Years ago, I found myself sitting at an airport taxi stand along with two women, waiting for a ride home. We'd just come from New York City, where our employer had sent us for MacWorld Expo that year, and it had been one of the most exciting weeks of my life. Now, sitting on a bench, with the fatigue of the week finally catching up to me, exacerbated by a sexual tension that had grown into frustration, I had almost completely shut down, just waiting to be taken home and dropped off so I could sleep and let the entire experience fade away to memory.
Then the woman on my left said, "Tell us a story."
So I started talking.
* * *
Once upon a time, there was a community of turtles. They made their nests in the woods, the better to hide from those who would hunt them, but every day they staggered out of their nests and walked some distance to the shore of a lake, where they would look for food, swim, or just rest all day long, as their turtle instincts suggested.
Then one day, a turtle was born into the community who had a bright orange shell. No one knew why he had a bright orange shell when the rest of the turtles' shells were dull green or dun-colored, but orange and bright it was, and the other turtles, especially those of his own age, teased him mercilessly about it. The teasing grew so persistent and so pointed that eventually the orange-shelled turtle would simply wait in the nests until his fellows had all gone off to the lake, then trudge slowly after them, doing his best to stay as hidden and out of sight as a turtle with a bright orange shell can.
Time passed, and another day came. This time, however, the turtles discovered something odd - their walkway to the lake was now interrupted by a long, clear, flat stretch of ground that looked like rock. They weren't entirely certain what to make of the rock, but one adventurous turtle started across it, headed for the comfort and safety of the lake.
Something fast and loud zipped by, and crushed the adventurous turtle into tiny pieces.
This frightened the turtles somewhat, as they weren't sure exactly what to make of this situation, but eventually another turtle in the group realized that, if they didn't find a way to get to the lake, they'd eventually starve or dry out. So he began his trek across the deadly rock.
Another loud zoom, and another shower of turtle parts briefly filled the air.
It was about this time that the orange-shelled turtle happened by, thinking that his fellows would all be at the lake by now. Some of the turtles in the group reflexively began to tease him, which intimidated those who thought of warning him about this deadly rock blocking their path to the lake. The orange-shelled turtle, trying his best to seem unaffected by the teasing yet again, simply begam shuffling his way over the rock.
And a strange thing happened. The things that had been making the loud zooming noises suddenly slowed and stopped as the orange-shelled turtle crossed. Other quick-witted turtles, seeing what was happening, hurried across as fast as they could (they were all turtles after all) to keep up with the orange-shelled one. That night, on the way back from the lake, all the turtles crossed with the orange-shelled one and arrived safely home.
And that is why today, all the turtles who live near the lake have orange shells.