With a pinch of Lavender

I Tree Safely Down

April 1, 2009
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My turtle was Polish. His name was Magnar Stanislaw; it said so in blue glitter on a sign over his tank. Magnar Stanislaw was a red eared turtle and on a Wednesday I left work early to get to Pet Planet before five thirty. I put the Turtle Bites canister into the eco-friendly mesh bag offered at the door, and stepped, probably very suspiciously, to the tank ornaments. I tried to look like I was not looking at tank accessories, or specifically the ceramic mermaid breasts. By facing the other way, I was staring into the face of an angry parakeet. The sign hanging below his swing said his name was Sturge. Of the decidedly aquatic themed knickknacks, the maritime selection was under stocked. I did not want to be the pet owner with a treasure chest in his turtle tank, so I picked a submarine that promised to float and sink depending on how much air was in the sub. The cashier was a high schooler, the kind that would say that animals were his friends. I walked the five blocks to my apartment with the submarine in my hand and the turtle food in my pocket. I wondered if passersby noticed the bulge.

Magnar Stanislaw paddled water when I closed the door. I took off my pants because it was hot, and walked over to Magnar Stanislaw’s tank to drop turtle food pellets in the water. I felt like saying something witty to him, like Rocky, but decided that talking to my pet turtle was too weird. Instead I pointed at him with both hands like old-timey cowboys. Magnar Stanislaw stared at me. The submarine was grey without any markings. I put it in the tank and Magnar Stanislaw pushed his neck out and tried to bite it. He kicked up the bottom of the tank scum, brushing the plastic propeller with where I imagined his nose to be. The sub bounced off the side of the tank, poking Magnar Stanislaw in the mouth. He blinked a few times and then involved his front feet in the fight against the ornament. I decided that the sub was German. I pictured the tank as the Atlantic, or the Baltic, whichever one was closer to Poland, with a fleet of subs coming to attack the country of Poland, represented by Magnar Stanislaw. I could see it perfectly; the u-boats surfacing off the coast of Magnar Stanislaw, preparing their torpedoes, the sailors running to their positions. I wondered what it would be like to man a torpedo, put it into place, alert others that it was ready to fire, receive the command, push the big red button, hear the whoosh of an object propelled through water, and the inevitable explosion that followed. Magnar Stanislaw’s red ears made me think of the ignition of the Polish fleet, the fire and smoke covering the beaches of the Baltic.

Thursday, Lane came over to watch NBC programming; I had the advantage of basic cable over her local news channels. I had found my model car paint in the shoebox at the bottom of my closet, and set them out on my desk. Lane walked into the living room holding the submarine.

“Why was this in your dish rack?” she grinned with one eyebrow raised.

“I’m going to paint it.” I gestured towards the paints.

“What are you going to paint on me?” She said in a high voice, bobbing the sub in front of her face. She taught first grade, and her energy level matched that of her students.

“It’s going to be German.”

“Ja, I am German! Vhat’s going to be painted on me?” She asked in a German accent, wiggling the sub.

“I’m going to do the Luftwaffe, because a swastika would be— bad.” I plucked the sub out of her fingers, and leaned over to kiss behind her ear.

“Do I have a captain?” Lane asked, still in accent.

“Ja, Kapitän Arnulf Schtockheimer.” I put the sub on my desk.

“Ja, dat’s goot.”

I painted the sub after she went home. Magnar Stanislaw was chewing his freeze dried shrimp and spitting them back into the water, only to chew them again. I figured that’s what cows would do, had they the opportunity to survive in water. I made a black cross with the widened ends on the grey sub, and outlined that with the white. I felt like a lonely fifteen year old– painting insignias with model paints at my desk for my turtle.

After I washed my hands, I turned on my new X box for some ‘Stripes of Glory’ WWI hand to hand combat. After dusting a few krauts, I felt a little bad for shooting at what were technically digital versions of my Great-Grandad Edsel’s countrymen. I wondered if there were any pro-German video games. Maybe in Germany, but they would possibly feel bad about promoting Nazism, so it would probably be Viking themed. It would be cool to play a Viking game, but, in my experience, games with shooting were a bit more satisfying. Lane was Swedish and English by ancestry, so only half of her would be offended if I were to play a pro-German game. I wanted to play that game, but no one had invented it yet. I decided to make it myself. I had no experience with programming, but I knew a lot of people who did. That was the advantage of working at Crunch Board Entertainment. I would ask on Monday or Tuesday how to go about making a proposal. It could be bigger than ‘Stripes of Glory’ or ‘Liberty Trenches’ or even ‘Patches of Honor: Pacific Theatre.’ I looked at the sub in the tank, gently dipping with the waves made by Magnar Stanislaw tapping the glass with his front legs, his unsteady feet shaking the water.

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