When night fell the turtle climbed out of the hole. He looked around and saw a little mouse with a long tail rolling in some nearby dirt.
“Why would you roll in the dirt? There’s nowhere nearby to wash it off.” The mouse jumped in surprise and looked at the turtle with wide eyes.
“Off course there’s nothing to wash it off,” The mouse said with a huffy squeak, “If there was water, I wouldn’t need the dirt.”
“I don’t think I understand.” The turtle tilted his head curiously as the mouse rolled in the dirt furiously again. The mouse sighed, rubbed some dirt on his head and looked at the turtle seriously.
“The dirt in my fur helps me keep cooler, so I don’t feel so uncomfortable in the day.” The turtle thought about this. He was not a turtle scientist, but he thought if it worked for the mouse, it might work for him too. He leaned to one side and tried to roll, but was stopped by the edge of his shell. The other side produced the same result. He rocked back and forth as fast as he could, but simply couldn’t tip.
The mouse stopped, hearing his grunts of effort, and gave another wide-eyed look.
“What are you trying to do?”
“I’m trying,” The turtle grunted with effort, “to roll in the dirt and keep my shell cool.”
“Well…” The mouse paused and watched him rock a few more times, “I suppose I can help you, though I don’t know if it’ll work for you.”
“It’s worth a shot, but I can’t seem to roll.”
“Stay right there.” The mouse disappeared into the darkness. He returned with a stone and a metal strip. The mouse put the stone next to the turtle and used the metal to flip the turtle neatly over on his back. The turtle let out a yelp of surprise and flailed helplessly for a bit, rocking him in circles.
“Just rock side to side for a bit, till you get yourself coated in dirt. I’ll flip you back over when you’re done.” The mouse sat and watched as the turtle attempted to coat his shell. After a few minutes of awkward rolling about, the mouse flipped him back over.
“I don’t think I’d want to make a habit of that… it may keep me cooler, but now I’m dizzy and there’s sand in places I don’t even want to talk about.” The mouse blinked its eyes and made a weird chuckling sound.
“I don’t think your kind belong in the desert, maybe you should try the city to the west.” He gestured off into the distance, where tiny lights blinked on the horizon. The turtle looked at the lights; they seemed welcoming, but distant.
“What’s so great about the city?” The turtle didn’t look away from the lights as he spoke.
“There are hollow mountains, that are cooler inside, and lots of water.” The mouse stared hopping away, “I can’t imagine why you were in the desert in the first place.” The turtle sat alone under the stars, watching the lights until the sun came up.
At dawn, the turtle walked in the direction of the lights, looking for holes. He came across one that looked good and deep, and crawled inside to sleep for the day. The dirt hadn’t stuck to his shell well, and he was tired of sleeping in holes all day. The turtle dreamed of the lights all day and woke up after the sun had gone down.
He crawled out of his hole, and continued on his way toward the lights. He found a few juicy plants to munch on the way, and thought about the desert. He couldn’t remember getting there, he’d just been there one day. It did seem ill-suited to him, he preferred the water he used to live in. Still, the turtle had to make do with what he had, and until he reached some new water he had desert.
As the sun started to rise, he heard a strange barking noise, sort of like the coyote’s but deeper. It turned into a baying howl as a large dog ran up to him and started sniffing at him roughly. The dog flipped him over and pawed at his shell.
“Hey, hey!” The turtle flailed helplessly as the dog stopped to look at him.
“Hey, yourself.” The dog flipped him back over with his paw, “Why are you on my land?”
“I’m not on anyone’s land, I’m in the middle of a desert.”
“You’re on my land, that’s my home.” The dog pointed with his nose towards a large pile of dirt with a door partially hidden on the front.
“Well it wasn’t on purpose, I couldn’t see your home until you pointed it out.”
“That’s the idea. Intruders must be interrogated by master!” The dog picked the turtle up in his mouth and ran back to the door, ignoring the turtle’s protests. He jumped up and pushed a button on the wall, and a buzzer sounded moments before the door slid open. The dog padded down a cool metal hallway, ignoring the clang of the door closing behind him.
“Let me go, you’re drooling all over me!” The turtle flailed a bit, trying to get within biting range. The dog said something that got garbled by having a turtle in his mouth, and made a left at the end of the hallway. Ahead of them was a brightly lit room and a man in an apron holding a knife. The man smiled, and the dog set the turtle down at his feet.
“A turtle? Where on earth did you find this little fellow?” The man picked the turtle up gingerly, inspecting it for damage. The turtle opened his mouth wide and craned his neck, trying to look menacing. The dog barked and sat down, wagging his tail. The man put his knife down and held the turtle in both hands, walking back out into the hallway and into another room.
Inside there was a giant smooth depression, and the man set the turtle in it gently. The turtle tried to climb out but immediately slid back down.
“We’ll just keep you here until we find a better home for you.” He turned a metal knob and lukewarm water started filling the depression. The turtle moved around in it cautiously, and when it reached over his head he swam around a bit, feeling the dirt free itself from his shell. The man left and returned with a couple large, flat rocks that he set in the middle of the water, away from the edges. They lay just above the water level and the turtle climbed up onto them for a moment to look around. If there was some warm sun here, it would be perfect. He slid into the water again and let himself sink under the water happily. The man smiled at him through the water and disappeared out into the hallway again. The dog lapped at the water a bit until the turtle swam up and snapped at his nose.
“Master has deemed you acceptable, turtle, don’t push your luck.” The dog glared at the turtle for a bit before leaving. The turtle submerged and swam around again before settling up on the rocks. This was definitely the best solution to his problem.