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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Dedicated to all the boys and girls who in their own way make choices and decisions that positively impact the environment every day. They help protect and preserve nature, improving the world for themselves and generations to come.

And for my niece, Alexandra, born on Earth Day

Turtle Trouble - 1. Turtle Trouble

“Wake up, baby. We have a surprise for you.” Pete gently shook his daughter’s shoulder.

Liebe slowly came alert. She brushed blonde bangs off her face, stretched, and stared at her father. “Morning, Papi. What kind of surprise?”

“Do you remember our friend, Jo? The lady who runs the Sea Turtle Center? She texted us this morning. A lot of turtles are coming on the beach to lay eggs. Wanna go see ’em?”

“Yesss!” Liebe was instantly alert. The mention of nesting sea turtles sufficiently appealing to have her get out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

The girl lived in the Florida Keys with her two fathers. She liked being surrounded by water, and loved the sea creatures they often encountered while boating.

One of her fathers, TaggartTag to everybodywas a charter captain. He took tourists out on his boat to deep sea fish or scuba dive around the reefs. The other one, Pedroeveryone called him Pete except for Liebe’s grandmotherwas a firefighter.

“Okay, then. Let’s get ready. Put on a bathing suit under your shorts and t-shirt in case we end up going in the water. Tag’s getting the boat ready, and we’ll leave after you eat breakfast.”

“Okay, Papi. I’ll rush. I don’t want to miss the turtles.”

Illustration

A blonde girl with messy hair lays in bed, staring at a bearded man. Her bright blue eyes wide open and her face showing excitement.

 

Months before, on another Saturday, Liebe had gone fishing with Daddy while Papi worked at the fire station. “What’s that?” Liebe had asked while pointing at what looked like a piece of wood floating in the water near the boat. Although she remembered the encounter, Liebe could not quite recall exactly when it had happened. She had been a little girl then, but she was a big kid now. After the summer break, she would be in first grade at school.

“That’s a sea turtle, baby.” Because Daddy spent so much time fishing and diving, he knew everything about the animals living in the ocean. “There are different types. Do you see the design on the shell? That one’s a loggerhead.”

Liebe looked harder and realized what she first thought was a piece of wood, had a head sticking out of one end, and four flippers it was using to swim. “Yes. Is the shell hard like the ones we see on the beach all the time?” Unlike the white ones she often found on the sand, the turtle’s shell was dark brown. It also had lines in a lighter color forming shapes on it.

“They’re similar. Both are hard to help protect the soft animals living inside.” Daddy pulled the straps of Liebe’s safety vest to make sure it was tight enough on her at the same time he took off his t-shirt. “Let’s get in the water. Maybe it’ll swim close enough and let you touch it.”

Illustration

A blonde girl, wearing a safety vest, leans over the side of a white boat and points at a sea turtle in the water.

 

Floating in the water, with Daddy right behind her, Liebe opened her eyes wide when the turtle turned its head slightly and stared at her.

“Daddy, Daddy! It’s looking at me. Can they breathe with their head outside the water?” Liebe knew some fish stuck theirs out, but they could not do it for very long.

“They can. Turtles need air like we do. But they can hold their breath when they dive. Sometimes, they spend as much as five or six hours below the surface, before they need to come up.”

“Wow! Do they have to come up to eat too?” Liebe tentatively extended a hand when the turtle came closer. Daddy helped her by holding her up and moving her closer.

“No, they don’t. They can eat while swimming below the surface.”

Her small hand touched the carapace for a moment, before Liebe drew it back. “It’s really hard!” She caressed the shell again until the turtle swam away.

“There are bones underneath the top, but the part of the shell we get to see and touch’s made up of the same stuff our nails are. It’s called keratin.”

Daddy let go of Liebe, and she floated on the water, looking to see if she could find another turtle. Alas, they did not get to see any others that day.

Illustration

A blonde girl bobbing in the ocean with her father behind her. One of her hands is extended, touching the top of a sea turtle’s shell.

 

That night, when Papi came into her room to read her a bedtime story, Liebe asked him to tell her more about sea turtles. She was always interested in learning new stuff.

“Okay.” Instead of grabbing one of her books from the bedroom shelf, Daddy took out his phone. “Let’s see what we find.” He tapped the screen a couple of times and smiled.

“It says here sea turtles have been around since the time of the dinosaurs. That’s over 100 million years.”

“Wow! How old do they get?”

“They can live up to 100 years. The females start laying eggs once they’re about thirty-years-old. For that, she returns to the same beach where she was born, even if she’s not been there since birth! Some females nest every year until the age of eighty.”

“What do they eat?”

“Almost anything depending on the type of turtle. The one you saw today, the loggerhead, eats other animals. Their jaws are really strong so they can crack conch and whelk shells.”

“I like eating conch too. I love Mama Bea’s conch chowder and conch fritters!” Mama Bea’s was a restaurant close to their house owned by a big Bahamian woman who always gave Liebe extra bread. Liebe really liked the Bahamian sweet bread made with coconut in it.

“We’ll go eat there this weekend. Let’s see what else we can learn about sea turtles.”

The next morning, Liebe could not recall what else Papi had told her. She had fallen asleep while he was still reading.

Illustration

Blonde girl lying in bed with her hair spread over the pillow. Next to her, a dark-haired man smiles while looking at his phone.

 

But now, even though a lot of time had passed, she remembered that conversation and looked forward to seeing the turtles, their nests, and the eggs. She wondered if they were like chicken ones. Since the first time she saw the turtle swimming, Liebe had always paid close attention while on the boat, hoping to see another loggerhead. But it had not happened again.

Because they were in a hurry, Liebe’s breakfast was a strawberry toaster pastry slathered with peanut butter and a glass of milk. “I’m ready. Let’s go see the turtles.” She wiped the white mustache with her shirt’s hem, making both her fathers roll their eyes.

“Sunscreen, life vest, sunglasses, and hat.” The simple instructions from Daddy were the same as always. Her skin was tan from spending so much time outside, but the sun in the Florida Keys was strong, and anyone could burn. The life vest she didn’t really need, she had been in the water for as long as she could remember, and could swim very well. But she wore it anyway because her fathers asked her to.

“Where are we going, Daddy?”

“Sombrero Beach. You’ve been there before. It’s where the Turtle Rescue Center is. It’s also a favorite spot for sea turtles to nest.”

The Florida Keys were a string of small islands stretching south from the mainland to Key West. They were connected by the Overseas Highway with so many bridges Liebe had never been able to count them all. The Gulf of Mexico was on the west side of the island chain and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. Sombrero Beach was on the ocean side of Marathon.

Illustration

Map of the Florida Keys with Key Largo, Key West, Marathon, and Sombrero Beach labeled.

 

“Tag, Pete.” The woman waved at Liebe’s fathers while they tied the boat. Once she was on the dock, Jo squatted in front of her. “Your dads told me you like sea turtles.”

“I do! One time when I was with Daddy on the boat, we saw a logging head, and I got to touch the shell.”

“They’re called loggerheads, Liebe. They’re one of six types of sea turtles that nest in Florida, but it usually lays eggs at night. The ones you’ll see today are different. They’re the smallest of them all. The Kemp’s Ridley is the only sea turtle that nests predominantly during daylight hours. They often gather in a large group to come ashore and nest. That’s called an arribada. It’s Spanish for arrival.”

“How did they get their name?”

“Great question! The species is named after Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman from Key West, Florida, who first identified them over a hundred-twenty years ago.

“Can we go see them?”

Jo stood and offered Liebe her hand to hold. “Sure thing! Come on. Let’s go check them out.”

Illustration

A smiling, young African-American woman holds a blonde girl’s hand while on a dock. Two men, one blonde and the other one with dark hair follow them.

 

“There are so many!” Liebe was surprised. Turtles crawled on the beach in both directions. Some left the water and some returned to it.

“Try to keep the noise down, Liebe.” Jo put a finger to her lips in the universal sign for quiet. “Turtles can get scared and run back to the water before they lay their eggs.”

Sooorryyy,” Liebe said.

“It’s okay. Come on, we can get a little closer.” Jo guided her with a hand on her back.

Liebe guessed the other people on the beach, wearing the same t-shirt as Jo, were other rescue center workers. Some held wooden stakes and rope.

“Why are those people standing around with those sticks?” She kept her voice just above a whisper, trying not to upset the turtles.

Jo was quick with an explanation. “Once a nest is full of eggs, the mother turtle will cover everything with sand. Because they’re often hard to see, we string rope around them so nobody steps on them by accident.”

“Is it bad to touch the eggs? I touch eggs at home sometimes when Daddy or Papi ask me to get them from the refrigerator.”

“And those are okay to touch, Liebe. But these have a little animal living inside. Sea turtles are endangered. That means there’s not that many left in the world. If anyone disturbs a nest, it could mean fewer being born. And anyway, it’s illegal to bother the grownups while they lay eggs, muck around the nest, or touch the baby turtles when they’re born.”

Illustration

Blond girls and African-American young woman hold hands, standing on a beach. Sea turtles crawl across the sand away from the water

 

Looking towards the water, Liebe saw something strange, and pointed. “What’s wrong with her nose?”

Jo lifted her sunglasses and stared in the same direction. She gave a small gasp and waved her arms until the other rescue center people saw her. She used a finger to direct their attention at the turtle, and quickly reached into her pocket, and withdrew a pair of plastic gloves. They were the same type Liebe remembered the nurse wearing when she was vaccinated.

“Stay here, Liebe. I’ll be right back.” Jo tiptoed around the other turtles until she reached the one the little girl had noticed. Picking it up, she headed back towards the fathers and their daughter.

When she came close, Liebe realized there was a plastic drinking straw stuck in the animal’s nose.

“I’m taking her inside the hospital. Why don’t the three of you follow me?” Jo said.

One of the guys holding a stick had already run ahead and held the door open for them.

“Is it hurting her?” Liebe was bothered. The straw sticking out the turtle’s nose looked like a big splinter. She had one stuck in her foot once and she remembered it being really, really painful.

“I’m not sure, Liebe. She was moving okay, so it may not bother her too much. But we’re going to help her anyway.”

Illustration

A young African-American woman hold a sea turtle in her hands. A plastic drinking straw with red, white, and yellow stripes stuck in one of its nostrils.

 

“Is she going to be okay?” Liebe was worried about the turtle.

“I hope so, Liebe.” Jo put the animal on top of a shiny, metal table and turned to the fathers. “Tag, want to put on gloves and hold her down for me?” She pointed at a box on the counter behind her. “Pete, open the drawer underneath. There should be some small pliers in it. Hand them to me.”

While Liebe watched, her fathers did what they were asked to. Once Daddy put a hand on the turtle so it wouldn’t crawl away, Jo took the pliers Papi held out. “She’s lucky. This didn’t happen a long time ago. I know sometimes others have been found with the same problem, but the straws have been inside them for so long, the colors have faded. This should be easy.”

Holding the turtle’s head, Jo pinched the straw with the pliers. They reminded Liebe of the ones her fathers used when fixing the boat or their Jeep. She hoped Jo could fix the turtle the same way.

Slowly, Jo tugged on the straw. The turtle did not seem to like it, it tried moving away, but Daddy kept holding it, and Jo kept pulling. After a moment, Jo gave one last tug, the straw came out, and Liebe cheered. “YAY! We can put her back in the water now.”

“Actually, we’ll keep her in here overnight to make sure she’s okay.” Jo dropped the straw in the garbage and reached for a small tube. “This is antibiotic ointment. We’ll put some around the nose to make sure there’s no infection.”

“Is that like what my dads use on me when I get a cut or a scrape?”

“Exactly the same, Liebe.” Jo had finished, removed her gloves, and washed her hands. “Those plastic straws are nasty. People throw them out all the time, and animals eat them and get sick.”

“I don’t! I have a straw I can use over and over.” Liebe was proud she would not make animals suffer by leaving plastic straws behind. “I helped clean a beach once, and I didn’t like all the trash some people throw in the water or on the sand.”

“That’s awesome, Liebe! If more people did the same, maybe we would not have so many animals get hurt.”

Illustration

Young African-American woman, wearing medical gloves, holds a turtle’s head with one hand, while with a set of needle nose pliers in the other one she removes a plastic straw from the animal’s nostril.

 

A couple of months later, Liebe was allowed to stay up past her bedtime. Jo had called her fathers, mentioned a few hatchlings had been born the previous night, and invited them to Sombrero Beach that evening. She expected more eggs to hatch.

 

Instead of taking the boat to, they drove to the rescue center in Daddy’s truck. Liebe noticed there was only one light on in the parking lot. “Why is it so dark?” she asked.

“Let’s go find Jo so she can explain it.” Daddy had turned off the engine, and Papi helped Liebe get out of the truck.

Holding her fathers’ hands, Liebe walked closer to the sand. On the edge of the parking lot, Jo stood waving at them.

“Hey, guys. Hi, Liebe. Y’all are in for a treat.” She turned and pointed at the beach.

“Oh, wow!” Once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Liebe realized there were lots and lots of little turtles running towards the water. “It’s so dark. How do they know which way to go?”

Jo squatted next to her. “See how the water reflects light? After they’re born, hatchlings run in the direction of the brightest light.”

“Is that why you keep it dark back here?”

“Liebe, you’re a very smart kid.” Jo smiled at her. “Turtles nest and hatch during the summer. That’s why everyone living near the beach is asked to dim their lights. We don’t want the hatchlings getting confused. If they went in the other direction, they could end up on the road, getting run over.”

Nooo!” Liebe did not like the idea of cars hurting the little turtles. “They’re so cute. How can I help them?”

“Share what you’ve learned with friends. You saw what happened with the plastic straw. Convince everyone to use fewer of them, and dispose of them properly. Make sure lights aren’t too bright during this time of year. Never bother nesting turtles or their nests. And don’t let balloons fly free. Turtles and other animals can get hurt if they eat them.”

“Once school starts, I’ll tell everyone. And I’ll help clean beaches again to get rid of plastic junk.”

“Good for you, Liebe. If you do all that, and other people do too, one day when you’re a lot older, maybe you’ll see one of these hatchlings return and lay eggs themselves.

Liebe promised herself to do whatever she could to help sea turtles.

Illustration

Countless turtle hatchlings scurry over sand towards the moon’s reflection on the surf. In the background you can see the dark silhouettes of two men, a woman, and a girl.

 

 

 

The End

Tag, Pete, and Liebe will return in Coral Castles.

 

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

4 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

@Reader1810

I spent lots of time in the Keys eating conch chowder, conch fritters, and sweet bread while growing up. Writing this brought back fond memories

Gotta love when fond memories come to the surface. :) 

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36 minutes ago, dughlas said:

I'm hoping that someday I'll see these stories in book form in the kids section of bookstores. Nicely done.

So, my Earth Day born niece graduates from law school and her younger sisters gets her bachelor degree a week earlier. One of the jobs that one's applied for and is interviewing with is a start up talent agency in Atlanta. The woman running it has represented rappers and musicians for a while. Maybe my niece can line up an agent for me. :P

 

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I love these stories! They are a departure from your usual stories, but once again characters and dialogue shine! The turtles are a big bonus! I have seen the newly hatched babies and their run to the sea on TV. Seeing them in real life is on my bucket list! I am wondering if hatching happens at a certain time of year and what the weather is like for tourists at that time. When you find your illustrator and get ready to publish, you might consider a page of turtle facts at the end to supplement the information in the story. Thanks Carlos. Nicely done!

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What an enchanting story! I could picture everything perfectly in my mind’s eye. And how lucky Liebe was to witness the baby turtles scurrying to the sea. That sight will stay with her forever. 

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4 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

When I'm in NYC this summer, I'm going to approach a friend about illustrations. You just never know.

Damn well better save me a lunch date when you get up here!

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56 minutes ago, JeffreyL said:

I love these stories! They are a departure from your usual stories, but once again characters and dialogue shine! The turtles are a big bonus! I have seen the newly hatched babies and their run to the sea on TV. Seeing them in real life is on my bucket list! I am wondering if hatching happens at a certain time of year and what the weather is like for tourists at that time. When you find your illustrator and get ready to publish, you might consider a page of turtle facts at the end to supplement the information in the story. Thanks Carlos. Nicely done!

Thanks Jeff. I'm not sure what timing is in places like Australia and Hawaii, but in South Florida summertime is nesting season. I live 10 minutes from the beach and sometimes next month strrt lights near the water will be dimmed.

Check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy's website for more info.

https://www.conserveturtles.org/

 

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1 hour ago, Parker Owens said:

What an enchanting story! I could picture everything perfectly in my mind’s eye. And how lucky Liebe was to witness the baby turtles scurrying to the sea. That sight will stay with her forever. 

Thank you, Parker. Just so you know, the sight sticks with adults too. It's amazing how they all rush out making the sand look alive.

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54 minutes ago, Kitt said:

Damn well better save me a lunch date when you get up here!

Tentatively late July. My friends have a summer house in the Hamptons and although the husband will travel back to the city now and then, the wife plans to be out there for 4 months.

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Thank you for this sweet story.  I have to admit, I was at first confused at why our Liebe was calling some other man Papi!  I realized just how attached I am to your characters, they feel like my friends (but not in a crazy stalker way).  

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11 hours ago, CincyKris said:

Thank you for this sweet story.  I have to admit, I was at first confused at why our Liebe was calling some other man Papi!  I realized just how attached I am to your characters, they feel like my friends (but not in a crazy stalker way).  

It's extremely flattering when readers like my writing sufficiently to read something I post without bothering to look at the story's description. That level of trust's priceless.

In one of the previous two stories in this series, someone had a similar reaction to yours. They commented on me using Liebe as a name for two different characters. I suggested the individual take a look at the main page where I explained these are stories Owen told his daughter. Of course he would name the character after his own child. He used Tag and Pete as stand-ins for himself and CJ.

Stalking fictional characters is entirely acceptable. :P

 

 

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3 hours ago, mansexlover said:

Great story even I learnt a few new facts about turtles. ty

Se turtles are fascinating creatures. Check out the forum thread for these stories, I posted a commercial for Kia you may enjoy. LOL

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