself up. So DJ Shellz decides to put him in a bad mood. After months of never causing the slightest harm to Lenny, he begins to bite at him. At first it’s a few snaps at his ankles, but it turns into strategic bites to the neck when Lenny falls asleep.

At this point, DJ Shellz has developed an insatiable hunger for raspberries that has made him rabid, often foaming at his tiny mouth. He starts eyeing every fruit in his sight. It started with raspberries, but within the year he is going after watermelons, sawing through them in a matter of minutes. He is uncontrollable and Lenny knows no other options than to feed the beast.

Until the fateful day that Lenny makes the mistake of falling asleep with a red beanie on his head. The entire neighborhood will tell their grandchildren about that day and the screams that still haunt them.

Utterly terrified over the extremely detailed and graphic hypothetical he had just laid out, Lenny decided to move on to the cactus:

Pros:

-Cacti are even more independent than turtles. You can trust a cactus. Leave a cactus home alone without a worry in the world. There will be no poop on the ground. There will be no torn up couches or pillows. There will be no concerns of solitude-based anxiety.

You will come back to a cactus as you left it.

If Lenny ever needed some serious alone time he could simply put his cactus somewhere out of sight for a few days while he works through his issues. Then when Lenny is ready to be a little more social he can just go get the cactus and they’ll have plenty of things to catch up about. 

Cacti are great listeners. This is well documented. They are completely selfless when it comes to conversations. They will always wait until you have vented about everything that’s on your mind before chiming in. And we all know that no one is ever done venting about all the things on their mind.

Sometimes Lenny just needs someone to talk to. He doesn’t want advice for his problems, he just wants someone to hear them and know what he’s going through. A cactus could take on that burden with ease.

Plus, when people see how stress-free Lenny is due to his cactus rap sessions, he could potentially rent him out to other people who might need a little Cacti Therapy Session of their own. He could even name him Professor Prickles to make it seem more legit.

“Relationship troubles? Work issues? Whatever it is, 8-10 minutes with Professor Prickles and you’ll be feeling like you got a whole load off your shoulders. Only $9.99 per session.” 

-Festive attire can give the cactus different personas. While there are all sorts of cacti out there, Lenny has one particular type of cactus in mind, the kind that you see portrayed in all the cartoons and movies. He would prefer it to be about human size, anywhere within either two feet shorter than him or two feet taller than him. Ideally it will have the traditional two arms, one at a right angle pointing upwards and the other at a right angle pointing downwards. 

There is one main reason for these specifics: so that he can dress it up in human clothing. Lenny’s always been the type of guy who rolls his eyes in contempt of people who dress up their dog or cat, but there’s something about dressing up a cactus that just seems right. The Norman Bates vibe that this might put out is totally lost on Lenny.

It’s not like he’ll be dressing it up like an old woman. He has much more exciting plans for Professor Prickles.

First there’s Western style, which is a no-brainer. A cowboy hat atop its rounded top will be accompanied by a bolo tie over a western style button-up shirt. Lenny might even throw a holster into the mix to hold two six-shooters.

A Rastafarian theme is certainly a possibility. All he would really need is one of those Rasta-style hats that come with the fake dreads hanging out the back. Maybe drape a Jamaican flag over the back of it. From there it’s smooth sailing, he can just play a little One Love, sit back, and pretend he knows someone who could sell him weed.

Speaking of laid back, Lenny has a bunch of old flannel shirts he never wears. Professor Prickles could go for a Colorado look by putting on an unbuttoned flannel shirt accompanied by a cool beanie. And in a matter of seconds, you could take off the beanie and tie the flannel shirt under the two cactus arms and just like that, you have the Seattle grunge look.

Military, hipster, emo, athlete…the possibilities are endless. 

-A cactus + a hammock = living the dream. Lenny’s had a hammock for over a year, but he rarely uses it. He always forgets about it or has better things to do indoors, in the cross eyes of a good air conditioning vent.

But something about hanging out on his hammock next to his cactus is strangely and awkwardly appealing to Lenny. Cacti enjoy the heat. In fact, they need a certain amount of it to survive. So if his cactus is out there soaking up the sun and loving it then why can’t Lenny? He could bring a jar of lemonade with him, perhaps a good book to read or a boom box to play some tunes.

Lenny on the hammock, his buddy Professor Prickles right there with him. Just a couple of dudes, shootin’ the breeze….

Cons:

-Cacti are sharp. Their sharp, prickly stems are pretty much the defining characteristic of the cactus.

There could be literally no touching of the cactus. Even a simple friendship pat on the back could result in serious bleeding. This could also put a wrench in the idea of dressing it in festive attire. If you think dressing up a squirming, biting, clawing cat or dog is difficult try putting a Hawaiian shirt on something literally covered in sharp stems. 

-Cacti rarely look like they do in cartoons.  It’s all well and good that Lenny wants to have a cactus that is roughly the same height as him, but it turns out that cacti come in all sorts of different sizes and 5’8 with two opposing right angle arms is not one of them. 

Usually they are much smaller than a person. Sometimes they are much, much taller. Some of them have four or five different arms, like circus freaks or something. And worst of all, hardly any of them are the perfect width to fit sunglasses on. When it comes down to it, Professor Prickles would just be a sharp bush placed next to a hammock. Literally no personality. 

Cacti are not sentient beings. One thing that Lenny had been trying not to admit when fantasizing about this cactus/human relationship is that, as a plant, a cactus has just about zero of the qualities that an animal has. 

It’s scientifically proven that Professor Prickles would not be able to hear, see, smell or even feel him. While dressing it up with clothes, sun-blocking eye wear and other accessories might make the cactus seem more like something Lenny could confide in, the reality is that it would be the same relationship that he could have with any of the trees in his backyard.

The Excruciating Decision…

Lenny spent days looking over his list of pros and cons. There were so few valid points and so many insane hypotheticals, all of which demanded serious thought and consideration. 

The turtle provided the greater sense of companionship, but the cactus provided the one-way relationship that was such a perfect fit for his personality.

He decided to take a walk and clear his head.

Lenny had all sorts of casual acquaintances in his life. Plus there was Barry. And even Tina after he fell asleep. But he rarely felt like he could be himself around them. 

Lenny didn’t care about much. He was a slow moving guy. He liked the sun. He never wanted to do any harm to anyone unless someone was causing harm to him. He was never concerned with leaving his mark on the world. He only wanted to keep surviving in it.

As he thought about his own characteristics, he realized something. He realized that these qualities were shared by two other species in this world: the cactus and the turtle.

They weren’t just potential companions, they were reminders that there’s nothing wrong with him for being who he is. And then as he turned the corner, walking back onto his own street, he made a decision. Perhaps for the first time in his life he would take a risk. He crumpled up the piece of paper that he had written his pros and cons on and threw it in the gutter.

“I’ll get them both!”

 

Eight Months Later…

Barry was turning onto Lenny’s street. They had plans to go grab some pizza and see a movie together.

“I don’t know why I’m driving,” Barry thought to himself. “I swear it’s Lenny’s turn to drive. He always makes such a fuss when I ask if he can drive.”

Barry walked up to the door and knocked. No answer. He knocked again and still no response. So he called Lenny’s phone and it went straight to voicemail.

The movie was going to start in 30 minutes and they still hadn’t eaten. Barry knew where the spare key was hidden and decided to let himself in.

He took a few steps into Lenny’s place before stopping in complete terror. For a few moments he was motionless. He tried to make sense of his surroundings, but it was all so confusing.

There was blood everywhere. Smeared on the walls. Sprayed across the floor. Dripping from the counters. Barry tried to catch his bearings, but an overwhelmingly sweet odor attacked his nostrils. There were torn apart watermelon shells canvasing the entire kitchen area.

In the middle of the room was Lenny, lying prone on the ground in what appeared to be a red Snuggie. But there was a small hole in the stomach area of the Snuggie. It looked like it had been chewed through. 

Lenny remained still, but something was moving. As Barry moved closer, he saw it. A bloated turtle was inside of the Snuggie, snapping away at Lenny’s midsection. Or at least where Lenny’s midsection was supposed to be. Blood covered nearly his entire torso. For some reason there was an iPod taped to the turtle’s shell and it was playing the ominous Doors’ song “The End.”

As Barry looked around he only became more confused. Watching over the horrific scene was a human sized cactus with sunglasses and a fake Afro on top of it. Next to the cactus was a jar that read “$10 per session.” It was filled to the brim with what appeared to be hundreds of dollars.

Just second after Barry noticed the jar, there seemed to be a slight movement from Lenny. Barry focused his attention and saw that Lenny had opened his eyes. Lenny let out a groan reinforcing the panic that Barry was already feeling.

“Are you alright, man? Do I need to call 911? What happened, dude? What’s going on?”

After a few seconds, Lenny was able to lift his head about an inch off the ground, exposing the left side of his face, which had been flat on the ground. There seemed to be traces of blood on his face as well. Lenny made eye contact with Barry.

He managed a brief smile before softly saying, “At least I took a risk, B, at least I took a risk.”

And with that his eyes shut and his head once again hit the floor while he lied there motionless. 

Barry couldn’t believe what had just happened. In fact, he couldn’t really comprehend what just happened. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much time to comprehend it. He had apparently let out a loud gasp after Lenny’s last spoken words. This gasp caught the attention of a certain ravenous turtle.

The turtle stopped what it was doing and headed towards Barry with a look of determination. Barry knew he had to get out of there or else face the same horrible fate as his best friend. But he couldn’t move. He was already in shock and now he was completely paralyzed with fear. His feet were stuck to the ground as the turtle inched closer. One could probably argue that Barry was being a little overdramatic considering it took the turtle nearly a full two minutes to walk the nine feet between it and Barry. 

Finally it reached Barry. And while it started to climb up his shoes all Barry could do was hope that he would see Lenny on the other side. Then the turtle closed his eyes and bit into Barry’s shin.

The feeling was hard to describe, different from what Barry expected. It wasn’t really pain. It was much more confusing than that. Actually, it kind of…felt like…yep…it tickled.

Barry looked down and realized that the turtle was trying to bite him, but it only tickled. He picked it up and examined it. The little guy didn’t even have teeth. He was just nibbling. He held his finger out and the turtle tried to nibble on the end of it as well. Barry couldn’t help but chuckle. He scratched under the turtle’s chin and its eyes closed and legs started to kick from enjoyment.

Confused, Barry set the turtle down and walked towards Lenny. He noticed that Lenny was still breathing. But how could he be with all the blood that he’s lost? Barry reluctantly examined the terrible wound in Lenny’s stomach. Upon closer look, the gash didn’t seem that bad. Actually, it looked like skin was never even broken, just a small nibble imprint above the belly button.

Where could all the blood have come from? He touched Lenny’s stomach and felt the blood. It felt strange, not nearly as thick as blood normally does. Not knowing what to do, he licked his finger in curiosity.

“Sweet?”

It definitely wasn’t blood. It almost tasted like….raspberry.

Another lick.

“This is definitely raspberry.”

Then he flicked Lenny a couple times in the face.

“Dude, quit messing around. What the hell are you doing?”

Lenny woke up. He appeared to be startled. He looked around for a minute trying to assess the situation.

“Oh hey man. Sorry, I was feeding DJ Shellz raspberries and I got a little carried away. For some reason I thought he would eat watermelons too, but he was having none of it. I couldn’t let all these watermelons and raspberries go to waste so I ate them all. I guess I just had a pretty serious sugar crash.”

While Trying to figure out why exactly he was a friend of this person, Barry helped Lenny up.

“Whatever man, the movie starts in like 15 minutes. We have to head over soon.”

Lenny looked at his watch and, surprised by how late it had gotten, grabbed his jacket and pulled a few ten-dollar bills out of the jar next to the cactus.

On his way out he noticed something. 

“Ohhh maaaan, DJ Shellz put a hole in my Snuggie! BAD TURTLE!!”

Then Lenny put the turtle upside down and he and Lenny went to go see a movie.

-Jonny Auping

 

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